Far and Wide: Weak Reasoning On Afghanistan
I don’t know whether I’m more stunned by the foolishness that the National Post will print as “journalism” or “editorial”, or by the quality of research that goes on at our institutes of military studies. This article, found by SteveV at Far and Wide is a Letterman-style Top Ten List of reasons to stay in Afghanistan, and I could write for months on everything I disagree with here.
Deep breath, here goes:
1) Canadian security They apply the standard “it’s better to fight them there than here” argument that has been such a raging success in Iraq. I would like to stay with the Iraqi analog for this discussion. While Canada was directly affected by the attacks of 911, we have not lessened the risk of terrorist attack one bit. The argument that has been made that the Iraqi invasion is creating more terrorists than it is removing can also be applied to Afghanistan, I expect.
2) National pride This is just too lame to even comment on. We do not need to beat up on third-world countries in order to “hit above our weight” as the article suggests. Offering intelligent solutions to crucial problems and aid in solving them would also help. I do not mean to suggest that this should not sometimes include military action, but only when it has a real role and reasonable hope of success. I’m not as certain as these guys that it does in this case.
3) Canada-US relations There is some argument to be made for this one, after all Chretien used the expansion of the Canadian role as a way of placating Bush when he said no to Iraq. However, the authors suggest that we should be flattered that the US “trusts us” with Kandahar. Who are they trying to fool? The US has been absolutely aching to drawdown these troops to rotate some more fodder through Iraq – they would have handed over to anyone that didn’t sit down and look away fast enough.
4) Central Asian security They argue that securing Afghanistan promotes security in its neighbours Iran and Pakistan. I would turn this argument around and suggest that creating any real peace in Afghanistan is not going to happen while jihad is still being exported actively from and increasingly aggressive and far more powerful Iran and Pakistan.
Think of it this way – Afghanistan is Canada and Pakistan/Iran are the US. Is instability in Canada going to really affect the US in a critical way? Economically a bit, but seriously, no. Now imagine an aggressive, expansionist US with it’s eye on Canada – is stability in Canada going to be able to hold off its crazy big neighbour? Again, not likely.
The real hope for peace in the region does not start with pacifying Afghanistan; it starts with Iran and Pakistan. I would and have argued that there is little opportunity to actually affect real stability in Afghanistan before somehow convincing its neighbours, especially Pakistan, to lay off.
5) Treaty obligations There is no contest here – our NATO ally was attacked and we have an obligation to step in. I do not arue
6) Reinforcing success I’m not really sure where this argument comes from, because I’m not really seeing the success yet. Yes, they had presidential elections, and yes there are some stable pockets in the country, but only where NATO troops regularly control. Hamid Karzai has been referred to in the press as the Mayor of Kabul, and it is not far from the truth.
7) Democracy They trot out the racist strawman that a Muslim nation can’t be democratic and that establishing one would set an example… yadda yadda yadda. I will just say that being a democracy takes a will of the people and cannot be imposed from outside. Many Afghans want a democratic state, but it is not up to Canada to impose it on those that don’t. I speak only for myself in saying this, but even if it was up to us, I don’t think the Canadian government is interested in paying the whole price for what it would cost to actually quell all of the rebels in Afghanistan to guarantee elections. And half measures might only make things worse.
8) Rule of law and human rights This is definitely something worth fighting for.
9) Poppies As Steve says, this is kinda silly. According to something I read today, twice as much money is coming into Afghanistan via poppies than from reconstruction funding from the west. It would be so easy, using purely economic means, to get farmers off of the production of poppies. Hell, in the US they have paid farmers to plow produce right back into the soil so as not to destabilize markets, why not just pay the farmers to grow food in stead? Hell, I’ll buy Afghan paprika if it would help! If something other than poppies paid, I’m sure something other than poppies would be planted.
10) Economics Again citing Steve, their argument that a peaceful Afghanistan would be an economic boon to Canada is cynical. I’m certain that there is nothing coincidental in Hamid Karzai’s past job with big oil and the initial move to invade Afghanistan after the failed attempts to push a pipeline through in the 90’s. However to suggest that there would be great benefits to the local population by building a pipeline is specious. There would be benefits, alright, but I have some suspicion that it’s not in the towns and cities of Afghanistan that they would be realized. Ask an Ogoni how good Nigerian oil has been to them.
That leaves two reasons for sensible Canadian involvement, and they are good ones, I might add. However, just spouting off on my own here, I have to think that there are better ways to get where we want to be over there rather than fight a losing battle against endless jihadists and taliban. I’m not sure what it is offhand, but I strongly suspect that any solution lies not in Afghanistan, rather in Pakistan.
But like I said, I’m just spouting off.