The Politics of War
300 pages, 6 x 9
9 graphs, 2 maps, 6 tables
Release Date:15 Apr 2018
Release Date:01 Oct 2017
Release Date:02 Oct 2017
Release Date:15 Oct 2017

The Politics of War

Canada’s Afghanistan Mission, 2001–14

UBC Press

When the Canadian government committed forces to join the American-led military mission in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, little did Canadians – or the government itself – foresee that this decision would involve Canada in a war-riven country for over a decade. The Politics of War explores how, as the mission became increasingly unpopular, Canadian politicians across the political spectrum began to use it to score political points against their opponents. This was “politics” with a vengeance.

Through historical analysis of the public record and interviews with officials, Jean-Christophe Boucher and Kim Richard Nossal show how the Canadian government sought to frame the engagement in Afghanistan as a “mission” rather than what it was – a war. They examine the efforts of successive governments to convince Canadians of the rightness of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, the parliamentary politics that resulted from the increasing politicization of the mission, and the impact of public opinion on Canada’s engagement. They argue that the direction, duration, and nature of Canada’s contribution to international stabilization efforts in Afghanistan were largely determined by domestic, politically motivated factors rather than by what was happening in Afghanistan itself.

This contribution to the field of Canadian foreign policy analyzes the impact of political elites, Parliament, and public opinion on the mission and demonstrates how much of Canada’s long war in Afghanistan was shaped by the vagaries of domestic politics and political gamesmanship.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of Canadian foreign and defence policy and political science, as well as those interested in the Afghanistan mission, including public officials and members of the armed forces.


  • 2019, Shortlisted - CPSA Prize in International Relations, Canadian Political Science Association
Although written by political scientists, this book is very accessible to students of the campaign in Afghanistan—whether they be academics, military personnel, or the general reader. It is highly recommended for the view of the ‘home game’ it provides and as a reflection of the military ‘away game’ being played out overseas. Ken Reynolds, Canadian Military History Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1
This outstanding book is a must-read for anyone interested in Canadian foreign and defence policy, particularly the Afghanistan mission. It manages to make an original contribution to the issue of Canada and Afghanistan while at the same time providing a strong empirical confirmation of an existing critical understanding of Canada and its foreign and defence policy. James Fergusson, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and professor in the Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba
The Politics of War will quickly become one of the top sources on Canada’s Afghanistan mission. This is a first-class piece of scholarship that deserves to be widely read and cited. Duane Bratt, professor and chair of the Department of Policy Studies, Mount Royal University

Jean-Christophe Boucher is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at MacEwan University. He is a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Security and Development at Dalhousie University, and a senior fellow at the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur les relations internationales du Canada et du Québec. He specializes in international relations, with an emphasis on peace and security issues, Canadian foreign and defence policies, and methodology.

Kim Richard Nossal is a professor in the Department of Political Studies and the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University. He is a former editor of International Journal, a former president of the Canadian Political Science Association, and the author of a number of works on Canadian foreign and defence policy. From 2006 to 2012, he chaired the academic selection committee of the Security and Defence Forum of the Department of National Defence.


Introduction: The Domestic Politics of Canada’s Afghanistan Mission

1 The Away Game: Canadians in Afghanistan

2 The War That Wasn’t: Framing the Mission

3 Home Pitch: Selling Afghanistan to Canadians

4 Parliament’s Role: Laundering the Mission

5 Don’t Mention the War: Electoral Politics and Bipartisanship

6 Detainee Games: The Politics of Distraction

7 Did Minority Government Matter? A Counterfactual Analysis

8 An Unpopular Mission: Public Opinion and Afghanistan

9 The Politics of Casualties: Evaluating the “Trenton Effect”

10 Failure to Launch: Public Mobilization and the War in Afghanistan

Conclusion: Though Poppies Grow

Notes; Index

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