Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How can Canada running from its responsibilities in Afghanistan?

As much as this blog is about economics, it is a vehicle for me rant about issues burning so fierce that I feel a need to seek public criticism.

Now: the Federal Liberals and the Conservatives said that they want to pull Canadian troops out of Afghanistan in February 2009. I am both disappointed and baffled by this development. Both parties weighted the costs and benefit of us entering into Afghanistan just a few years ago: our safety was (is) at risk, our values were (are) at stake, and the answer was (is?) clear. And now is the situation so different that it is almost time to go? This, our political debate, has not gone unnoticed in the world.

This week, I read an article in last Friday's Globe and Mail . Give it a read. I was moved by the praise of Canadian history, our values, and our influence on the world stage. As the article continued, however, it pointed to the fact that Canadian troops are doing most of the heavy lifting: working in the most unstable regions of Afghanistan and that other counties would not put their own troops in areas where Canadians are fighting.

After read a bit more, I was overwhelmed by the following thoughts: (1) Yes! It is terrible that we have lost lives in Afghanistan; (2) Yes! We need more help in the south from other countries and we need better equipment. Yes! Some things do need to change; but is having Canadians in Afghanistan is one of them?

With that, a series of questions fly at me: How can we pull-out of a country that we helped dismantle? Whether you supported the mission or not, don't we now have a responsibility to stay? If we underestimated the cost of battle, does it free us from the consequences of our actions? Maybe I have this wrong, but wasn't the reason Afghanistan became a training group for terrorist in the first place was because people came in, dismantled the place, and then just pulled-out?

I find it hard to believe that Canadians want to stand-up on a world stage and set the example by saying: “We are leaving, this situation is going to fix itself and no one needs to worry”.


Francis Wooby said...

It's a very interesting and important discussion; but not an easy one. Denmark, I believe, is going through a debate that mirrors our own, and not having any more success in answering these difficult questions.

MadJenny said...

It's tough eh? I can't say I thought it was the right thing to go in at the time. I can't say I really remember what my arguments against were at the time. Certainly not support of the Taliban. Perhaps just the concern that sending troupes into an already traumatized civilization seems somehow wrong.

But I definitely think I agree with you. Now that we are there. Once we have chosen to impose ourselves, we can't just pull out because it turns out to be a little more difficult than originally anticipated.

I haven't yet read the Globe and Mail article, so I am likely speaking from a point of ignorance. But it seems to me that part of the problem the Canadian military faces with regard to support for their efforts in Afghanistan might be the almost complete lack of information about what they are doing. It seems to me that the only time we hear anything about the troops in Afghanistan is when there is a fatality. But what about the rest of the time? I like to think of myself as someone who stays fairly well on top of the happenings of the world, and I have very little idea at all what is actually happening in Afghanistan. How can public or political support be garnered for something about which we are, by and large, ignorant?

I'm certainly not suggesting American style shock reporting, but perhaps an update on some of the progress that is being made. Or the progress that can't be made, and why.

Anonymous said...

Another issue that must be weighed is the mechanism that saw Canada enter into this particular dispute.

The NATO was formed (and continues to function) as a means of mutual self-defense. Should someone attack a signatory, the others would come to the assistance of the beleaguered memeber.

Herein lies the difficulty; which memeber was "attacked"?

My fear is that the Canadian government may, at some future time, be found to have committed warcrimes. Simply declaring a "war on terror" has never (before) used as a reason for claiming need for NATO intervention.

If we are there, it had best be more than "it seemed like a fun way to spend the weekend" excuse.

Canadian Economist said...

FW: Yes: I understand that many NATO countries are having debates similar to Canada's struggle. Let me know if you see any interesting articles.

madjenny: I think you point to a very important fact: we need a clear of what we will define as success and how we can track our path to achieving those goals. Currently, I must admit, it is fuzzy for me.

NONAME: Here is a link to the NATO plan in Afghanistan. I don't claim to be an expert but I think we are clear about who attacked who - here is the link to the NATO speach that cites: "Some, however, are arguing that the attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania have somehow invalidated NATO's established agenda. Most significantly, there is the occasional whisper that NATO enlargement might now be off the agenda, either because we need to focus on more urgent issues or because that will be the price of Russian co-operation on Afghanistan.

That is, of course, classic zero sum thinking. But entirely wrong. NATO may need to prioritise activities if some Allies become involved in major military operations. But the events of September 11 have, if anything, reinforced the logic of our pre-existing agenda."

TODAYS NEWS is on this topic.

Anonymous said...

>>How can we pull-out of a country that we helped dismantle?

We helped dismantle? Wasn't it the Americans who did that?

>Whether you supported the mission or not, don't we now have a responsibility to stay?

What kind of logic is that? That is probably the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. You're telling me that even though I don't agree with the decision, I should still support it because some people have too much of an ego to let it go? Wow. I always thought Canadians were able to think for themselves, apparently not. You sound strangely like an neo-con in Washington.

A real man is able to admit they're failing or are wrong and is able to walk away before things go too bad. A fool and a coward says we should stay to the end even if the initial decision was wrong. Sad, very sad.

Another thing, do you have any idea what war is like? Are you going to sign up or send your kids over there? When are you going to stop pushing economic numbers around your own desk and come out to the real world were actions are real and people die because of the decisions of others. I find people like you to be pathetic with your attitudes towards war. Yes,..I'm sure it's very easy to send someone else's kids to a war zone when you're an armchair general. If you believe in the war so much then get off your lazy ass and get the hell over there asap. Just don't be telling me that my tax dollars should go towards a war I don't believe in. Some of us are not sheep.

>>If we underestimated the cost of battle, does it free us from the consequences of our actions?

Only an moron who's too proud to admit they're wrong would continue a foolish action once they've proved to themselves that it was a mistake.

>>If we underestimated the cost of the battle, what other mistakes have we made that we're too proud to admit.

Do you have any idea how much Canada is now pouring into the military these days? And how much it's taking out of programs that really help Canadians?

So how about less ego and more realism. Your tears shed after watching some history show on past Canadian battles is no reason to continue a foolish war. In fact, it's probably the most pathetic reason for going to war. How about growing up and taking off your blinders and seeing the world from a non-Western viewpoint for a change.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for that earlier post. Too early in the morning and came upon your site before my coffee. Doesn't excuse my outburst.

I still don't agree us with being there. To actually get the job done 'correctly' is at least a 25+ year job, if not a lot more. A few billion a year adds up very quickly. And it's going to take a long long time because we are up against a 2000 year old culture that really doesn't like us all that much. And with very good reason. So 25+ years minimum, at least 50 billion dollars, probably more, and how many lives? I don't like those numbers.