Friday, December 4, 2009

 

A CHARM OFFENSIVE?

Now that the U.S. President has determined and announced the American strategy in Afghanistan: Pressure is quite likely to increase for Canada to remain involved in this war effort beyond our own exit plans of February 2011.

Despite a certain level of waning popularity in his own country; Canadians generally remain enthralled by, and enthusiastic for the President of the United-States. I would not be the least surprised if Mr. Obama's charm turns towards his northern neighbour to secure either additional troop commitments or some other Canadian initiatives in support of the American troop surge against the Taliban insurgents.

Despite the sordid tales of prisoner abuse which have dominated our national headlines for the past three weeks; Some observers are theorizing that a multi-national charm initiative may already be underway at America's behest. Just a few days ago the British Chief of Defence Staff, the U.K.'s top military commander, Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, was ebullient in praise for Canada's military efforts in Kandahar province. NATO itself, of which Canada is a significant partner, is touting additional international troop commitments of more than 7000 soldiers in the wake of Mr. Obama's announcement on Tuesday evening. Next week, the President's hand-picked Field Marshall in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, heads to Washington where he's been called to update the Armed Services Committee of the American Congress. General McChrystal has one more stop scheduled before returning to the war...to Ottawa. He`ll meet with Defence Minister, Peter Mackay, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, and other high ranking Canadian military officials. They are not likely to be discussing plans for the skating season on the Rideau Canal!

President Obama's trillion dollar American economic stimulus plan has been widely criticized by Canadian business, and a major cross-border irritant for the ``Buy American`` provisions it contains. Just as Prime-Minister Harper is returning from his own charm initiative with the Chinese government; word has leaked-out from Washington that a deal that fixes this infrastructure irritant is just about ready to be inked by Obama and Harper. And, the President will take it to Congress for approval after the Christmas break. In return for lifting the American protectionist measures; U.S. suppliers w├Čll be treated equally as Canadian companies on bids for contracts awarded by the ten provincial governments...Coincidence? Some conspiracy theorists might think not.

It may very well be, as some have predicted all along, that Canadians are headed into yet another debate about extending some form of commitment to the Afghanistan war effort beyond our firm departure date of February 2011. This time the President of the United States himself may proffer his considerable charm in support of the affirmative.

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