Monday, October 05, 2009

The Finnish Afghan "debate"

(A Finn on patrol in Afghanistan via YLE) So it's been a big few weeks for Finnish politics, what with the planks an' all. A mate was filling me in this morning on the debate in the Eduskunta (Finnish parliament) he went to watch last Thursday evening - a debate that he reckoned a whole 20 MPs had found the time to turn up to. Regardless of what your position is on the point and purpose of the mission, if troops from your country are volunteering to go out to do a dangerous job in a dangerous place, it strikes me that the elected representatives of that country could at least turn up and hear what the government has to say on it and think about whether it is a wise policy or not.

As recounted to me, the debate amongst the 20 who did make it was acrimonious to say the least, with former chair of the SDP, Eero Heinäluoma, using a rather insulting term for coward from the end of WWII* about Jaakko Laakso of the Left Alliance. From what I've heard Laakso say over the years, the old tankie almost certainly deserved it. The SDP also accused the Left Alliance of knee-jerk anti-americanism, which makes me think this was a certain strain within the SDP talking (which fits with chosen aphorism for the Left Alliance). This is interesting because amongst the other SDP member at the debate was Jutta Urpilainen, the current chair of the party. I don't really know anything about her foreign policy thinking, but she did beat Tuomioja who is from the left-pacifist wing of the party to win the chair. If she had taken the time to be at the debate, and the SDP position is reflected in Heinäluoma's comments, it marks a change in the party's foreign policy thinking from the Tuomioja/Halonen axis perhaps?

Anyway, with sad timing, a Finnish patrol in Mazar e Sharif got blown up by an IED the next day. Two soldiers were seriously injured and have been brought back to Finland, two other are in a German hospital in Afghanistan with less severe injuries. Get well soon guys. Had the poor buggers got blown up the day before, I wonder if a few more MPs might have troubled themselves to turn up to discuss their deployment.

*The insult, käpykaartilainen, or "Pine Cone Guard" was aimed at deserters who hid in the forests and seems to have particular resonance within the different factions of the Finnish left dating back to the civil war. I'm glad I looked that up because just like my teachers said when I was about 7, you learn something new everyday!

1 comment:

Your Neighbour said...

I know quite a few Finnish peacekeepers, and they tend to stress that there is a crucial difference between peace keeping and peace enforcement.

It's not at all clear that the Afghanistan situation is about peacekeeping anymore. Possibly it never was in the first place.