The Afghanistan Debate
Prime Minister Harper is being pressed to debate Canadian Foreign Policy; the Ruxted Group believes this would be worthwhile, if only to force MPs to go on the 'record' - one way or the other; such a debate can, indeed it should serve as an education tool for the Canadian voting public which is clearly distressed and confused about the cost of doing something which they, like too many politicians, do not understand.
Here is what the Ruxted Group suggests Mr. Harper, as Head of Government should say:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today because Canadians are confused and distressed by our military operations in Afghanistan. We, this parliament, sent our soldiers there with what we thought was a clear mission. Here is what we say to Canadians on our Foreign Affairs web site:
Canada is in Afghanistan today to –
• help Afghanistan rebuild;
• defend our national interests; and
• ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs.
That is what we have been saying since we started in Afghanistan nearly five years ago. Clearly some Members of Parliament and some Canadians do not understand or do not agree.
It has been suggested that our soldiers are winning on the battlefield while the government is losing the war in the nation’s cable television system. We will try, today, to explain to Members of Parliament and to the people of Canada why we are in Afghanistan and why we need to stay the course.
First, Canadians ask: Are we fighting a war or trying to help the Afghan people to rebuild their country?
We answer: Both. Reconstruction is inadequate as long as there is an insurrection that will destroy our work as quickly as we produce it. Part of the rebuilding is capacity building. We are building the capacity of the Afghan government to fight its own battles & maintain its own security. However, until that capacity is built we need to carry a heavy load in the fight.
Second, Canadians ask: Is this mission winnable?
We answer: Yes, but the process is likely as long as a peacekeeping mission. Several years of a massive international military effort transitioning to many years of limited international military aid and finally to an all Afghan show. International humanitarian efforts follow a similar pattern but may even be required longer.
But, we should not expect to "win" anytime soon in the sense of being able to declare victory. What we can do is prevent the Government of Afghanistan from losing.
Here is an analogy: Afghanistan is like a boat that is badly damaged after a storm - 30 years of civil strife, brutal occupation, and fundamentalist oppression have damaged what was once a stable and peaceful country under a constitutional monarchy. Like a damaged ship, Afghanistan is in danger of sinking back into the failed state it once was unless it gets the help it needs. This is where Canada and its NATO allies come in. There are big holes in the boat down below that are letting the water in. Our military forces are bailing water. The Canadian public, media and some politicians are watching this and wondering why we don't just plug the holes. We are, but if we stop bailing the boat will sink. The military have to keep bailing long enough for some other folks to get to the business of patching the holes. Those other people are other government departments, non-governmental agencies and the elected Government of Afghanistan, including the Afghan National Security Forces. They need time, and the military are buying that time.
This is difficult because Afghanistan has not had a history of a strong central government. Our goal, in the Kandahar region, is to fight the Taliban and get the Afghan National Army and police stood up so they can provide security for the central government and the people. The Government of Afghanistan is a legitimate government: it was elected in UN supervised elections which were much more free and fair than some that are held in many states which are not accused of having ‘failed’.
Many Canadians say that the forces of history are against us: The West has never fared too well in Afghanistan - ever. In addition, Western conventional forces have never had much success in such conflicts. These are both good points, points which we must take into account as we, with our allies, make plans for helping the Afghan people to help themselves. That fact is that what we are doing in Afghanistan is fundamentally different from what Alexander the Great tried 2,500 years ago and what the Soviets tried in our lifetime: we are there to defend Afghanistan, not to conquer it. We are protecting the Afghan people from the forces of barbarism so that they can decide, for themselves, how they want to run their own country. When we say we are helping the Afghan people to rebuild, we do not mean that we expect a liberal democracy to spring up, overnight. Afghanistan is a very conservative society with many problems which the Afghan people will need to work through – perhaps with some help from us, if they ask for it.
We need to focus on our primary aim in Afghanistan: to defend our national interests.
What are they?
The first duty of this government is to protect Canada. There are people in this world who want to hurt Canada and Canadians. They want to do that in order to force us to bow to their will. We need to prevent those attacks and the best way to do that is to make it harder and harder for radical, barbaric, terrorist movements to find a secure base from which they can mount attacks on us. That is what a Taliban government in Afghanistan provided for al Qaeda: a secure base. That is what a Taliban government will do again – if we allow them to regain power. Helping the legitimate, elected Government of Afghanistan defeat the Taliban insurgency is the key. It is in our national interests to have a stable, free Afghanistan which can, at its own pace, work its way into the modern, connected world.
Some people want Canadians to shift from fighting to development. There is a lot of good development work being done in Afghanistan, including by Canadians in Kandahar province; it cannot go any farther or faster until the Taliban insurgency is suppressed. The aid workers are good, brave, committed people but we cannot ask them to build schools and dig wells when the likely outcome is that they will be executed – beheaded – for their efforts. That’s what our soldiers are doing, right now: securing the province so that civilian aid workers can go about their business.
Finally, some Canadians ask: why Canada? Why must our best young people die? A distinguished Member of Parliament, Michael Ignatieff put it well:
"This is an agonizing mission for Canadians but it's a mission that amounts to a moral promise … It's a promise in which Canada said 'We're going to help Afghans get their country back on its feet.' And the Canada I love and the Canada I respect always keeps its promises." This is the same promise we make to countries into which we deploy peacekeepers, and we would not sink so low as to turn our backs on those countries at the moments they need us most. We must now deliver on this promise to Afghanistan.
There are 37 countries in the UN mandated International Security Assistance Force. Many are NATO members and NATO, at the UN’s behest, provides the military superstructure. Not all are ready or able to take on the difficult, dangerous and too often deadly task of finding, fighting and defeating the Taliban. Canada has the finest soldiers in the world. They are tough, superbly disciplined, highly trained, well led and adequately equipped – they need more and better kit and their government is rushing more, better equipment to them. They can fight and win against the Taliban. We are fighting because we are one of the world’s leading nations; because we can do the job. We Canadians want to make a difference in the world, we want to be peacemakers, above all we want to be leaders. That’s what we are doing in Kandahar: we are making peace, we are leading, by example. Leadership is costly. Canadians – our very best Canadians – are paying a high price. We must never forget that those very best Canadians are the ones marching under the flag, or lying beneath it.
Mr. Speaker, words are inadequate for the task of expressing our sorrow to the children and spouses, parents and friends of those who have died in our nation’s service. Perhaps, when time has soothed the raw wounds of grief those widows, widowers and children, parents and friends will find that their sorrow is balanced with pride in the knowledge that each of our war dead helped make Canada a better place and a leader amongst the nations of the world.
The Ruxted Group on : About Turn! Time to Revise Canada’s Foreign Policy
Part 1: CORNERSTONE TO STUMBLING BLOCK ANCIEN RÉGIME For most of the past 40 years Canada has, metaphorically, “looked North.” In so doing it has turned its back on its friend and neighbour, America and offered its right hand to Europe. Our disi
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They are not our allies in this fight,rather they are the ones who deal the cards in this high stakes game.