The toll

There was a rather remarkable report on the Afghanistan mission by Brian Stewart on last night’s edition of the National. The particularly astounding quote from one analyst: “General Hillier, the Martin government and the Harper government will leave the Canadian army in a worse shape than they found it in.”

That is, of course, an idea that directly contradicts conventional wisdom, at least in terms of the first and third parties. Hillier is roundly celebrated as a great Canadian hero. The Harper government has made rebuilding the military and “supporting our troops” central to its pitch. The charge here is essentially two-fold: that the Afghanistan mission has been mismanaged and the Canadian public has been misled as to its relative success, conduct and consequences.

The least interesting complaint in this regard is that Stephen Harper is Bush-style war-monger. True, he supported the mission in Iraq, a relevant and telling point. But since he becoming Prime Minister he’s demonstrated regularly that political ramifications are foremost in his mind, often at the expense of personal principle. And, in this case, the argument is probably far more subtle and complex than the hawks and doves would like it to be.

Still, it is this government that made the military a question of patriotism. And used that as a tool to bludgeon its opponents. So one imagines it will be hard for its critics not to turn any failure in this regard into an equally savage indictment of Harper and his government.

Full video of CBC’s report here.