Should Canadian Forces Be In Afghanistan

This is not as simple a question as “Should Canadian Forces be in Iraq ?”. The Iraq war is a unilateral violation of international law based on a web of lies, including the claims that Iraq was involved with 911 and that Iraq had those evil “weapons of mass destruction” that only the “good guys” are allowed to have. Apparently the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) theory is now passé.

On the other hand, Afghanistan was being used as a training ground for Al Qaida and was clearly linked to international terrorism. The Canadian Forces role in Afghanistan is also linked to reconstruction and development, even if there is some controversy surrounding that role. But the Afghanistan mission is also tainted by it’s connection the “United States War on Terror” that is inextricably linked to the Iraq War and the United States historical foreign and miliary policy of simply acting in their own interests without regard to human rights or international law.

Setting that aside, the question is answered much more easily by looking at what role for the Canadian Forces best serves Canadian values, and where the Canadian Forces can be most effective. The Afghanistan mission is a heavy burden that prevents the Canadian Forces from being deployed in missions that better serve traditional Canadian values and foreign policy.

Canada is the country that invented peacekeeping. Modern day peacekeeping is not a watered down version of military combat but a role that requires all the traditional skills and risks of the military with added diplomatic and development roles.

In the First and Second World Wars we fought countries - the country, military and civilian, was the enemy, and civilian casualties, whether intended or “collateral”, were not a significant factor. In today’s warfare we are often in the middle of conflicts between armed groups where we are trying to win the trust of the civilian population so that we can work with them in reconstruction and development projects. Often separating “friend” from “foe” is the biggest challenge. Canada has the opportunity to build a highly combat trained military that is also educated in these more subtle areas.

The Afghanistan conflict clearly requires many of these skills. However it is tainted by its link to the “United States War on Terror” and its burden prevents Canada from acting in other areas, and from acting where no one else is capable or prepared to act.

Recently we have seen the world paralysed by some of the worst acts of genocide and humanitarian crises in places like Rwanda and Darfur. The world stood by, unable or unwilling to act, as millions suffered unspeakable abuse and death.

This is where Canada should act. Wee need to develop the will and the capability to act when no one else will - to engage in “unilateral humanitarian military intervention”. To do this a number of things have to happen. First is the need to develop a nationwide public and political will to act.

It will mean accepting the need for Canada to act unilaterally which will require a major foreign policy shift. To act unilaterally and retain international credibility is the challenge. Fortunately we do not have the kind of foreign policy history that plagues the United States. For Canada to be able to undertake this role with credibility requires pursuing a foreign policy based on the interests of international peace and development, rather than purely self-interest, which is what drives American foreign policy, and it means distancing ourselves from American foreign policy and unilateralism, in particular the “United States War on Terror”.

It means removing the Canadian Forces from Afghanistan, because of its links to the “United States War on Terror” and because it drains our resources that are needed to respond to international humanitarian crises when no one else will.

Unilateral intervention requires unilateral capability. It means we need to have the independent military capability to perform all combat and other roles, capability in terms of equipment, troops and training, and the capability to get our forces to where they are needed quickly, particularly in situations when thousands of people are being abused and killed everyday that nobody acts. We need to build these capabilities if we e to fulfill this role.

The best way to achieve a peaceful and conflict free world is to reduce economic inequity and human rights violations that have become commonplace. Canada can do that at home by setting an example of how the world’s peoples can live together in harmony, and abroad by following policies designed to reduce international inequities.

However there are times when the world should not stand by, times when someone needs to act

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