I was struck by a piece by Stephen Saideman from McGill University printed in the Globe & Mail today, suggesting that Canada will lose stature on the world stage when we pull out of Afghanistan in 2011. Saideman argues that, “Canada has gained a great deal of influence because of its willingness to lead and bleed in Kandahar” and he suggests that all that could disappear.” I wonder.
I wonder how the hell we got there in the first place. How our governments have been willing to trade our treasured reputation as a peacekeeper for a pat on the head from an ineffective American President mired in a conflict he seems to have barely understood.
I have to ask, where we have gained all this stature and influence as suggested in the article. Our Prime Minister may have been pleased do George Bush a favour but in my view, our stature as a nation took a huge hit. Lets face facts, it all makes Harper look like a toadie. There is nothing wrong with having differences with our neighbour to the south. Differences of opinion are a healthy part of any relationship. We have to ask ourselves, how did doing the American’s bidding help us out in our relationship with the rest of the world? Not one bit.
The article argues that other nations which have chosen to either sit this one out or to only supply troops in a non-combat role are suffering from a failure in leadership. He argues that they have shied away from the conflict “because of potential domestic political liabilities” rather than trying to sell the war to their peoples, no matter how unpopular it was at home. What a load of hogwash.
I’m from the school which would argue, the people elect the government therefore the government has at least some responsibility not to abandon the will of the people.
Most Canadians support the men and women who are serving in Afghanistan, be it in the armed forces or in a more humanitarian role working for NGOs or other groups providing aid. For the most part the soldiers are not there at their own choosing but at the bequest of overweight pasty-faced politicians whose misguided decisions have put them in harm’s way.
We were comfortable with our nation's reputation as a peacekeeper and I would argue that most Canadians are not comfortable seeing our troop in a combat role. Generally we feel we should never have committed our troops into this conflict in the first place and would be happy to see us bring our men and women home.
That is not a contradiction.
People like Saideman argue that we are making a huge contribution to that country yet, since 2004 there has been a 49% increase in insurgent attacks, a 100% increase in poppy production and Afghanistan has dropped 56 places in the annual corruption rating. It has to make one wonder how one defines these sorts of things.
From my perspective every damn day is a day too long to be engaged in that conflict but, I will live with a 2011 withdrawal. So, let us not be persuaded by the likes of Mr. Saideman.
Let's get out of this mess.