Canada in Afghanistan: Some Clear Thinking
. . .And it comes From Rudyard Griffiths of the Dominion Institute:
Afghanistan isn't Iraq and we draw this parallel at our peril. Most of Afghanistan is prospering and at peace. The south, where the fighting is taking place, is made up of a single ethnic and religious group, Sunni Pashtuns. There is simply no structural reason for Afghanistan to spiral into the kind of intractable sectarian violence that is fast derailing the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
What is dangerous to Canada and our interests is the "bring home the troops" movement's casual disregard for the terms on which we are in Afghanistan.
Every Canadian soldier serving in Afghanistan is part of a larger, multinational NATO force that has the full sanction of the United Nations. To withdraw our troops before February 2009 — the date Parliament committed to the UN mission — would be an unparalleled and unprincipled act of unilateralism. In one fell stroke, we would be renouncing the very multilateral institutions we've championed on the world stage for the last half century.
That's from today's Toronto Star. Griffiths is with the Dominion Institute, which is a pretty interesting outfit. Anything that can bring together Charlotte Gray, John Raulston Saul, Jack Granatstein, and Anne Medina, in a common cause, can't be bad. Their books are serious too, bringing in the likes of Naomi Klein, Michael Ignatieff, Ken Wiwa, Nino Ricci and Margaret Atwood.
I have what may or may not be a minor quibble with what Griffiths writes about why Canada is in Afghanistan, and it's about the "terms" upon which we're there. Let's not forget that the Canadians who are actually there on the ground, doing the hard work, have their many reasons. The most compelling are the reasons that motivated Trevor Greene, the brave Vancouver writer who is still slowly recovering from having been attacked by an axe-weilding nutjob in an Afghan village last spring:
"I really think it's important to convey the fact that he's always been a protector of people. I always used to tease him about his white horse he comes charging in on. But he's always looked out for people that are being bullied or harmed. I remember in university he would go across the campus to ensure that a girl got across safely, even if he didn't know her. He wouldn't let someone leave an event and walk alone. I always thought that was remarkable for a young man to be so protective of people. I think that really testifies as to why he went to Afghanistan, to ensure that the people there are heard and that they feel protected. I think that connects and loops back to everything else that he is."
And that's what gets lost in all the highfalutin debates. It's why we should be there, which is to ensure that "that the people there are heard and that they feel protected." So yes, let's hear what Canadians say. But let's not forget what the ordinary people of Afghanistan say, and the last time anyone took the time to listen carefully - which was some months ago - this is what we heard:
Eight in 10 Afghans say that their country is headed in the right direction, the overthrow of the Taliban was a good thing, and so is even the most bloody aspects of the counter-insurgency effort to keep the Taliban at bay.