Monday, March 2, 2009

Canadian PM: We'll Never Defeat the Insurgency

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper comments on realistic goals in Afghanistan to Fareed Zakaria on CNN's GPS (Sundays at noon and 5 pm Central time).

We're not going to win this war just by staying. In fact, my own judgement Fareed, quite frankly, is that we are not ever going to defeat the insurgency. My reading of Afghan history is that they have probably had an insurgency forever, of some kind. What has to happen is that we have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own government...Because I think a part of the calculation is that ultimately the source of authority in Afghanistan has to be perceived as indigenous. If it is perceived as foreign, it will always have a significant degree of opposition.

Aside from this refreshingly realistic perspective on Afghanistan, Prime Minister Harper also had some interesting things to say about our current financial crisis.

Part of my frustration with the current situation is that we knew from the 1920's that a completely unregulated financial sector would lead to pyramid selling and all kinds of equivalent problems.

I happen to believe that fiscal stimulus measures right now are essential. I'm not generally a Keynesian. But, when you have the kind of drops in economic activity that we are having and interest rates near zero, and the banking sector not translating savings into investment, you have no choice but to have the government move in, absorb those funds and put them to work. Now, one can criticize, is it fast enough, is it effective, are the long run benefits sufficient? But, I think the fiscal stimulus does have to be done. Obviously, there have to be major, non-market fixes to the financial sector and to the housing sector.

The entire interview is worth a listen. GPS is the smartest of the Sunday political talk shows. Zakaria is the best informed interviewer and has the best guests (recent guests include Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Condaleeza Rice, Thomas Friedman, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown).

--Ballard Burgher

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