Monday, December 04, 2006

Time for another post about Afghanistan

Pro-military NDP voters may not be the biggest demographic out there, but I would definitely count myself in that category. I think it's criminal what bipartisan governments did to Canada's military through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. I believe Canada's military needs to be larger and better-equipped, especially if our pretense of Northern Sovereignty is supposed to actually mean anything. I don't think this makes me "right-wing" or anything, just logical: The military is the bottom line of a government's sovereignty, after all.

But God, there's nothing that drives me to thoughtless pacifism like the pro-Afganistan scrawlings of people like Jack Granatstein. Apparently, it's simply insane that Canadians prefer their soldiers to work at UN peacekeeping missions, not warfighting. Because, you know, wanting our friends and family to be safe is just psychotic of us all. Moreover, we're all contemptible pieces of scum for putting health care, the environment, and other issues ahead of the more manly concern of the military.

Here's a hint for pro-military advocates: If you want to build a consensus across ideological lines for a stronger military, try not to write shit like this:
Stephen Harper is not a prime minister devoid of principle, far from it, but his present enthusiasm for rebuilding the CF might need to be sacrificed to more palatable policy measures perhaps not today, but possibly tomorrow. And given the attitudes to defence of the single issue Greens, the pacifist Bloc Québécois, the timid New Democrats, and the opportunistic Liberals, all trying to secure power by appealing to anti-Bush, anti-Iraq, anti-Afghan War sentiment, no one can easily assume that a minority Conservative government is secure or certain of re-election.
Any gamblers want to put money on who Jack voted for in the last election? And every election previous?

Arguments about Afghanistan tend, these days, to boil down to either reading the paper, or claiming that the dreaded MSM is making it all up. Here's the problem: all of the disputes over whether CTV or Torstar is accurately giving us a picture of Aghanistan miss the forest for the trees.

Whether CBC spends enough time talking about all the schools we're building, is it true or false that the Taliban is being largely trained, armed, and funded by the ISI in Pakistan? Is it true or false that, whether our soldiers are sharp-shooting angels or bloodthirsty monsters, NATO doesn't have the manpower to occupy the country or prevent traffic from crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border?

Is it true or false that we cannot reasonably defeat the Taliban unless we are willing to crack the whip in Islamabad?

Is it true or false that Pervez Musharraf cannot crack down on the Taliban without threatening his own hold on power? Is it true or false that he might risk an attack by the US rather than break with the Taliban in his own country? We know that Pakistan endured sanctions over their nuclear program, and that Musharraf was threatened with force over support for the Taliban before. But that wasn't in his own country.

I dislike binary oppositions like this because I recognize that they obscure reality, but the plain facts are that Canadian soldiers are faced with an untenable mission. The Taliban are being built by a party we are unable to counter - we aren't about to risk war with Pakistan for a variety of reasons, and there's no reason to believe that war, or anything short of it, would actually help matters.

Our nominal mission in Afghanistan is to support the Afghan government. I'm going to ignore for a moment the fact that any objective appraisal would rank the "scumbags" in the current Kabul government at least as bad as the likely successors. I agree with the goal of a stable, non-threatening Afghanistan - but how long does it take? The US seems to be bringing the same competence and oversight to Kabul that it brought to Baghdad, which doesn't exactly fill me with optimism.

Sadly, Dion's proposal is about as likely succeed as past efforts:
He added that he was interested in proposing a multi-nation approach comparable to the Marshall Plan, the U.S. strategy for rebuilding the allied countries of Europe and repelling communism after the Second World War.

This plan would focus on eradicating illicit crops that provided funding for warlords, Dion said.
Funny, I thought the Canadian Forces had ruled out eradication programs as likely to do nothing but breed resentment and poverty. It was a smart argument back then.

The current NATO plan, such as it is, seems to consist of "Afghanistanization", building the Afghan forces to fight their own war, modelled on the incredibly-successful examples of Vietnam and, yes, Iraq. But this whole idea seems to miss the obvious: We are never going to be able to build a government of Aghanistan that is powerful enough to fend of (much more powerful) Pakistan's attempts to subvert it. We simply don't have that kind of leverage - unless we stay there forever.

There's an incredible air of contempt from some pro-Afghanistan bloggers, who seem astounded that the Canadian people might actually decide Afghanistan isn't worth it. Well, we've all got a price we're unwilling to pay. If most Canadians decide that this country shouldn't bother sending men and women to die for a failed state in Central Asia, it takes some balls to tell them they're wrong.

Put it another way: If we're gonna spend any Canadian lives on this mess, the payoff better be huge. And those of us who are skeptical or opposed to this war are having a hard time seeing the payoff. There's less stability, less order, at greater expense in lives and dollars. NATO command has acknowledged, repeatedly, that the current path is leading to disaster. And nobody has made a convincing pitch for an alternative that leads to "success".

As always, I welcome contrary data, so long as it's meaningful. "The media isn't talking about all the hospitals" is not a rebuttal.


Technetium said...

Thanks for the post. Despite not agreeing with everything, I enjoyed it. Right on about the binary garbage.

Anonymous said...

Pacifism isn't thoughtless. It's logical.

What's nonsensical is countries invading, bombing, killing and occupying another country and then claiming that action as self defense. It was bogus when Hitler used it to invade Poland, the Gulf of Tomkin incident was equally bogus, and so is the Colin Powell WMD pitch at the UN.

History has shown that those who work in the shadows and deep in the bowels of our government that concoct these schemes are not exactly the altruistic type.

Hunting and killing gobs of people in a foreign land does not make us more safe. Not unless you are prepared to perpetrate genocide; which the US made a decent go of it in Vietnam but still fell short because the American public didn't have the stomach for it. And the hundreds sometimes thousands of Vietcongs purported being killed daily turned out to be mostly civilians. How are we so certain that those we are hunting and killing are Taliban?

That no Vietnamese, or Indonesian, or East Timorian, or Guatemalan, or Nicaraguan, or Panamaian, or El Salavdorian, or Chilean, or Iraqi, or Iranian, or Palestinian, or Haitian,... beat Bin Laden to 9/11 was itself a miracle.