Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics and War

I am pretty much a pacifist, so don't get me wrong here, but with all the headlines I am looking at these days it is not clear to me what is being implied: Are we to think it a shame that our government has spent $18 billion dollars to participate in the war in Afghanistan?

I think that figure is lower than expected. Do people think war is cheap? Why don't the headlines talk about the body count instead? The answer to that is because we are in a time of "economic uncertainty" (as if the rest of the time we have economic certainty), and that this isn't about the war but about scoring a political point or two on election eve.

I don't understand how this can be used as political capital by opposition parties. Has the government not planned a slow and careful withdrawl from leading the Afghan mission? Is this not fairly responsible of them? In contrast to the American activity in Iraq I think the Canadian efforts in Afghanistan have been something to be proud of, not only because of location (Afghanistan as opposed to Iraq) but because of our willingness to go where the oil isn't, where the need is greater, where the victories are not sexy, and where the help and the dollars are hard to come by. I think that the sacrifice that Canada has made to try to promote stability in this troubled region and to go right to the front line of the actual "war on terror" is admirable.

I know war is a complex issue. But that's why it shouldn't just become a last minute stab at scoring political points. Even as a pacifist by default (and that's another discussion) I have to say that I consider the sacrifice of $18billion in tax dollars to be something we should probably see as honourable. And as I say that I realize just how much this pales in comparison with the honour of those soldiers who have given their lives in this war.

As far as it concerns the political spin this seems meant to serve, the argument could probably just as easily be made that the lowness of the price has in part been the reason for the length of the mission or the high cost in human lives. But I am not informed enough to make that argument. I just wonder what everyone thinks when they read those headlines.


Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I'm with you completely on this one. I have been and continue to be supportive of Canada's role (military and civilian) in Afghanistan. I respect the opposition's responsibility to hold the government accountable, so I am always glad to see hard questions being asked (especially with military stuff, the government should be held to the highest standard possible) -but I'm pretty firmly supportive of this war effort. Mind you, I'm no pacifist.

Another reason I admire Michael Ignatieff: he led dissenting Liberals who crossed the aisle and supported the Conservative extension of the Afghanistan mission.

Another reason to find Jack Layton ridiculous: examine his (and his party's) embarassingly uninformed position on Afghanistan.

I'm not sure what headlines you're referring to... but those are my few cents.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

As for defending Stalker: that's a tough one.

I guess I found the process the characters go through in getting into the zone -and the dilemnas they face once inside, a perfect reflection of -or inspiration towards- my own view of what life is and means. Tarkovsky leaves so much room for the audience to participate in the film, and then the miracle he provides at the end is so moving, that my personal involvement in the movie was total. The more I gave myself to the film the more I realized it had to give me.

So often in cinema when I give myself over to a film experience, I find its depth ankle or knee deep. The film ends up being unworthy of my offering of submission to the artist's vision (Amelie, for example, is a film I admire; but it remains only as profound as its highly polished surface. This is fine. It wasn't aiming high. But the films that are capable of changing my life need more depth than that). However, Stalker's depth remains unfathomable to me -and having seen it three times now it grows more mysterious and profound the more I reflect on it, and thus I take more from it with every viewing. In that way it is in that elite pantheon with films Winter Light, Taxi Driver, or Tokyo Story.

jon said...

I definitely don't think I "gave myself" or entered in to Stalker in that way and that probably explains it. Still, I found it incredibly thought-ful and I know I could stand another viewing from start to finish, probably with some other kindred spirits. I can appreciate what you saw in it, that's for sure.

I don't know about Amelie though. Yeah it was polished, but that's part of the charm. The director seems to have obsessed over every prop, line, and frame. But the layers were there, even though dealt with through humour and lightness, they were there. The whole thing about how her dad never touched her except to give her her monthly check up, and so because her heart would beat fast becaue of this contact they thought she had heart problems and used this as a cop-out for pretty much living ---- well that was just so incredibly sad and profound! how often is that story repeated over and over in some way? my goodness. the thing is, they didn't dwell on it sentimentally but instead showed what kind of girl she became and how that girl still managed to blossom into something unique and quite wonderful.

my oh my, now that was just some solid and remarkable film-making. i totally entered in and loved it. charming and enlightening without being sappy or preachy. you can't ask much more from the genre.

as for the war and the politics, i find it interesting that a pacifist and non-pacifist agree about canada's involvement in afghanistan!

frankly, i would be attracted to the NDP party if not for the seeming insistence to dumb everything down to a sound-byte and avoid arguments with any real content to them. there are a couple issues where i don't see it like they do, otherwise i might be a card-carrying ndper.

as for the liberals, i'd be thinking very seriously of voting for them if ignatief was their leader. the other big thing holding me back thoguh is the long reign of jean chretien. i'm not convinced the demons have been exorcised. you have power that long and i think the party needs to be purged and made honest again for awhile. not that any party is squeaky clean, but i would be in favour of harper having a majority government for four years and then going from there. i do think he is pretty level headed and smart.

i think it is too bad we'll have another minority government, unless of course they can find a way to work together. but what are the chances of that?

so there you have it. i've risked airing my politics, right before the election no less! í have to admit i'm not as informed as I'd like to be, but i imagine i'm pretty average that way.

