Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Show Some Courage in the Afghanistan War Debate

Steel City generally skates around foreign policy. But this isn’t an issue purely of policy. Rather, it is an issue of process - one that is fundamental and can’t be ignored. I have encountered it before on these hallowed pages, but developing trends legitimate further comment.

George Bush comments on critics of the Iraq War:

"These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will… As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."

Goofy, right? Something that we are lucky enough not to have to contend with. Well lately, and unbelievably, these southerly winds have created clouds in Ottawa. Here’s an editorial from the Toronto Sun ( “Support Our Troops: End of Debate.”):

“Debating now whether to bring them home, as the NDP and some Liberals want to do, would not only be a betrayal of our troops and the enormous sacrifices they are making on our behalf, but would embolden Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. It would send a message to the enemies of our soldiers that Canada is weak and lacks conviction.”

This echoes the Conservative party line fairly faithfully. What’s worse – increasingly more Liberals (including certain prominent leadership candidates) have joined this specious chorus.

Taking pride in the Afghanistan mission is not an argument against a debate in the House of Commons. I have expressed my support for the project before. However, I, like most Canadians, am still seeking to understand the dimensions of our new role. I need to know that I’m not making a mistake, that this truly is a nation-building/peacekeeping operation. I’ve no doubt there are very strong arguments for our maintaining a presence there. So let’s hear them.

It is wrong and unfair to assert that Canadians are only concerned because the casualties might begin to mount. That is a huge concern, and a legitimate one. But Canadians are genuinely concerned about the legitimacy of our participation. We would not have reacted so strongly against the Iraq war if our foreign policy feelings were driven purely out of fear of costs sustained by Canadians. There are existential trepidations in play, and they should not be neglected.

To deny a debate on the Afghanistan mission denies many Canadians the ability to feel confident in this major international contribution. It denies a fairly basic democratic process. It even denies the Forces in Afghanistan a certain degree of legitimacy. That’s legitimacy that could be obtained very easily - simply by airing any criticisms and countering them if they can be countered. An explicitly imposed silence becomes a ponderous presence that is bound to haunt the mission. It only serves to weaken.

Opponents have a right to explain their positions. Proponents have a responsibility to defend theirs. This is leadership. Let our would-be leaders show courage in their convictions.


Anonymous Lester said...

Canada should get out of Afghanistan. Without guns, almost all our soldiers would be beheaded for their religion.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Luke said...

The number of Liberals opposed to a debate is not increasing - they sent the troops to Afghanistan without a debate, and they were the ones who changed the mission back in September.

I think that Liberals who continue to oppose a debate (Bill Graham and Stephane Dion come to mind) are showing not only courage, but a great deal of integrity in not using our troops as political pawns.

Incidentally, when Jack Layton started making noises in September demanding a debate, the Conservative opposition opposed the notion then as well.

7:58 PM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

fair point Luke - it would've been inaccurate to suggest that increasing numbers of Liberals are supportive of the war effort. But the public has only been loudly spoiling for a debate for the past month or so, and in that time Liberals have fallen in both (debate vs. nondebate) camps. Lately there has been movement to the nondebate camp. That's the point I was making.
As for this "using our troops as political pawns" business, you'll obviously have to substantiate that. I can't think of any worse political manipulation of our troops then claiming that a debate would somehow be unfair to them.

11:28 AM  
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12:55 PM  
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3:56 PM  

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