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(Update) Wars, Leadership and Our Friends in Canada

5:51 PM, May 1, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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(From the Toronto Star: "Stephen Harper's government has quietly committed Canada to 'indefinite' participation in NORAD and agreed to give the military alliance new responsibilities to watch for a terror attack by sea. Fresh off his softwood lumber truce, Harper's government yesterday gave another boost to Canada-U.S. relations when it signed off on the renewal of the landmark North American Aerospace Defence Command treaty.")

Posted on March 17, 2006:

Leadership matters. Tuesday's Globe and Mail has some interesting poll results on the Canadian troop deployment to Afghanistan.

Canadians' views have shifted sharply in support of the Afghan military mission even as troop casualties have mounted over the past three weeks, a new poll suggests.

A modest but clear majority -- 55 per cent of respondents to a nationwide poll taken for The Globe and Mail and CTV over the past four days -- now broadly support the decision to send troops to Afghanistan. Only 41 per cent oppose the deployment.

In late February, more than 60 per cent said that given a vote in Parliament, they would opt against sending troops to the war-torn country. Only 27 per cent said they would vote in favour.... Perhaps most surprisingly, a clear majority -- 59 per cent -- said they are willing to tolerate Canadian casualties to "help achieve security and stability in the region."

The poll results "suggest that a concerted public campaign in defence of the mission by senior military officers, as well as political figures from both the Conservative government and Liberal Opposition, has had an impact."

This change in public attitude doesn't surprise me. A while back, the German Marshall Fund released a poll that found increased European disapproval of President Bush's foreign policy but with an interesting twist. One exception was in Britain (I should note that Poland's approval numbers mirrored those in the U.S.), "where there was a slight upturn in approval." I doubt it was a coincidence that this "upturn" occurred in a nation where the national government most vigorously made the case for getting rid of Saddam and for promoting democracy in the region. Bush's lowest ratings were in countries, namely France and Germany, whose leaders adamantly and very publicly opposed Bush's policies. Even so, Germany's Gerhard Schröder ran on an explicitly anti-American platform and lost to an opponent who forcefully countered his demagoguery. Canada's Stephen Harper did the same against the anti-U.S. rhetoric of Paul Martin. And, of course, Australia's John Howard won a fourth term, while Tony Blair was elected to an unprecedented third. Is there a message here?