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Where Shall We Hide, M. Dion?

Where Shall We Hide, M. Dion?

In a recent article Stéphane Dion, Liberal Party of Canada leader, tells Canada that it is time to run and hide. “Canada,” he assures us, “will be out of Kandahar in February of 2009.”

Canadians should understand the strategic consequences of M. Dion’s promise.

Perhaps the most immediate will be that Kandahar province will fall to the Taliban.
There will be no European nation ready, willing and able to step up to the plate and relieve Canada in combat in Kandahar. The European peoples are unwilling to send their soldiers into battle; in part they wish to avoid provoking the own substantial Muslim minorities and in part they want to continue to toady to their Arab oil suppliers. It is fair enough to heap opprobrium on them, so long as one is willing to admit that for too long we Canadians, as former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said, ran to the washroom every time the West’s military/security bill was presented. That will not change anything; the Europeans will not come to fight. The ever willing Australians and British, even when (not if) they withdraw from Iraq, will not be able to take on both Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

The Americans, even after they manage, somehow, to extricate themselves from Iraq, will be unwilling to relieve us in Kandahar; they re sick and tired of wars in dirty, poor, hostile, far away places. Their local military commanders will probably try to stretch their troops farther, maybe with some British support, but, ultimately, abandoned by some key allies like Canada and unsupported or inadequately supported by others, like France and Germany, America will decide to let Kandahar fall to the Taliban.

The loss of Kandahar will, most likely signal the start of the collapse of Afghanistan.

Kandahar is the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. It is the ‘home’ of the Taliban and of the powerful Pashtun people. It is also essential to Afghanistan’s survival as a cohesive nation-state. It is far more likely that the Pashtuns of Helmand and Kandahar (and several other smaller neighbouring provinces in the South and East) will control Afghanistan than that the peoples of the other provinces will control the Pashtuns.

If we, in the West, are lucky Afghanistan may dissolve into several hostile statelets – each led by a warlord. If, as we think is likely, we are not so lucky there will be a hostile, united Islamist theocracy, just as in 2001. It will both embolden other hostile Islamist groups and, once again, offer a firm base for terrorism. In any event it is unlikely that the current, lawfully and freely elected government can survive the loss of Kandahar and it is even more doubtful that it can hand over, peacefully, to another elected government.

The collapse of Afghanistan could also signal the erasure of the Durand Line, and the fragmentation of nuclear-armed Pakistan and possibly Kashmir. One possibility from all this is an Islamist nuclear state run by medieval theocrats sitting between five other nuclear powers - Russia, China, India, Israel and Iran - and able to reach two (France and the UK) of the remaining four (the last two are the US and North Korea). This is not good for global peace and security.

The collapse of Afghanistan will likely signal the end of NATO.

NATO has been struggling since 1990. It’s core ‘raison d’être’ disappeared* and it fell back, more or less, onto the political clauses which Canada insisted on including in the North Atlantic Treaty nearly 60 years ago. It decided to reinvent itself as a robust peacemaking/peacekeeping alliance – available to the United nations when, as they so often do after the Cold War, peacekeeping missions became to complex, dangerous and difficult for the UN to manage. Managing ISAF is NATO’s first big test.

If Afghanistan collapses, as it most likely will, because NATO failed to provide security for long enough over enough of the country then NATO will have failed the test it set for itself and for its own future. It is unlikely that non-NATO partners like Austria and Australia will be willing to join in any other missions. The UN will look elsewhere for ‘coalitions of the willing’ with a bit more backbone when it needs outside groups to take on hard missions.

Nations like China or Russia have the manpower and military hardware to do so, and the lack of scruples to enforce a “Roman peace” if necessary, but that is hardly an attractive proposition for us in the West. Indeed Russia and China might relish taking this role for precisely these reasons, as well as getting a UN fig leaf for their own ambitions.

If NATO has no ‘out of area’ UN subcontractor role then it will have to examine why it needs to continue to exist at all. It will probably collapse and die. If M. Dion succeeds in his political quest then Canada will have pulled the trigger.

The loss of NATO will significantly reduce Canada’s ‘power’ in the world which now, as in the past several decades, rests on our ‘collective security’ arrangements – with NATO at their heart. It will also end Canada’s privileged economic entrée into Europe. Europe is increasingly protectionist. Canada has been a partner because of NATO. No NATO, no partnership and Canada’s ‘power’ in the world is significantly reduced.

A weakened Canada will have fewer friends in the world. Countries like Denmark, Russia and the United States will be far, far less inclined to respect our claims over the Northwest Passage, for example.

