Don’t cut and run ’til you see the whites of their eyes

So. All that talk about not “cutting and running,” all that stuff about not setting “arbitrary deadlines,” all those pious lectures about how we had to finish the mission, how we could not break faith with the Afghans, how setting deadlines only makes Canadian soldiers targets — all gone, in the course of a casual breakfast with reporters.

Another 180 degree Harper backflip, in the middle of an election campaign, with no consultation or warning, on a matter of the most vital national interest. And, by a delicious piece of timing, exactly one day after the Taliban demanded Canada pull its troops out — and two days after Canada’s outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan called for putting more troops in. But hey: it takes the issue off the table. Yes: capitulating to your opponents has a way of doing that. That’ll show ’em! Bet they didn’t see that one coming!

REAX: General Lewis MacKenzie is not impressed.

Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, a retired Canadian commander formerly in charge of a U.N. force in the Balkans, criticized Harper for announcing a deadline during an election campaign.
MacKenzie said that should only be told to allies in the highest of confidence.
“I don’t like deadlines,” MacKenzie said. “I don’t like announcing deadlines to an enemy force that now says to themselves, ‘Well, we’re getting rid of the Canadians’ so let’s turn our strategic attack on some other country.'” 

Neither is the father of one of the 97 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, their lives sacrificed to the glory of a half-finished mission:

“I would never want to see another soldier go in harm’s way so I can justify my son’s death,” Davis told CTV’s Canada AM.
“But at the same time if we pull up stakes and come home when we’re not ready to — when the mission is not complete — if we did that then my son died in vain…”
Davis said Thursday it would be ideal to have Canadian soldiers home by 2011 but setting a deadline “undermines the work our soldiers are doing and it undermines the mission.”
He said the deadline makes it difficult for Canadian soldiers to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people if they know troops will be gone in two years…

I couldn’t believe he would say something so irresponsible as that,” Mr. Davis told CTV. 

But hey — he’s a Liberal

UPDATE: Mind you, if Harper’s willing to, shall we say, change his mind now, it’s just as possible he could change his mind again. Once he was for staying the course in Afghanistan, now he’s for putting an “end date” on the mission, in another year — after the election — he could be for staying past 2011. That’s the thing with Harper. You just never know.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.