Saturday, February 2, 2008

Michael Ignatieff: Canada Needs To Develop Its Military Capabilities & Assert Itself Internationally

That's what we've been saying all along!

Thank God Ignatieff didn't win the Liberal leadership because he's a much stronger leader than Dion is.

The Star Phoenix has the story:

Even as his party calls for Canada to pull back from combat missions in Afghanistan in 2009, prominent Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff said Friday that Canada must be increasingly assertive in the international arena -- and back it up with a strong military -- if it hopes to solve big problems in Afghanistan and other troubled nations.
"We must not wait for the United States to build the kind of multilateral world we want. We musn't hesitate to use our leverage," he said to an over-full lecture hall at the University of Alberta's law centre. "We can't be a country that gives people little lectures. We have to take a stand and back it up with the proper investments."

Ignatieff, a former Harvard professor who now serves as the Liberal opposition's deputy leader, gave a 30-minute speech that tackled issues ranging from economic policy and border security to Darfur and education spending.

His overriding message was that Canada matters more than ever on the world stage, a position that requires us to adopt the unaccustomed approach of "banging on the table."

But it can't be just talk, he added, noting Canada has made a commitment through the United Nations to protect people targeted in genocidal massacres and other areas of violence.

"And you can't protect people just with blue berets and a sidearm" Ignatieff said, picking as an example how peacekeeping forces failed to stop the Rwandan genocide. "It requires -- and this is the difficult bit for Canada -- it requires military capability."

Ignatieff's appearance was arranged through the University of Alberta's Institute for U.S. Policy Studies, a group headed up by former Liberal deputy prime minister Anne McLellan. Although Ignatieff is currently serving in Parliament, he called his speech "an academic lecture" rather than a partisan political event.

There had been some curiosity about whether local members of the federal Conservative Party would show up to question Ignatieff about his "flip-flops" on Canada's mission in Afghanistan. An Alberta Tory had sent an e-mail to riding presidents asking that Conservatives attend the lunchtime session to provide "a skeptical, questioning audience for this hypocrite."
No such inflammatory exchange developed during the event, even though Ignatieff touched on Afghanistan at several points in the speech and the subsequent question-and-answer session.

He did not take a strong position on whether the mission should continue long-term, saying Canadians were troubled by the military involvement and calling for a parliamentary debate. He also praised the recently completed Manley report, agreeing with its message that Canada needs to get more support from its NATO allies.

UPDATE: Patrick Ross has the transcript from the Ignatieff speech here.

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