Without NATO, Canada will be faced with some hard choices:

• Spend, Spend! SPEND! on the military to acquire, for ourselves, the ‘power’ we lost with the demise of NATO, thus allowing us to press our case in the world on our own;

• Move closer and closer to the United States – trying to ‘share’ their power; or

• Work with a few allies to form a new alliance – this is Ruxted’s preferred choice, but it is easier said than done, especially if Canada needs to come to the table, cap-in-hand, with a reputation for being a ‘summer soldier.’

There is no ‘upside’ to withdrawing from Afghanistan. One may argue that we will have fewer Canadian soldiers killed but Ruxted reminds readers that, for years and years, they were kept in the dark, intentionally, about casualties suffered in other UN and NATO missions. This may sound cruel but we, Canadians, hire soldiers to do rough, hard, dangerous ‘work.’ Sometime they have to kill, sometimes some of them have to die. Withdrawing from Afghanistan will not change that – only withdrawing from the world will. Canada, we suggest, cannot withdraw from the world, even if Canadians might wish to do so.

Stéphane Dion wants us out of Afghanistan. The media suggests to us that most Canadians agree with him. The Ruxted Group has a few questions: where shall we hide, M. Dion? Shall we abandon collective security and then cancel social programmes or raise taxes to build a military which will be able to meet our needs unilaterally? Shall we go, cap-in-hand, to allies and ask them to join us in a new alliance? Can you tell us how you’ll manage to convince them that, suddenly, we can be trusted to keep or promises, to do our share? Shall we hide behind America’s skirts, M. Dion? Is that what you offer Canadians?

And what of the Afghans, M. Dion? Are they not poor enough to have some claim on our help? Have they not been victimized enough to merit our aid? Are they too foreign, too different to be worthy of our development efforts? How are they less deserving of our support that the unfortunate people of Darfur or Haiti? Must we allow the Taliban to destroy the schools we built? Do we allow the Taliban to enslave women? To behead homosexuals? Shall we give the drug lords free rein? Why must we abandon them, M. Dion? Why must we run and hide?

We are either a mature, responsible member, indeed leader in the West or we are a ‘failing state’ – you, M. Dion, offer us the latter. That’s not good enough. Surely we are better than that.

There is no place to which we can run; there is no place to hide.


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* One can argue that Russia is still a residual threat. While nothing like a powerful as the old Warsaw Pact Russia, under adequate leadership, might still threaten Europe. But Ruxted considers it unlikely that Russia can mount such a threat that Europe would have to call on tans-Atlantic allies for help. It is far more likely that Russia, despite great oil and gas revenues, will drift backwards into ‘failing state’ status. As such, she will pose social and political threats to Europe, but nothing significant militarily.

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The Ruxted Group on : Do Not Abandon Afghanistan

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Do Not Abandon Afghanistan Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a political problem. It appears that his Conservative Party is mired in minority government territory, at best. The Canadian mission to Afghanistan is part of the problem. Canadians, broad

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Andrew on :

It is lamentable that the majority of the Canadian public have no understanding of the repercussions of withdrawing from Afghanistan. Please continue this informative and vitally important work.

Jason on :

Well I would have to say your argument is completely one sided. This seems like an article to promote American propaganda. You seem to neglect mentioning the reason that the Canadian army went there in the first place.

There is a reason that no other European country's don't want to send troops. They feel it's an unjust, and unwarranted war. The only reason the Canadian's are there is because of the Americans. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy being the Americans patsy's. Canada has had some great triumphs in past military conflicts and wars, this isn't our best moment!

Also I find is distasteful that you mention that it's the army's job to go get killed in battle. The army has to trust it's government to use them in a just cause. Unfortunately it's not a soldiers responsibility to decide what conflicts he will have to fight for. They leave that to the government. Unfortunately the government has failed it's military, and it's people. Canada has played an active roll in international peace keeping missions. Canadians have always been the voice of reason in international conflicts. Now we seem to be some sort of aggressor. I'm not exactly sure what the country of Afghanistan has done to Canada, or to the US in that matter. Nothing that merits us invading their country and using the excuse that we are trying to restructure their country. Actually we have most likely set them back for quite some time. I have a question for you! What is the reason the US lead the invasion into Afghanistan? We now all know it was to get them into Iraq. Bush knew that at that point he could only get away with invading them because there was no evidence that Iraq was involved in 9/11. So after the invasion, they made up some crap about WMD in Iraq. Stupidly some people bought into the lye, and look where they are today. Bush has lined his pockets, and all of his friends as well. I'm sure he will have a nice retirement with all the oil money.

