Saturday, September 09, 2006

Canada and Afghanistan

In a recent conversation with a friend, I struggled to express my position on Canada's mission in Afghanistan:
[W]hile I still feel that it shouldn't be debated now - waffling is bad for morale, and I don't see how the situation could've changed that much since we first agreed to it, old gov't or not - answering Layton's questions during one or more question periods seems reasonable to me:

* What are the goals and objectives of this mission and how do they meet Canada's foreign policy objectives?
* What is the realistic mandate of the mission and how is it being enforced?
* What are the criteria to measure progress?
* What is the definition of success?
* And what is the clear exit strategy for this mission?

Reading the news this morning, I realized Rex Murphy did a much better job - than Layton, and certainly me - of isolating the major problem, and, very importantly, suggesting a way forward. I particularly liked this passage:
[F]rom the very beginning of this mission, from the long ago days of Mr. Chr├ętien through Mr. Martin's term as prime minister to this present moment, a clear, full, articulated case for the mission has not been made.

We've had everything else but the full statement of why the mission is important to us as Canadians, how it relates to our national interest and values and a full description of what we hope to see as a result of our troops being there.

Well said, Rex; well said.


CanuckJack said...

"full description of what we hope to see as a result of our troops being there"

2 words: Dead Taliban

Ok, joking aside:

It may be tough to make a solid argument for how this benefits Canadians, but in my opinion it is clear that our mission is not about Canadians. It's about the Afghans and helping them rebuild their country and build towards a more promising future than what they experienced under the rule of the Taliban. It's hard to quantify those sorts of objectives, do we say x number of women attending school or getting to vote, do we say x number of women not beaten based on the testimony of a "husband" and a witness, or a certain target level of unemployment which is hopefully indicative of less reliance on the opium trade to sustain their economy...there's more but you get the point.

It seems to me that the left side of the world is quick to talk about the need for spending lavish amounts on social programs at home to help out the underdog but is ever-reluctant to help out those less fortunate when they're not on Canadian soil. I think we can at least agree that Canada as a wealthy nation has a global responsibility to assist those who are oppressed and to me that's what this mission is about.

Aside: Jack Layton needs to remember his party had their chance in the spring and they voted to continue the mission for 2 years. This smells a lot like election posturing, and it stinks.

John said...

It does stink, and, frankly, both sides of this issue seem to be using a lot of doublespeak: in everything that I've read since their convention, Layton's focused on this ideal of the Canadian peacekeeper, without presenting any sort of logical argument; just that "It's what Canadians want."

Well, if it wouldn't work in that environment, I don't think they'd want it. I just find the whole situation confusing, is my point. Karzai seems to be negotiating with certain groups - the enemy of my enemy, maybe - and Pakistan just signed a peace agreement with the people along their border with Afghanistan who are somehow associated with the Taleban. It's all very confusing, and I'd like some assurance that NATO (and our gov't, by extension) know how to stabilize the country.

Because, unlike you, I think that that is priority #1. Yes, I feel it's important for Canada to help those who can't help themselves right now, but how we decide who to help is another process I can't seem to grasp. For example, how bad would it have to get in Sudan before Canada would act, with the UN or some other more agile multinational force?

What we don't want is a base like Sudan in the mid 90s, and Afghanistan 'til W bombed the s**t out of it, where Al-Qaeda and their ilk can meet, plan, coordinate and train with impunity. Preventing that is our priority over there, as I see it.

Festering Weasel said...

11 April 2006 - that was the date when Mr. Layton had the opportunity to ask those very questions, but alas both the Liberals and the Conservatives had left the House of Commons to continue their discussions at the Martini Ranch (Hy's). So the sound of one hand clapping, if a tree falls in the forest... If the leader of the NDP... you get the idea. It really doesn't matter what Jack thinks nor asks, the fact remains that the NDP will never form the Government, except if Bob Rae is the next leader of the Liberal party. Lest we forget, former NDP Premier of Ontario, but I digress.

UN resolution 1510 determined that the situation in Afghanistan constituted a threat to international peace and security. A catch-all statement/rational if I ever heard one. As I read the Coles Notes version of history of Afghanistan and those that have attempted to conquer it, Moguls, Greeks, Turks, French, British, Russian, etc.

I did come across a statement ...As a result of these traumatic events, the country is is in a rebuilding phase, as it attempts to reconcile the devastation that constant warfare has created, with a new government that seeks to unify and rebuild the country. The country faces numerous problems, ranging from its devastated economy, the return of millions of refugees, continued warlordism, drug trafficking, and a new government that is struggling with the political forces trying to define the sort of country it will become in the 21st century. I wasn't sure if the author was talking about Afghanistan or our situation here in Canada.

Regardless, supporting our troops is paramount, regardless of the mechanism that sent them to Afghanistan or any other past or future distant lands. I guess it is a matter of "noblesse oblige" and despite my concern with our own Canadian economy and the lack of "metrics" of what we have accomplished in Afghanistan, Canada is a member of the UN and needs to support its resolutions or withdraw from the UN, but the effectiveness of the UN and whether is should be dissolved is another entry for another day.

John raises a couple of good points, how do we decide where to send our troops? Especially when Karzai and Pakistan as a whole continue to negotiate with the various factions (playing both sides) because long after the UN/NATO has left the country they will have to continue to live with the various factions. Still no excuse to sleep with the enemy.