Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Considerations in Mali

Happy New Years! to all folks who are enjoying that rather odd holiday that really holds no significance outside of the modern Gregorian calendar. I had to work last night, and I have to work tonight, so I'm not necessarily in a "festive" spirit, but hey, its time for resolutions and all that!

While I'd say some sarcastic comment about the Harper government making a resolution not to be such jackasses, there is actually a new consideration on the table this week that has piqued my interest: the idea of a Canadian military training mission in the sub-Saharan nation of Mali.

The rumour is right now that our Defense Minister, the intrepid Peter MacKay, is mulling over the idea of sending a few trainers over to help out the "official" Malian army, ostensibly to fight the al-Qaeda-backed groups that have taken over the country's northern half. If you're really interested in the situation, this Congressional Research Service document covers it all in great detail. Suffice to say, its kind of a cluster.

Of course, the second this news hit the headlines, the PMO essentially denied it, though there is odd wording about whether or not a training mission counts as a "military mission," making it kind of iffy. I'm not exactly clear on that either, though I don't see why it matters either way - even if it is a military operation, the parameters could be made pretty clear. Whats more, the UN and AU already have a large presence in Mali, programs we could easily piggyback on. I doubt they're going to turn away the help.

In essence, I'd actually be very supportive of a training mission in Mali. While the coups and so on are definitely alarming, they're in response to the situation in the north and the army's inability to actually counterattack. Mali needs a professional army to combat its woes, and it can only help stability in the long-term. So why not? I'm not calling for guns-a-blazin' intervention, but we used to train armies all over the world - what would be the difference now?

This is my personal opinion, though. I'm also interesting in hearing what the Liberal Party itself has to say - and of course, we're not hearing anything right now. Maybe its the holidays, or maybe the issue itself is just a bit touchy right now. Either way, we need to take a stand on this issue and drive the narrative - we can still do that, you know. Hopefully its in the way I want it to go, but even if it isn't, I'd rather see the Liberals speak up instead of getting drowned out by the NDP's probable opposition.

This is really all part of a wider feeling lately that I've had about the Liberals, and how we can survive as the third party. We can still drive the narrative if we put ourselves towards issues, and I'm glad to see our leadership candidates speak up on policy. We're not entirely impotent as the third party, think of how many times the NDP took the spotlight from us before. If there's an issue out there, we need to get out our megaphones and be the loudest of the bunch, on whatever position we take. That is how we'll stay relevant - by staying in the public's eye.

Bob Rae has, with great kudos, done a great job doing just that - but its time we ramped it up, especially during this leadership race. Every candidate, every activist, get on our podiums. We may be small, but we can have an amazing impact - Idle No More should be evidence enough of that fact.

Time to speak up, as the cliche goes. Hopefully we will in this new year.

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