Canadians have been increasingly conflicted over our role in Afghanistan since our forces returned to Kandahar in 2005. Rather than a quiet, non-threatening traditional "peacekeeping" mission, some of which were, in reality, anything but, Canadians were suddenly treated to the sight of Canadian soldiers engaging in combat operations on a scale not publicly seen since the Korean War.
Canadians rapidly polarized into two camps: one determined to end the mission and Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan, and the other equally determined to forge ahead with implementing the United Nations resolution. Editorials have been written, speeches made and even public demonstrations have been mounted both for (Red Friday's being the most obvious) and against the mission (like the protest countermarch in Quebec City during the R22eR's parade.)
While the current mission in Afghanistan has sparked these outpourings, it is really exposing a much deeper fissure in Canada's body politic: What is our role in the community of nations? What is our vision of Canada in the World?
The anti war movement and their supporters claim they are appalled at the costs in blood and treasure being spent on a nation they know little about, for motives they do not fully comprehend. But this rings hollow when matched to the rhetoric they employ. They claim to be in "solidarity" with the people of Afghanistan. Looking deeper, the organizations and political parties which represent the antiwar movement proclaim they support Canada's "Responsibility to Protect" the rights of women, the oppressed, minorities and the desire for "justice". Their commitment to these ideals, however, does not include taking action. Their guiding principle is words, not action.
There are those who are the antis - anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-American - and who would have us retreat into a little Canada. Ruxted suggests that if we were in Darfur, they would invent a litany of reasons for us to forsake that troubled land. There are others who profess to be international in outlook, but can see no farther than the peacekeeping mythology, another group might recognize our peril, but would have us pursue a development agenda. There is considerable overlap between them, and certain "elites" skitter back and forth across the spectrum like a moth between porch lights on a summer's evening. These people represent a timid and mean spirited vision of Canada; a people who make fine sounding pronouncements but which otherwise huddles behind their borders, unwilling to share their good fortune with others.
The supporters of the mission represent a different vision of Canada, one that is arguably grounded in our rich and colourful history. Canada was created over centuries of hard work and effort despite the challenges of harsh climate, formidable distances and meagre population. From the settlers of New France to the builders of the CPR and the ‘March West’ by the newly formed North West Mounted Police, from the soldiers who fought in the Great Wars of the last century to Louis St Laurent setting the stage for Canada to emerge as a middle power, determined people carved a modern nation out of a hostile and uncompromising wilderness, protected their gains against predatory empires and struck out into the wider world to help create and sustain the international order that underpins much of our security and prosperity today. Their spiritual descendants move through the world today, some wearing their nation's uniform and others as workers and volunteers in NGOs, to bring Canada's values and good fortune to the less fortunate people of the world. This is a vision of Canadians as "people who build nations" and "people who save nations."
Ruxted asks the reader to consider their values against these two visions of Canada. Which vision of Canada should Canadians demand of our government? For the question of vision will resonate far beyond the dusty hills of Kandahar province. A nation which chooses to remain inside our borders and tend to our own gardens will have to look very closely at how it conducts foreign policy, international trade, monetary policy and a host of other things besides. Creating and maintaining a walled garden involves a great deal of work, and considerable costs have to be born to maintain it. A nation which chooses to stand forth and interact with the rest of the world in accordance to its values and beliefs is a different kind of nation, which will need different tools in diplomacy, foreign policy, trade and economics and will use them in order to nurture and support its vision of itself and its place in the world.
Canada has publicly embraced neither vision yet. The battles in Afghanistan are only skirmishes in the larger battle for the soul of this nation. Each vision has its benefits, and each vision also comes with high costs. Supporters must know and be willing to pay the costs for turning their visions into reality, for the cost to a nation of two competing visions is far higher than the cost of one vision alone.
The Ruxted Group on : Doing Enough, The Canadian Way
Doing Enough, The Canadian Way A few days ago Ruxted suggested that there are two views of Canada the world. Here were offer our thoughts about who exemplifies the “little, timid Canada” point of view and what they have to say. We also offer our own,