Saturday, September 09, 2006

Afghanistan Helps Our "Reputation"

When you do the mental math to justify our presence in Afghanistan, one concept shouldn't enter the equation, that being the idea of prestige. The Toronto Star has an excellent piece detailing the birth of our mission in Afghanistan. What is particularly disturbing in the piece is the way in which Afghanistan was seen as an opportunity to bolster our international reputation and provide an opportunity for an eager military to flex its muscles. The warped logic that if Canadians were on the frontlines, getting bloodied, this would heighten our international profile:
But Hillier and planners in the defence department were fixed on one thing and one thing only: Afghanistan.

The meeting was the perfect opportunity to win confirmation for an idea they'd been planning for months, one that had the potential to transform Canada's military and embolden its reputation worldwide.

I think it important for any civilian government to look at the military leadership as simply a special interest group, that represents a narrow, biased agenda. It is natural that the military wants to "prove" itself, the trick for the government is to not be seduced by the rhetoric. Tell me we are in Afghanistan to re-construct a troubled region. Tell me we are in Afghanistan because of human rights and moral commitment. Don't tell me we are in Afghanistan so we can look good in front of the class:
There was a fairly strong trail of orthodoxy," that ran through the foreign affairs bureaucracy, Reid says, "that was based on an evaluation of strategic interests in terms of our relationship with the United States. A lot of times policy was put to us based on, `This matters to this White House. And things that matter to this White House can't be taken lightly, because these guys take it personally ... So, we really have to evaluate the importance of making a decision that runs counter to this White House.'"

I could care less if the world "notices" Canada. War shouldn't be a vanity campaign, nor are we engaged in some sport where we can brag to the team about our sacrifices on the field. Afghanistan isn't about "heroes" and romantic views of the noble soldier, or at least it shouldn't be. Martin failed Canadians, because he allowed himself to make a decision based on the misguided combination of appeasing the Americans and wanting to make a "statement", as forcefully argued by Hillier.

The Harper government takes the error a step further, operating like a branch of the military, which suggests even more biased logic and dangerous trends. We don't just appease the Bush administration, we now mirror its policies as though we want approval from big brother. Unfortunately, for all the talk about re-construction and humanitarian need, the real reasonings for this mission were ego and appearances. We should all be proud- cough.


eugene plawiuk said...

Excellent article. Well done. You hit the nail on the head.

decoin said...

Bang on - Liberals must always regard the military with suspicion and extreme caution, and ensure that it is not funded so as to limit its power.

Steve V said...


Don't be so melodramatic. Do you have a problem with a civilian government?