Friday, September 15, 2006

Afghanistan Takes Its Toll On Liberal Leadership

Carolyn Bennett has announced that tommorow she will be dropping out of the Liberal Leadership Race and throwing her weight behind the Anybody but Iggy Campaign and endorsing Bob Rae.

Afghanistan is quickly becoming the desisive and devisive issue in this Leadership Campaign. And Iggy's stalwart defense of the moral principle of humanitarian war is in conflict with traditional Canadian Liberalism.

Could it be because of her position on Afghanistan dovetails with Rae's?

Lets lookee see.....

Carolyn Bennett:Fifty years later, Canadian soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan and we feel terrible. The nature of conflict has changed dramatically. No longer are we dealing with two nation-states that can be separated by a neutral zone that peacekeepers can survey. The threats to peace are now, more often than not, internal - though often not visibly identifiable - elements.

Canada lobbied hard to build support for a human security agenda, eventually leading the UN to adopt a "responsibility to protect" approach that will allow international intervention when citizens are at risk due to the inability, or unwillingness, of a government to "protect" its citizens.

Having said that, like most Canadians I believe that we made the right decision in not going into Iraq. Instead, we demonstrated our sincere and responsible commitment to the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the promotion of democracy by sending Canadian troops on a one-year mission.

Originally, our mission was to protect the schools and the civilians; that is to say, human security. We were to help ensure that Afghanistan was put on the road to democracy. I am not sure that Canadians fully understood that enhancing our role in NATO's "Operation Enduring Freedom" would dramatically change our original commitment.

I believe most Canadians are uncomfortable with this active combat role for our troops. However, whether it is East Timor, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan or now south Lebanon, I believe that, if allowed to debate and ponder the alternatives, Canadians would support the fundamental shift from peacekeeping to protecting human security.

But what has been missing is the meaningful debate which should be de rigueur in an open democracy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to extend our role in Afghanistan until 2009 was a cynical and misguided political move. He had two objectives: please George Bush and divide Canadian Liberals. He sought to portray those who opposed an extension of the mission as a withdrawal of support for the mission and our troops.

During my recent travels throughout Canada, I have heard from countless military families. They are concerned that the extension may mean that the same soldiers could be deployed more than three times. This is a huge risk to their mental health as well to potential loss of life.

The commitment to 2009 in Afghanistan has dramatically affected our ability to help with the human security agenda in other parts of the world, particularly now in the Middle East.

I believe Canadians support the Liberal approach of ensuring that we maintain an independent foreign policy. Our refusal to send troops to Iraq stands as the most recent and striking example.

We know that Harper would have sent Canadian troops into Iraq. Now that he is in power, our foreign policy is moving in lockstep with that of the United States. The problem is not that Harper has no views of his own; it is simply that his views are consistent with those of U.S. Republican-style conservatives. Harper's default position is in full alignment with American policy.

The Prime Minister should stop threatening cynical "confidence" votes on matters that clearly merit more debate. His tactic of pushing for quick yes/no answers to complex questions diminishes our democracy.

Harper's rote appeasement of U.S. President George Bush and facile "with us or against us" interpretation of the complexities of military involvement is not modern leadership. Canadians deserve a genuine dialogue about the trade-offs and the tough decisions that need to be made in defence, foreign policy and development.

I am determined that that dialogue takes place.

"Supporting our troops" means Canadians must know where they are, what they are doing and why. They must understand that traditional peacekeeping is no longer possible.

They must give their informed consent for a fundamental shift in Canadian policy to that of "responsibility to protect" and a human security agenda that will clearly put more soldiers in harm's way.

Canadians need to know that they have the ability to reject a role in active combat and must understand the exit strategy from Operation Enduring Freedom.

Canadians also need to know that Ottawa is doing everything possible to support the diplomacy and development aid that will lead to a lasting peace. This is the best way to respect Pearson's legacy.

Bob Rae: We should stick to our guns

The NATO mission in Afghanistan should be re-evaluated, but Canada should not pull out unilaterally, Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae said yesterday.

The Afghanistan mission has changed from its original purpose to establish a new government in the country that is friendly to the West to a counter-insurgency operation, he said in a meeting with The Gazette's editorial board.

As such, all participating NATO countries should discuss its conduct and duration, he suggested.

"But we can't just snap our fingers and say this week that we lost too many troops and we have to come home," Rae said.

