Let's start by noting that while Dion's public message tried to downplay the danger of John Manley's involvement by suggesting that his presence might moderate both the final report and Harper's actual position, Manley himself has an entirely different target in mind:
Manley, who has twice visited Afghanistan, said he's been deeply touched by the humanitarian needs there and suggested Canada should not withdraw prematurely.Needless to say, when Manley himself figures the Libs should alter their stance to match the group rather than the other way around, there's absolutely no reason to think Manley will offer any moderating presence on the panel. And that goes doubly given his tendency to let the U.S. dictate Canadian actions as pointed out by Lawrence Martin.
"Afghanistan represents an enormous opportunity for Canada to play a meaningful role in a globally significant arena. But it also represents an enormous challenge to our resources and our capabilities," he said. "And Canadians rightfully ask whether our sacrifices are making a lasting difference."
Manley said yesterday that he hopes Dion is open to hearing the panel's advice on an "appropriate role" for Canada in Afghanistan.
But then, it appears Dion himself knew perfectly well just how problematic the appointment was, even as he tried to spin in the opposite direction for the cameras:
As has happened in the past, Manley's move had Liberals shaking their heads. This was a man, after all, who chose to return to private law practice rather than accept former prime minister Paul Martin's offer of the coveted post of Canadian ambassador to Washington.Which means that Dion himself seems to have recognized the most important problem with the group's appointment - but decided to say otherwise publicly in order to appease the Manley wing of the party. Which can only make it likely that he'll end up giving Manley his wish at the end of the process as well, in the form of yet another combat extension.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion publicly welcomed Manley's attempt to contribute to the divisive Afghanistan debate, but was privately fuming over what many Liberals saw as a betrayal that would help Harper build a case for prolonging the Afghan military mission contrary to the wishes of all three opposition parties.
It's hard to imagine a much more vivid example of how quickly any trace of principle has been wrung out of Dion over the course of less than a year at the helm of the Libs. But with Dion now publicly taking the Cons' side on another of the major issues facing the country (even while he grumbles about doing so in private), the time has never been better for former Lib voters to turn to a more progressive choice.