Got an email from the federal NDP recently saying they're "taking on the banks," by which they mean exhorting supporters to barter with their bankers for lower credit card interest rates.
Good for them, I guess. Who likes financial institutions, anyway?
But I can't help thinking this is the frittering away of social dem energies at a time when we're bogged in a war so fruitless that the Harperites are now ratcheting down the end goals and our lead general is looking for other work.
The problem isn't lack of courage on Jack Layton's part — he's hitting all the right buttons on Afghanistan— but there's a difference between articulating bold opinions and campaigning on them. And I'm afraid Layton's inability to use this as a teaching moment makes some people suspect he either doesn't mean what he says or doesn't understand it.
I don't think either is true and I don't buy into the view held even by some anti-war types that the NDP's "bring the troops home' position is dangerously shallow.
The party argues for an end to the U.S.-led NATO mission contaminated beyond redemption by the reckless bombing of civilians and a no-win counterinsurgency.
It favours a new United Nations peace-building initiative that will foster negotiations with the Taliban and other combatants and bring all the forces excluded by the U.S.-engineered government in Kabul back into the game of governing.
This is not actually heady stuff, but rather the reasoned scenario of some very reputable foreign policy experts Layton should get use to quoting.
I notice in his much-circulated U. of Ottawa speech, he refers to East Timor's peacekeeping experience as a possible inspiration for Afghanistan. It makes me think he's read Walter Dorn, a scholar at the Royal Military College. That's a good thing. But I have to wish Layton would drink more deeply of this kind of material — it might keep his statements from sounding so pro forma.
Dorn's very strong on demonstrating how far Canada has strayed from interventions in foreign lands based on— and let this sink in — impartiality, consent, and minimal use of force.
Alternatively, Layton could fortify speeches with the insights of Astri Suhrke from Norway's Chr. Michelsen Institute, who argues that the "modernization' fantasies of the West are creating a dependant Afghan state representing only a narrow circle of players and tragically cut off the massive pre-modern countryside.
Or borrow some strokes from Edward Luttwak from the very mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies who tells us counter-insurgency wars like Afghanistan are a form of malpractice and moreover, can never be won by regimes like ours where public opinion counts.
So much more needs to be said and I'm afraid the load's on Layton — something easy to grasp if you survey the North American landscape and realize that, minus the Bloc (in their good moments), the Greens, Dennis Kuchinich and a few others, most major pols are disasters on Afghanistan.
It's a stunner how both Clinton and Obama have managed to cop peace credentials arguing for an Iraq pullout as a way of pumping up the Afghan invasion - Obama even pushing for major strikes across the Pakistan border.
Someone in the northern hemisphere has got to carry the flag in the mainstream for intelligent conflict resolution.
Say more, Jack. It's a grand mandate and its all yours. But call me a dreamer— I just think there is a more ennobling task than banks right now.