Neil D. said...

As someone, literally stood on guard for this O' Canada. I have almost no respect for any political party that attempts to gain points; with the blood my fallen brothers in Arms. Even though it has been 17 years since my time in the Forces and I never saw any Action. It still burns my biscuits when I hear anyone grabbing headlines; at the expense of the Forces. To be honest, if it was for my on going Neurological Disorder; I would be very tempted to reenlist and ask for active Afgan Duty. I am going to stop, before I go on a rant. But, I think I agree with you for the most part Jon.

Neil D. said...

The above should have started with:
"who literally"

Tony Tanti said...

Great thoughts Jon. I've always been a big defender of the Afghanistan mission (though I'm glad we're not in Iraq) for all the reasons you mentioned but also mostly because we really are making a difference there.

There are women who are free to work now and girls going to school. There are schools, roads and hospitals being built. There is work still to be done but Canadians can be immensely proud of what our military has accomplished.

100 lives is not a low cost to pay. Those soldiers should be honoured for their sacrifice because they didn't give their lives for nothing. Millions of Afghan people are free thanks to them.

I like to see your thoughts on the Canadian election I'll have to give you my NDP rant sometime, they are the last party I would ever vote for in Canada.

jon said...


i see i came across as more NDP positive than i meant to. basically i'm saying that if they'd add some content to their platforms (and therefore a bit more realism) and lost a couple of their major tenents (pro-choice, for one of them) then I'd be into them. but those are some MAJOR things holding me back.

essentially what i mean is i like some of the ideals, but they just seem like that's all they are. because they don't ever have any actual power they can afford to just spout ideals.

i'd love to hear your ndp rant though. been awhile since i sat down for a good rant from tanti.

i'm actually working as a deputy returning officer at a polling station tomorrow. that should be interesting. so i've voted already.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

RE: Amelie. You're right. For the sake of my analogy I oversimplified. Amelie really is a good movie, with some real depth. But nothing compared to Stalker.

If you're ever in Montreal, you can come over and you'll find an eager, kindred spirit to watch Stalker with.

RE: Afghanistan and the election. I'm with you completely, Jon, about the NDP and Layton. He's the main thing holding me back, but the party has been led by lazy partisan idealists like him for so long that they have become a party of big talk and no substance.

As for Harper, he's fine. Better than fine, even. I think history will judge him kindly. I'm not voting conservative, but I have real respect for some of the MPs in that party. I don't like the cuts they've made to the arts, but I don't think it makes Harper a monster either; I see where the Conservatives are coming from.

Last election, even though I'm a liberal, I didn't vote Liberal, because I think they had been in power for too long and had grown complacent. I think Dion is fine, if uninspiring -and I'll probably vote Liberal, but I agree that the Liberals need/ed to do some housecleaning.

Tony Tanti said...

Arts funding has gone up under Harper, there was $45 million in cuts but far more than $45 million increased in other places.

I know some people who can point to specifics in the $45 million that they think should not have been cut, and I respect that. The biggest cut that I'm aware of though was an $11 million program which was sending filmmakers to festivals to screen their movies. This money wasn't helping make the movies or even get them into the festivals, tax dollars were being used to fly someone long distances and put them up in a hotel while they're there. Worthy cut? I think so, some disagree.

Most annoying/shocking thing in this election was Margaret Atwood endorsing the separatists to "stop Harper." This whole Harper is scary, or Harper = Bush stuff is so ignorant and uninformed and I can't believe someone I respect (Atwood) would betray Canada because of left wing propoganda.

Good luck at the polling station tomorrow Jon, it'll be a busy and long day but I'm curious to hear about it from that perspective once the dust settles later this week.

jon said...

sheesh. good luck to you tomorrow tanti. much bigger day for you.

its weird to be in a position where i both like the multiple party system and don't like it at the same time. i think another minority govt is a bit of adrag, but i do like the multi-party system. can't have both worlds i guess.

i will take you up on that offer if i am in montreal matthew. might be a whole host of other movies i'd want you to show me as well, if that encounter ever happens!