Lost: The exit strategy of The Jack Layton Show
By Jackson Murphy
Paris, France - - Cue the creepy music. Do you ever get the feeling, when you're reading Canadian political news about Afghanistan lately, that after boarding Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 from Sydney you crashed on some crazy electromagnetic island? That instead of a loveable bunch of misfits like Jack, Locke, Sawyer, and Hurley and some crazy bearded yokel freaks called "the others," you're stuck with NDP Leader Jack Layton, Liberal Defense Critic Ujjal Dosanjh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, and Liberal Leadership Candidates Gerald Kennedy and Bob Rae?
I know it's quite a horrifying and complex nightmare that probably makes even less sense than the Hanso Foundation on ABC's hit show Lost. The point is, even though we've renewed our Afghanistan mission for another two seasons, the stars of our little drama are starting to act like they've gone Hollywood. Some want to renegotiate the show's contract. Turn down the violence, and turn up the development aid. And some just want to cancel the show altogether and go home. And I want this runaway analogy just to stop now, but I can't.
Some people say you can't wear white after Labor Day. Well Jack Layton came out flying a big white flag this past week saying that Canada should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by February. He even went as far as suggesting that we should sit down with Taliban fighters in some sort of local theatre musical production of the 1938 Munich Peace Agreement. I think he wanted the Neville Chamberlain part. Must be the "peace in our time" moustache.
"We believe that a comprehensive peace process has to bring all combatants to the table," said Layton. "You don't accomplish peace if those who are fighting are not involved in the peace-based discussion."
Gerald Kennedy a leadership candidate for the Liberals took a slightly different tact, claiming, "If NATO fails to change their strategy, Canada should pull out of the war in Afghanistan." Meanwhile one of his rivals for the leadership, former Ontario Premier Bob "Just Call Me Bob" Rae, has also been calling for a troop pullout. We could talk about frontrunner Michael Ignatieff's position of ‘2009 and Done' but this past week he invented some fictional civil war in Canada just to see if the press was paying attention. Surprise they were! Besides Scott Brison just compared Ignatieff to Stockwell Day, which left us day-dreaming about a soggy and wet-suited Iggy on a jet ski. I know, I'm sick.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, clearly a Parisian waiter specializing in serving indifference in a past life, wasn't really for or against pulling out. "The question is, are the international efforts enough to maintain peace over there?" asked Duceppe. "Are we applying the necessary policies to make sure the Taliban is not coming back? It seems not to be the case.''
And when the only opposition members of note making arguments kind of for the other side are Liberal leadership candidate and failed Tory leadership candidate Scott Brison and Ujjal Dosanjh, you really want to crawl into that hatch and just snuggle with Evangeline Lilly hoping it all goes away. Dosanjh for his part, still thought talks with the Taliban would be helpful, while Brison merely pointed out fellow candidate Bob Rae's twisted plan to pull out of Afghanistan.
So let's try to take Mr. Layton seriously at least. Even though as Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail suggested, "For a leader whose convention next week will be designed to convince Canadians that the party is ready to govern, that declaration proved utterly the reverse. "
Now the question you're asking is, "whom does one negotiate with when dealing with the Taliban anyway?" If your answer was, "Sounds about as hard as Viacom's Sumner Redstone found his summer long negotiations with Tom Cruise" congratulations, you've won a huge chunk of Tom's new carny infused amusement park cash.
But seriously, the question of how Layton would actually sit down and talk with a group better known for their suicide bombs, destroying priceless statues, harboring terrorists, and generally oppressing women is anyone's guess.
The real question is the political end game – the sweeps week of our little show. Does Mr. Layton think that by following the tactics of the Netroots movement, by copying the themes of the Ned Lamont primary campaign in Connecticut, it will deliver him some sort of electoral victory in a future Canadian election to be named later? That somehow anti-war will be the deciding factor that leads him off this island in into 24 Sussex Drive?
Lord knows I have serious issues with the fighting in Afghanistan, but for me that means debating sending more troops, not bringing them home. That means more fighting not less. That means yes, trying to cut or stop the heroin cultivation. It means generally treating this like a real war, not some political toy. It is totally unserious to pull out our troops when we have committed to keeping them there until 2009. And it is proof that Jack Layton amongst others is living in a J.J. Abrams fantasy island world.