It's so refreshing to see Canadian Liberals and Conservatives unite around the one principle that really brings them together: their enduring contempt for the Canadian people. And what, pray tell, is ushering in this era of hugs and puppies between the two dominant parties? The fact that 63% of Canadians now support negotiations with the Taliban.
Olaf and Antonio both react with their expected horror. Surely, there's nothing worse than the idea of talking with the enemy. Both basically express the idea that a) the Taliban won't agree to anything we would compromise on, and b) even if they did, we couldn't trust them to live up to their end of the bargain.
Note that no polling data says Canadians support negotiations as a first step to leave Afghanistan. (It's possible that Canadians do believe that, but we have no data.) Given the near-majority of support for staying in Afghanistan, we can say mathematically that at least some of the people who support negotiations categorically do not want to see negotiations as a prelude to departure.
So what is it that Canadians are actually suggesting? Perhaps, as in Yugoslavia, negotiations should lead to an end to hostilities, the conditions of a cease-fire which would then be enforced by a NATO or UN peacekeeping force. It would make sense that this would be prominent in Canadians' thinking -- it is the most recent example of Canadian military action overseas. But polls aren't mind-readings. There are plenty of other possibilities.
Because the alternative is not outright victory, despite what too many seem to believe. The most likely alternative is something like this. A grinding war that just doesn't end. There's always going to be some new offensive, some new "strategy" (not an actual change in strategy, you understand) or some barely plausible excuse to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And the military is simply not going to admit that they can't get the job done. Even if we dismiss the simplistic accusation that the military is pro-Afghanistan simply to expand the DND budget, there's an obvious reason why soldiers don't like to admit defeat: this is what they do for a living. Have you ever enjoyed being told that you suck? Shouldn't we view all the reports of the good work we're doing through this lens?
I don't know why Olaf and Antonio find even the idea of negotiations so reprehensible. Israel negotiated with Egypt, Nixon went to China, and the stakes in Afghanistan are just so much lower than any other case you can name. The worst case is the negotiations turn out to have been useless. What's the downside -- keeping in mind that we're still losing Canadians, including one today? That we're going to "legitimize" them? Please, look around. The Taliban have been legitimized by the Presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan (both of whom support negotiations), the Afghanistan Parliament, and the people of southern Afghanistan themselves who clearly support the Taliban in large numbers.
We have to deal with the reality on the ground, as they say. The Taliban clearly have the support of large numbers of people, they're well armed and well funded. We lack the military resources to defeat our enemies outright, as much as the United States lacks them in Iraq today, or lacked them in Vietnam or Korea. Nobody really contends that our forces in Afghanistan are sufficient, nor are they going to be reinforced any time soon. That leaves either leaving outright, or negotiations.
And yet the very idea terrifies some people. Why?