Despite the best efforts of determined enemies; Canada is staying the course in Afghanistan, for a few more years, anyway. When reading headlines about attacks against Canadian Forces operating in Afghanistan, remember that the person the enemy are reaching for is You: the reader; You: the television observer; and You: the commuter driving home from work. The enemy is engaging Canadian soldiers with bombs and bullets; the same enemy is engaging you – Canadian voters – with propaganda. The aim is to shake YOUR faith in our mission, our soldiers and their ability to do the job; they want you to take sides: their side.
The enemy in Afghanistan want to create an impression of unsustainable danger for Canadian troops or wrongheaded decision making by our government. While brave men and women in theatre feel the shock of the explosive charge or hear the crack of a bullet flying past their head, the emotional aftermath of the attack is borne not only by them and their comrades in arms, but also by their families and friends back home, and by you, the citizen they are defending. By spreading confusion and fear to people who are not prepared to deal with it, the enemy hopes to create ripples of doubt and demoralization in the citizens who ultimately provide direction for the government of the day. To this end, bold headlines playing up minor harassing attacks, and opinion pieces that are misleading or factually incorrect tell us precisely what the enemy wants us to think.
By carefully choosing their victims and staging the attack in as public a manner as possible, by allowing carefully selected journalists to see or interview them, the enemy manipulate the picture to create an image of competence and power out of all proportion to their actual abilities. Attacking Canadian service members joins such tools as videotaped beheadings, subjugated captives, and brandished weapons to increase the level of fear and confusion in Canada.
The enemy’s primary aim is to achieve by force, and by threat of force, what they cannot persuade their countrymen to give them legally: absolute power, complete and unquestioned authority over the lives of their neighbours. Whatever pretext they employ, religious, political ideology, or none at all, their goal is simple: uncontested rule.
That “power corrupts” is so common an observation it is almost a cliché, but the examples of how the Taliban used its absolute power over Afghanistan during the years of its rule is horrifying. The Taliban chose to suppress basic human rights, destroy ancient and priceless religious artefacts, force women into chattel slavery, and provide safe haven for criminal and terrorist organizations, in order that these criminals could export their brand of power-mongering to other nations. Based on their past behaviour, can there be any doubt that this is the state they wish to recreate should we be forced to leave prematurely?
Yet despite the unquestionable success of Canadian troops in Afghanistan since their arrival in 2002, we are continually treated to “polls” and headlines declaring that the Canadian public want their Armed Forces to abandon their mission in Afghanistan. The very politicians who dispatched Canadians to Kandahar and Kabul in 2002 and 2003 now speak out against the mission. Canadian service members were sent to Afghanistan suddenly and without debate in 2002 to participate in very hard combat missions in the Sha-i-kot valley, but now that we have disrupted the enemy and are beginning the long uphill climb of restoring stability and civil society to Afghanistan after 30 years of warfare, our continuing presence must be constantly questioned by the very people who sent us in the first place. Our foreign enemies must be astonished by the ease and swiftness of their gains, but certainly not so surprised as not to take full advantage of it.
Should our mission end prematurely, (which the Ruxted Editors consider as being before the creation of a stable, peaceful society), the consequences would be far reaching. The Afghan people will be trapped in an unstable society, with a real possibility of either a civil war amongst drug barons or the Taliban returning to power. At the very least, the Afghan people will be condemned to years and even decades of more civil war, rapine, starvation, poverty, and disease. Canadians will be seen world wide as a fair weather friend, and people in other parts of the world where Canadians are dispatched would be very hesitant to cooperate with a force that evaporates at the first sign of trouble. Our credibility with our allies and opponents alike will be destroyed, with negative consequences for Canada and Canadians in the military, political and economic spheres.
Canadians should work, and work hard, to avoid this fate. If few stories of the hard work and positive effect of our service members, diplomats and development specialists are being reported, then Canadians should start asking why, and demand their media outlets present an accurate and unbiased picture of events on the ground. If media outlets are presenting misleading or incorrect opinion pieces about Canada’s mission, then knowledgeable Canadians must correct the facts, and take the media to task for it. Above all, Canadians should take the time to read reports by the Canadian Forces, along with the media’s reports, in order to discover the truth on the ground and counter the misleading impressions our enemies want us to have. They owe it to themselves as the citizens of a free nation to hold their media to a high standard, and to hold their government to informed policies that best serve the interests of the nation and the world.
The job in Afghanistan may be the work of a generation. Rebuilding Germany and Japan after World War II took decades. The Balkan nations that formerly comprised Yugoslavia are still repairing themselves more than a decade after first UN, and then NATO, troops set foot on the ground there. It may be hard, bloody work which will claim the lives of more and more Canadians. For each bit of progress there will be missteps and mistakes, but, slowly and surely a well designed 3D campaign conducted by the world’s toughest, best disciplined and best trained soldiers should succeed in stabilizing Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can make their own free choices. That outcome will materially safeguard Canada from terrorist attacks because the terrorist sympathizers will be reluctant to risk their power base by attacking Canada and Canada’s friends, neighbours and allies. Canadians need to be engaged in this long, hard war; they can become engaged by becoming informed.
By taking the time and effort to dispel the confusion and fear generated by the enemy, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision, support your families and friends who may also be victimized by confusion and fear, and above all, provide your parliamentarians with the clear direction needed to see the mission in Afghanistan through to its ultimate success. Our soldiers, they’re your soldiers too, fighting our war need you to take sides: our side.
The Ruxted Group on : Information warfare
The newly established Rideau Institute* has it wrong. Just recently a media outlet got hold of an old (2005) DRAFT copy of a proposed new counterinsurgency manual – a long overdue tool for training Canadian soldiers and planners. The story was a ‘one