Marcus Gee, in his Globe&Mail column this morning, "Afghanistan not just a U.S. Fight", concludes (after a long and not particularly relevant history lesson):
The latest threat is from terrorism and Islamic extremism. Afghanistan was its home base before 9/11 and could be again if the Taliban make a comeback, as they are trying to do. As General Rick Hillier, Chief of the defense Staff, puts it, "we're on a target list." The Taliban and al-Qaeda have set down new roots in Afghanistan, and they will send their arrows of violence around the world. There's no reason to think Canada would be exempt. Better to meet the threat in Afghanistan than in Vancouver or Toronto.
This is no American errand. Though the United States started the ball rolling by invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban after 9/11, and though they still run the show in the south, Canada is one of 35 countries with troops there. The international forces are led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, fully mandated by the United Nations and welcomed by the democratically elected Afghan government. So, while Canadian forces are defending freedom and helping a downtrodden nation, they are doing it in co-operation with other countries under a multilateral umbrella. You can't get much more Canadian than that.
This is all very wonderful, but I would rather if Gee attempted an appeal to my native Canadian intelligence rather my do-gooder Canadian values.
Specifically, what I want to know is, how long are Canadian forces supposed to be involved in this uplifting adventure? Now, in order to frame an answer to this question, we have to ask and answer another question. Are allied forces in Afghanistan doing anything that might lead to something worthy of the term "victory"? Are they, for example, securing the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, or even better, chasing Taliban/Al Qaeda supporters back over the border and into the tribal areas of Pakistan?
Well, no, that is impossible for both political (the Pakistanis, our supposed allies in the War against Terror, would go ape) and geographic (mountains, tons of mountains) reasons.
So when will Taliban/Al Qaeda insurgents quit using the Afghanistan/Pakistan border as a pathway to the Afghan Jihad?
This is where you begin to understand the reasoning behind General Hillier's claim that Canada may be in Afghanistan for a decade. And of course, his calculations involve an insurgency that can be endlessly replenished with arms, money, and bodies, throwing in the towel after a decade for reasons not involving military defeat. Which seems highly unlikely to me.
It all sounds kind of endless and therefore pointless, doesn't it?
So why can't Canada debate, on the Political level, and perhaps make more specific, the parameters of Canadian involvement? To argue, as Harper has done, that this will somehow adversely affect the moral of the troops, is rubbish and a sign of political cowardice to boot. I am sure they are too busy dodging axes and bullets to be worried about some parliamentary debate. And if Parliament were to decide, for example, that the Mission was to end after a certain specified period, why our troops might even learn to like that outcome.
Let there be no mistake; the Paul Martin's Liberal government handed their successors a political stink-bomb with this issue. But that's politics and it is up to the Tories to deal with the hot potato in their lap in an open and competent manner. Welcome to Ottawa.
Marcus Gee's original article can be found at:
globeandmail.com : Afghanistan is not just a U.S. fight
But it's easier just to Google "Gee" and "Afghanistan" and slide in behind the Globe fire-wall.