Thursday, December 13, 2007

Professor shuns Manley panel

Michael Byers, a professor at UBC and noted expert on the law of war, writes for the Ottawa Citizen on why he turned down an invitation to appear before the Manley panel. Led by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, the panel was struck in October to examine the Afghanistan mission. (We blogged about it here.)

... The mandate of the Manley panel has been focused on recommending one of four set options, all of them featuring continuing roles for the military.

Alternative policies, such as negotiating with the Taliban, have been effectively excluded from consideration. So too have the opportunities for non-military responses to the crisis levels of opium production and the lawlessness in northern Pakistan. And little room has been allowed for serious consideration of whether NATO troops should be replaced with UN peacekeepers.

The ISG operated on its own timetable, and chose to delay its report until after the 2006 congressional elections.

In contrast, the Manley panel has been given a deadline of Jan. 31, 2008. This ensures the report will be released before the next election, when it can be used by the Conservatives to buttress their position of extending the counterinsurgency mission for another two years.

So why would Mr. Manley -- a Liberal -- play into Mr. Harper's hands?

My guess is that he'd feel duty-bound to answer any prime minister's call. Like the many well-intentioned individuals who have agreed to speak to the panel, or submitted written briefs, Mr. Manley wants to make government work.

I suspect it is this intrinsic loyalty to a democratic ideal that Mr. Harper seeks to exploit. He wants the legitimacy that Mr. Manley and other non-Conservatives can provide.

Well, he's not getting any legitimacy from me. Although it pains me to say it, the Manley panel is a sham.

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