Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Canadian Style

It came from the mouth of the man himself. We're not done, no way near done. That's how Stephen Harper described "the mission" to a gaggle of garrison troops in Kandahar. He made it plain that, if he has anything to say about it, Canadian troops can expect to be in Afghanistan for years to come.

Harper told the troops their work isn't done. I doubt he'd get many arguments on that point, in Afghanistan or Canada. What he didn't let us in on, however, is just exactly what their "work" is and how much of that work remains undone. That's the beauty of Bush's Global War Without End on Terror, it's endless. You can claim victory simply by refusing to admit failure but, then again, that cuts both ways.

Just what is "victory" in Afghanistan supposed to look like? I don't know, do you? Is it a matter of bringing an end to the current insurgency (and I'm only talking here about the one involving the Taliban)? Is it the establishment of a Western-style, secular democracy? Is it Pashtun, Baloch, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara living peacefully, arm in arm? Is it the establishment of genuine civil liberties for women and children? Is it the creation of a viable economy to end Afghanistan's narco-economy? Is it all of these things? What is "victory" in Afghanistan?

Once we get a handle on the main question we can begin to devise metrics. How much of the job have we accomplished over the past six years? Are we 20% of the way there? How much progress are we making at the moment? What is an appropriate amount of time to achieve victory in Afghanistan?

Once we've defined the task and a target timeframe we need to assess whether we have deployed the forces we need to meet it. Is 2,500 enough? C'mon, get real. Do we need 10,000 or 15,000 or perhaps more? Without a large enough force, is everything else just optics, window dressing?

Are we in Afghanistan for a decade or two or three? Can we turn our back on the rest of the world where we're needed for that long? How do we justify that?

What will the insurgency in Afghanistan look like if the Americans leave Iraq? Will Canadian troops find themselves in the crosshairs of a fresh batch of Islamists hatched out of the Iraq fiasco?

Notice how few of these questions ever get asked, much less answered? To ask them is to reveal that we have no answers.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Harper Style.


Militant Dipper said...

Many excellant questions. It's too bad the media never ask them.

Anonymous said...

Very well put

Anonymous said...

very well put

Anonymous said...

You start by saying "Harper told the troops their work isn't done. I doubt he'd get many arguments on that point, in Afghanistan or Canada." So right off the bat you are admitting we are not done there yet. I agree.

Did we achieve what we meant to do when Chretien signed us up? Have we fulfilled the following mission statement:

Canadians are proud – and rightfully so – of the role our country plays in the world.

And this is the driving force behind our new vision for the Canadian Forces. We are committed to having a more significant and influential presence in the world – one in which our voice will be heard, our values seen, and our efforts felt.

The Government recognizes that a strong, capable and professional military is essential to the impact that we – as a country – can have in the world.

No, that wasn't the war-mongering, Bush-loving Harper, it was the Liberal Defence Minister Bill Graham outlining how Canada's new fighting role in Afghanistan would enhance our image and make us a player on the world stage. Has this mission been accomplished? Will it be by 2009? I certainly can't fault the military. They have done everything right and then some.

I guess we need to ask if the Islamic extremists are done yet. Judging by the way they have popped up in Lebanon's refugee camps, and vowed to continue fighting everywhere there is a crack of unrest to exploit, I guess the answer is no. It seems things have changed in the 21st century and there are no more wars that are just "over".

The Mound of Sound said...

There's no reason to fault the military except at the very highest levels. Hillier grossly misjudged the job we were going to take on and went to Kandahar with an inadequate force. That's a point I've made for months. See US FM 3-24, General Petraeus'own manual for counterinsurgency warfare. According to the leading American expert on fighting insurgencies, we're doing just about everything wrong - too few troops, excessive reliance on heavy firepower, on and on. Not the troops fault but it sure is Hillier's.