Friday, September 08, 2006

Another Day, Another Dollar, Another Gordo

Just last week, Canada's Defence Minister, Gord O'Connor, dressed up in his finest camouflage war-fightin' costume and pronounced to Canadian reporters in Afghanistan how he'd like to send Canadian troops into the mountain regions of Pakistan to dig out the Taliban.

Yesterday this same O'Connor, in a Reuters interview from Australia, seemed to be flat out of macho. Last week he wanted to tear the Taliban a new one but now he says we can't handle the one the Taliban already has in Kandahar province:

"We cannot eliminate the Taliban, not militarily
anyway. ...we've got to get them back to some
kind of acceptable level, so they don't threaten
other areas."
Okay, which O'Connor do you believe? The nice thing is you've got such a wide choice. Who knows what this guy will say next week.
When the federal government got seduced into 'the mission' by General Rick Hillier it was a pretty bold move. Canadian troops were going to take responsibility for taming Kandahar province by kicking the Taliban's backside and establishing security for the Karzai government. Hillier assured us all that the force of 2,300 he wrangled for the job would be plenty to handle the challenge. Of course he said the Taliban 'scumbags' in Kandahar were only a matter of several dozen in numbers. That would mean Canada could secure the province and rebuild the infrastructure essential to establish proper government control. We were supposed to be something like an armed Peace Corps, fighting if necessary but not necessarily fighting.
There is a gossamer thin line between bravado and hubris. The distinction lies in an overbearing pride that blinds us to obvious perils and weaknesses. Hubris brought us to Kandahar and hubris is now exacting its price on 'the mission.'
O'Connor isn't quite yelling 'uncle' yet but he sure is griping about the burden our soldiers are carrying, the very burden he and General Hillier chose for them. As a swipe to less-engaged NATO nations, O'Connor muttered:
"All loads aren't equal, let's put it that way."
Next memo to Gord: If there was anything obvious when General Hillier dreamed up the Kandahar gig it was that the loads weren't equally shared by the NATO membership. No, we were stepping out to show the big guys that we were in the game, real players. If, in fact, we'd wanted the load shared equally, we wouldn't have asked for the Kandahar mission. NATO didn't ask us, we asked them for the shot and we got it. You and your general assured the Canadian people that our force could handle it. Of course there were going to be casualties but vanquishing the Taliban and saving Afghanistan for the Karzai government were sure things.
Well there are no sure things anymore, there never were. We sent over too small a force and did nothing to reinforce its numbers as the Taliban-led insurgency grew rapidly. We adopted the very same counter-insurgency tactics that have failed every time they've been attempted. We're on 'search and destroy' missions which result in a limited war of attrition against an enemy that has shown itself willing and able to bear our 'kill rate' and knows that time is entirely on their side.
I don't want to read too much into this change of heart, mainly because I don't think Gord is that bright, but could this be the opening of a tide change by a government feeling an awful lot of heat from the Canadian public? Are we probing for an opportunity to scapegoat the NATO alliance to pave the way for pulling out of Afghanistan? Little Stevie is absolutely capable of that.
Stephen Harper's focus isn't on a bunch of soldiers stuck in Kandahar, it's on doing everything he can to win a majority in the next election. Right now he's treading water, stuck in the polls and hurting badly in Quebec. Afghanistan has become a weight tied to Harper's ankles that threatens to pull him under. Do you believe that Little Stevie believes Afghanistan is worth that price?

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