Selling Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan

Two tidbits caught my eye this week on how (maybe) politicians selling Canada’s mission more could have led to more public support to stay longer until more of the job is done.  All highlights are mine

This, from the Toronto Star:

“….Military historian Jack Granatstein says Canadians likely could have been convinced to keep more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other federal politicians had done more to tell the public about the goals of the mission.  “The government … has simply not been willing for the last two years to explain to people why we are there, what we are doing,” he said. “We should stay, but I think it’s very difficult to sustain a commitment to a military operation without public support. And the way you get public support is to have your political leaders tell you why you are there and why it’s important.” ….”

and this from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (in spite of the fact that I disagree with the very general premise that Canada’s Afghan mission will eventually be looked back upon as a “failure” like Dieppe):

“…. In all the years Canada struggled with its mission in southern Afghanistan, Germany remained in what then was the quiet north, determined to avoid the fighting. This year, however, the Germans are discovering that war is never a spectator event. The fighting has spread north because there aren’t enough NATO troops willing to pay the price to actually defeat the enemy. This includes Canada, whose leaders were willing to put a few hundred troops in harm’s way but never wanted to risk their own political careers by trying to convince Canadians the war only could be won with an all-out effort….”

More, from the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada :

“Under the Canadian parliamentary system, ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister and to Parliament for presenting and explaining government policies, priorities and decisions to the public. Ministers, both individually and collectively as members of Cabinet, are the principal spokespersons for the Government of Canada and its institutions. It is their role to provide leadership in establishing the priorities and overall themes of government communications.


Ministers are the principal spokespersons of the Government of Canada. They are supported in this role by appointed aides, including executive assistants, communication directors and press secretaries in ministers’ offices, and by the senior management teams of government institutions, which include deputy heads, heads of communications and other officials. Ministers present and explain government policies, priorities and decisions to the public. Institutions, leaving political matters to the exclusive domain of ministers and their offices, focus their communication activities on issues and matters pertaining to the policies, programs, services and initiatives they administer.”

Plain English translation: politicians explain “why,” officials (including military ones) explain “how”.

7 Aug 09 Update: Is it too late?  More here.

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