Friday, November 30, 2007

An Offer Too Good to Refuse? Yeah, Sure

The Toronto Star has a John Wayne moment today, an article describing how Canadian army officers in Panjwai are getting all macho with the villagers. Here's an account of an ultimatum given the local chiefs:

"Align with us against the Taliban, the Canadians told the chieftains, and the people of embattled Panjwaii will reap untold rewards, starting with a large stack of Ottawa-and-Washington-backed development dollars poised for the first whisper of actual security.

"Remain mere observers to lawless insurgency and – here comes the stick – Panjwaii will be forgotten. Unless the elders soon seize their tribal entitlement to power and influence and take a stand, the spoils of stability will go to a more hospitable patch of Kandahar province.

"Though the ultimatum came without a deadline, there was an unmistakable urgency in the Canadian message yesterday to a rare full quorum of the Panjwaii tribal council. Repeated separately by three different officers, the or-else scenario was clear. Just how deeply the warning registered with the Afghan elders, less so."

The reality of the ultimatum is that it asks the chiefs to sign their own death warrants - for themselves and their families.

To accept this deal the villagers need to know that Canada will maintain sizeable forces in and around their villages, 24/7 for ever and ever amen. Because, if we don't, (and we won't) the Taliban will do what they always do. They'll come into their villages and kill them and their families for collaborating. Barbaric as that is, it's how insurgencies function. And, according to the report, the villagers know the deal:

"You tell me, how can we provide security?" asked Haji Ghulam Rasool, representative of the Noorzai clan in council, who said the foreign soldiers have an inflated sense of the tribal leaders' leverage over the local population.

"We are empty, we don't have weapons. I am a leader, but I am also really just a farmer. The authority of the tribe is weak. And until we have something in our hands to offer, plus stronger police and government to back us up, how are we supposed to act?"

The worst part of this ultimatum nonsense is that it has put the Canadian forces' credibility on the block. We've given them an offer they can't afford to accept and threatened them with consequences we can't afford to impose. They don't have much choice but to call our bluff. Are we going to let Panjwai fall under the control of the Taliban because the villagers don't have the ability to hold them off? Whatever we do, the result will say a lot more about us than about the chiefs or the Taliban and it'll be a message that'll spread quickly throughout Kandahar.

What a boneheaded stunt.


Aaron said...

Sounds like the kind of dumb stunt Harper would come up with. Superficailly interesting, but at base just plain stupid.

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting observation, Aaron. I thought the same thing when I wrote this post. Thanks