Bob believes in a foreign policy that is in keeping with the best Canadian traditions.

Parliament narrowly supported the Harper agenda for the Canadian military and Afghanistan. Bob has been speaking out during his current campaign tour about how he thought the Harper motion was a "set-up" and he would have voted against it: "Our role as a country is peacekeeping, constitution making."

The recent six- hour debate in the House of Commons on Canada's role in Afghanistan was hardly adequate to make an informed judgment about such a fundamental change in Canada’s role.

The unilateral extension of the combat mission is a departure from Canada's traditional role of peacekeeping and reconstruction. Bob believes Canada could have instead focused our military, aid and diplomatic resources on reconstruction and re-building that war-torn country and that we also should have heard how the Afghan mission affects our ability to contribute to resolving other troubled situations.

In contrast, Mr. Harper is a leader who would have involved Canada in the Iraq war and vows to move ahead with a significant and prolonged combat role for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bob Rae Liberal Leadership Candidate - op-eds

This brings me to the situation in Afghanistan. As I wrote in 2004, the international community was right to overthrow the Taliban- under a UN mandate- because that regime was exporting terrorism.

It was right for Canada to have been part of that successful multilateral effort. But we need to keep in mind that Canada’s ongoing mission in Afghanistan has changed several times to reflect evolving realities.

In 2002 we sent a battle group to Kandahar; in 2003 we sent 2,000 troops to Kabul as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force; in 2004 we reduced this to a 700-person reconnaissance team; in 2005 we sent a Provincial Reconstruction Team to Kandahar. Finally, early this year, Canada deployed a combat Task Force to Kandahar and took command of the multi-national brigade headquarters.

Mr. Martin’s government approved the combat component for one year- until early 2007- to help ensure stability on the ground in Kandahar for reconstruction.

But in “jamming” the Canadian Parliament, Mr. Harper has effectively tied up most of Canada’s available military resources until 2009 and locked us into a mission geared mainly toward counter-insurgency. There are serious risks with this.

Let’s be clear: Canada is in a war, and the questions around this fact have not been given an adequate airing. The rushed six-hour Parliamentary debate did not show proper consideration for the complexities of the proposed mission nor for the troops being asked to undertake it. On issues of such importance, Canadians have a right to expect better from a Prime Minister.

Afghan President Karzai himself has recently been critical of how the counter-insurgency efforts are being conducted, and urged a reassessment of the balance between combat against the Taliban and investments in reconstruction. He has said that improving local government, and strengthening the Afghan police and army is the surer way to tackle the problems of terrorism and insurgency.

President Karzai stated last week, “I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan... and of a change in approach by the international community in this regard."

In such a prolonged combat role, Canadian troops risk becoming seen as an unwelcome army of occupation by ordinary Afghanis, rather than as their allies.

The responsibility to protect innocent civilians should not be invoked to justify any and all military interventions. Unfortunately, some have appropriated it to rationalize the Iraq war, as well as Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. It does not fit either case. The coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003 did so ostensibly on the pretext of searching for weapons of mass destruction. And the international community intervened in Afghanistan because that country was the source of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

We need less rhetoric and more realism about Afghanistan. An unpoliced border with northern Pakistan, an economy still deeply dependent on poppy production and the heroin trade, powerful warlords with extensive foreign networks: the notion of a quick military victory and a sudden transition to liberal democracy seems problematic. We need to be realistic about what we can achieve, and how long it will take.

There are other options for Canada in Afghanistan between traditional peacekeeping and a largely counter-insurgency role, even if the Prime Minister does not want to discuss them. Our focus should be on reconstruction, aimed at enabling the Afghan people to provide security within their own borders, and helping them build a legitimate economy.

In foreign deployments, we must maintain a balanced approach, and not lose our way as a people committed to diplomacy, aid, reconstruction, and deliberate, responsible decisions when it comes to military action. We should indeed remember who we are.

Canada’s long-standing commitment to multilateralism, peacekeeping and reconstruction is not quaint, romantic or a sacred cow. Our foreign policy traditions, far from being out-moded, offer an effective framework and a sound set of values for helping stabilize and rebuild in situations of global conflict.

Also See:

Liberal Leadership Race


The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
, , , , , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
, , , , , ,
, , , , , , , , , ,
, , , , ,


No comments: