Thanks for bringing this Walkom article to our attention, Michelle. It connects with a number of other concurrent discussions on other threads, I think, and maybe can help us shed some more light on this issue. I almost never dissect an opinion piece line-by-line - I'm usually far too lazy. But I'm going to attempt it here, in an abbrieviated sort of way, and hope that I have met all copyright requirements by citing again your reference in the Toronto Star. Mr. Walkom says:
"We're sleepwalking our way into the middle of a complex civil war that has raged in that country for 26 years.
Most Canadians would be hard-pressed to explain why 2,000 more Canadian combat troops are heading to this Asian country in the new year."
Both these statements may well be true.
"The Dutch are hesitant about fighting Taliban rebels. Even the British are reported to be cutting back their Afghan military commitments.
Other NATO members say they're willing to send soldiers to Afghanistan — as long as they don't have to fight.
The U.S., desperate to bring troops home from somewhere, has announced it's reducing its military forces in the country."
Both true. Mr. Walkom could have added that there seems to be some discussion about any continued British military comittment in Afghanistan.
"As a small piece in the web of Canada-U.S. relations, Canada's decision to send combat troops to the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan makes a kind of morbid sense. It is an offering to U.S. President George W. Bush, a blood sacrifice to atone for our refusal to support his Iraq invasion."
Stripped of rhetoric, this statement reflects the truth that Canada is legally and historically and morally commited, under present circumstances, to come to America's military aid from time to time. The Afghanistan deployment has the further justification that it is authorized by the United Nations and compliant with international law. Mr. Walkom makes no notice of this point.
"Rather, the voyageurs were dispatched to demonstrate Canada's loyalty to its imperial masters.
Sending more troops is an offering to President Bush
So it is here. In fact, sending troops to Kandahar might well win points in Washington. But what will it accomplish in Afghanistan? "
The obvious response would be that what might be accomplished in Afghanistan is the provision of a base of security and infrastructure that helps those people in Afghanistan we would all most like to help - those wanting to see an even only- crudely democratic government and basic security for all. When tribal warlordism contradicts these goals, then moderating the behaviour of tribal warlords becomes a justifiable aim.
This is the mission, I would like to believe, that Canadian troops (and even American troops believe it or not, even if they are only a pawn in a larger Imperialistic game) are engaged in.
"True, there is a real need to restore security in that country. That stability which did exist was destroyed when the U.S., Canada and other invaders drove out the Taliban government in 2001. The invaders have a moral responsibility to help to fix what we disrupted."
One does not quite know what to make of this statement. I can only hope that Mr. Walkom mispeaks himself when he so cavalierly passes over the "stability" of the Taliban. This one sentence of Mr. Walkom's has allowed me to file him in the mental drawer that says "dishonest?stupid?dangerous?fun to mess with?" Clearly Mr. Walkom does not know or care about the horrifying realities of life under the Taliban. To excuse, even indirectly, these atrocities under the rubric of "stability" tells me everything I need to know about Mr. Walkom's value and thoughtfulness on this topic.
"However, the wider war against the Taliban and other insurgents requires a political rather than a military solution. The Afghans understand this and have already bought some ex-Taliban figures into their new government.
As for terror guru Osama bin Laden, whose presence in Afghanistan was the ostensible reason for the 2001 invasion, not even the Americans talk about him any more."
It's good to see that Mr. Walkom seems to understand that a political solution is desirable. Rather than scoring a cheap shot at Osama bin Laden, a helpful journalist might have tried to give us some accurate reading of how many internationally and al Qaida connected forces are thought to reside in Afghanistan. Separating these forces from those of local tribal folks defending their own turf will be a perhaps insurmountable task. I think the Canadian military, uniquely, just might be up to it.
"Yet, so far, the U.S. and Canada persist in thinking that they are engaged in a war against what chief of the defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier calls "scumbags" and that this war can be won — that while one set of soldiers defeats the Taliban in the hills, another set can win civilian hearts and minds by building schools."
A close reading of this might suggest that Mr. Walkom believes that the majority of Afghanis support the Taliban in the same sense that the majority of the Viet Namese supported the aims of North Vietnam. I would like to as someone like Skdadl, who is more familiar with RAWA, the Afghani women's movement organization, whether she thinks Afghani women would agree with Mr. Walkom's (admittedly tacit) comparison of the Taliban with other indigenous revolutionary movements such as the Viet Cong.
"I don't claim to have easy answers. But surely the first step would be to recognize a fundamental political reality: that many Afghans support either the Taliban or other hard-line Islamic conservatives.
Hillier may think they are scum but a lot of Afghans don't."
Walkom's easy grouping of the Taliban "or other hard-line conservatives" is misleading. The situation is far more complex, with a stable, traditional and very local system organized along tribal lines intersecting with internatinional geopolitical actors who pose a threat to, well, pretty well everybody. The role that Canada has been given will require great luck and grace and consumate military and diplomatic skills. Walkom does us a favour, I suppose, by bringing the topic to our attention, however cursorily he has considered it.
"If Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government truly wanted to help restore stability to Afghanistan, it would start by trying to build on this political reality.
If it were democratic, it would try to engage the public in a discussion of its Afghanistanism so that we might be able to express a view on whether our soldiers should die there.
And if the opposition Conservative and New Democratic parties had any guts, they'd talk seriously during this election campaign about Canada's role in Afghanistan."
Yet again, Mr. Walkom displays his easy, flatulent worldview. It's actually possible that the leaders Mr. Walkom mentions have in fact addressed this issue - Jack Layton I believe has called for a full citizens inquiry - but it's so much easier to rap off a good line, isn't it, Mr. Walkon" What a flake. And to think I used to think he had something to say.
Anyway, after all that unconscionably long screed, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, Michelle, and all you wonderful Babblers, and especially you Skdadl.[URL=http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1135378221668&call_pageid=970599109774&col=Columnist969907626796%20%2 0http://www.rabble.ca]linking [/URL]
[ 31 December 2005: Message edited by: looney ]