The thing about Trudeau was that we were never ashamed of the guy on the international stage. Sure, he flipped us the bird in Western Canada. Sure he performed a pirouette behind the Queen of England, but that was a big moment for us. He was a pugnacious prick most of the time and built the national debt up as if it were a monument to social justice. But he was never oafish, never naive, never embarrassing. He dated Barbra Streisand, weathered his dramatic divorce with dignity, the debt he built actually did a lot of good (halving child poverty, for instance), and his final international tour was, if wildly optimistic, also strategic. It was his swan song, his last shot at influencing the Cold War superpowers toward peaceful negotiations and he planned it carefully. Emphasis on the word planned.
In stark contrast: Stephane Dion. Was he drunk? Bored? Looking to create a mess that he could clean up later just to get ink? Did he not realize that he was meeting with the editorial board of Montreal’s Gazette and that, when speaking to the media, politicians generally think before they open their mouths?
According to Friday’s edition of The Edmonton Journal, here’s what he said on Wednesday with regard to worries that Pakistan’s military cannot deal effectively with insurgents from Afghanistan: “We are going to have to discuss that [NATO action in Pakistan] very actively if they are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces.”
What?! To me, and everybody else who speaks English (which we presume Dion does), this statement indicates that he thinks NATO forces should enter Pakistan to support them with military force. He said this without talking to, wait for it, the Pakistanis. Ooops.
The Journal also reported on Friday that Momoona Amjed, press attache to the Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa, issued a sharply worded statement saying that Dion’s comments reveal a lack of understanding of reality in Pakistan and that no foreign troops would actually be welcome in his country under any circumstances. Subtext: “Not ever, you fricken idiot, and thanks for making us slap you around publicly.”
This is not the first time that Dion has revealed a lack of judgement and understanding of the international landscape, not to mention undermining our military when they are at war. Only last summer, he pushed for a deadline for Canadian troops to leave Afghanistan. That’s just so stupid, and overtly political. And such a statement could cost the lives of Canadian soldiers because, as commentators at The Gazette noted in September, “announcing they will knock off at a given time no matter what the state of the fight, like so many blue collars at the end of their shift, is absurd. It’s a clear signal to the other side that mere persistence, and perhaps a little more killing, will guarantee victory.”
This weekend, over 2,500 troops will depart for Afghanistan. Whatever Dion says should not increase the danger to them. Pushing for NATO troops in Pakistan is not going to help the cause, even if that’s not what he meant to say.
Dion is a loose cannon, literally, and he’s putting our women and men in uniform in harm’s way in order to score political points. Worse, he doesn’t seem to know how dangerous his words are or how they might be interpreted. His reaction to this week’s furor? He’s “very, very surprised” by how his comments were reported. He’s either saying that the professional journalists working for The Gazette are liars or that they lack comprehension of his words.
Was he quoted incorrectly? Is that what his “surprise” indicates? If so, he ought to clarify, because the words, “We could consider that option with the NATO forces” would seem to indicate he favours NATO going into Pakistan even as he favours removing Canadian forces from Afghanistan, where they are not only welcome but necessary.
So what’s going on with Dion? Does he mean what he says? Is he capable of saying what he means? If he cannot keep his feet out of his mouth and his head out of his arse, how can we trust him to negotiate on our behalf with our allies and, as important, our enemies?