In conclusion I don't want to come off as some anti-war, hippy beatnik. I feel that we are in Afghanistan for the wrong reason's, and those efforts can be allocated else where. If there is a cause that is worth fighting for! If our country or it's allies becomes in harms way! I will be one of the first to give my name to join the cause, but I don't feel it's just to sacrifice our troops because the Americans don't like paying high gas prices. Also I wanted to make this clear that I don't support Dion, or any other politician for that matter. Our country used to have great leaders, people who led us through difficult times, and that made us the country that we are today. It would seem that Harper has changed our foreign policy, and put us into a difficult situation. WE SHOULD NEVER HAVE GONE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Now it would seem like we are stuck...reminds me of the Americans, look where they are today on this issue!

Greg on :

Just imagine a country free of mass producing IEDs, WMD or opium. A country that openly sponsors terrorism without repercussions. Instead an army of terrorist camps like we have army bases. A military that produces suicide bombers to strike at the very fabric of our society just like we saw on 9-11. A country with open borders and a safe haven for Al Qaeda and any other extremists. What would the world become? Would you rather wait 20 years when they have intercontinental ballistic missile capability or their own nuclear program?

Canada is there with its allies (including the US) to make a difference.

Whether or not the politicians have lined their pockets at the expense of the mission is another issue.

E.R. Campbell on :

The reason we went to Afghanistan in the first place (in Kandahar in early 2002) was that Prime Minister Chrétien responded to Canadians’ desire to support the USA in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack. This was an altruistic gesture which had broad public support.

The reason we went there in the second place (2003) was that Prime Minister Chrétien needed to find a big enough job for the army so that when President Bush came and asked for troops for Iraq Canada could say, “Sorry, we’re busy in Afghanistan.” This was a cynical and dishonest act – arguably unworthy of Canada but typical of prime Minister Chrétien.

Jason, having been a soldier* I don’t care if you find the idea of Canadian soldiers killing and being killed ‘distasteful’ or not. Professional soldiers understand and accept that they are ‘tools’ of the government – there to be used and abused to advance the country’s best interests, or to advance the base interest of crooked politicians.

Your failure to understand why the US supported the Northern Alliance in overthrowing the Taliban government indicates a profound ignorance of recent history.

Finally, and back to the top: Harper did not put us in Afghanistan. he inherited the mission from Chrétien and Martin.

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* “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.” Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Fred on :

"Séphane Dion, Liberal Party of Canada leader, tells Canada that it is time to run and hide. “Canada,” he assures us, “will be out of Kandahar in February of 2009.”


maybe he gets this impulse from his mother's side of the family . . . it reminds me of France in 1940

anonymous on :

Some politicians openly claim to be voicing the interests our troops the fact is those who call for the pullout do so when Canadian soldiers die, to capitalize on the situation for their own political gains. Yet Harper, who I will re-iterate did not choose this mission, has pumped a large ammount of money into this mission to make the current Canadian Task Force the most well equipped and trained army on operation in the world. Against mounting opposition he has ensured that Canadian soldiers had what they needed to get the job done and keep them safe. Tell me who do you trust more, the politicians who exploit the deaths of soldiers for political gain while paying no tribute to their good work while they're alive or the one who knowingly took the path that continues to damage his political support in order to protect Canadian soldiers and let them do the mission they were assigned to do? Many, without anymore knowledge than the news headlines, base their convictions that Canada is an aggressor and doesn't belong in Afganistan. We are in a war and we are killing the Taliban, who are religious oppressors that used murder of innocent civilians to enslave Afgans. Jason, you also claim that Canada is somehow at war with the Afgans. News flash, most Afgans want us here in fact the locals love Canadians, even compared to the other partners here bleeding for this. Also a lot of the Taliban come from Pakistan. So Canadians are building schools, roads and a democratically elected Afgan government while fighting off those who ruled over these people with fear and murder and that somehow constitutes being the enemies of Afgans. An afgan child was wounded by a suicide bomber because he ran up to a Canadian convoy when he spotted the suicide bomber and frantically warned them. He did this because he sees Canadians helping rebuild his country, the government which Afgans elected and he knows that Canadians are risking their lives for him to do it. I know the reason the liberals, not Harper, agreed to this was to support them Americans because unfortunately we are co-dependant but that doesn't matter because what we are doing here is helping people. I see it when I bater with the locals selling everyday items that would be banned under Taliban rule, when I see a local child in the hospital who 6 years ago would have been left for dead is recovering and playing with toys, when farmers are using roads we built to transport goods or when I see hear Afgan boys and girls are going to school. People like you Jason boast they'd be the first to sign up if they agreed with it, well why don't you start by doing your citizens duty of critical thinking. You have all the right to disagree but maybe you should get informed before you discredit the work of the ones who did actually sign up.

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