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My particular reasons for voting no to the Cons motion on Afghanistan

Garth Turner has posted the Conservative motion on extending the mission in Afghanistan to 2011 at his blogsite and asked for comments on whether his readers would vote Yea or Nay, and why.

This is what I left over there, and what I will re-post here:

I’m an obvious no to this motion. We’ve already had 1 extension of this (3 years) and the Cons. propose to have another. If they were still (God forbid) in power then, what would stop them from extending it further when 2011 rolled around, short of a total victory, which even the NATO commander over there says wouldn’t be possible without 400 000 troops? (and that amount of troops isn’t going to happen).

The Cons. motion is a recipe for indefinite endless war, and endless casualties. We’ve done our tour of duty, and we’ve done it honourably. It’s time for all those other NATO countries who give lip-service to how important Afghanistan is but then supply no troops or keep them out of harm’s way to step up to the plate. And when I say, step up, I don’t mean supplying the token 1000 troops that the Manley Report calls for and which the Harperites have seized upon. I’m talking the principle of rotation, where a country will rotate their troops in, while we rotate our troops out.

If the NATO countries refuse to do it, the consequences will be on their and NATO’s heads, not Canada’s. I say no to the Cons. motion – pull them out of combat operations on schedule in 2009.

Further to that, if the Liberals want to articulate their policy better to the public on what their position is (since some Con. cabinet ministers are going around either distorting the Liberal position or claiming they don’t have one, or saying it’s changing all the time) they could do worse then use the points that the Toronto Star’s Haroon Sidddiqui put forth at his op-ed today:

The Liberal way forward, therefore, is clear: Support a limited extension of the mission on specific conditions (along the lines of what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is already pursuing).

  • A concomitant push on aid and development in the safer areas where such work hasn’t been done due to a lack of co-ordination between Ottawa and the field offices, and between Afghanistan and NATO. Insist on the appointment of a UN co-ordinator.
  • A major push for a political settlement in Afghanistan — opening negotiations with elements of the Taliban, and a separate concerted campaign to increase civilian Pushtun representation in Kabul. Iraq’s turnaround has been achieved by a troop surge and, mainly, by bringing the Sunnis/Baathists into the fold. If doing deals with them is good, why is trying something similar with the spurned Afghans bad?
  • A co-ordinated effort with Pakistan, even while insisting that President Pervez Musharraf move toward a transparent democracy.

Such a comprehensive approach, clearly spelled out, would give Stéphane Dion the confidence to take on Harper, even on the election trail, and let Canadians decide.

I think Dion and the Liberals should be taking those and spreading them far and wide across the land. If their position needs clarifying, stating as listed above will certainly do that.


17 comments to My particular reasons for voting no to the Cons motion on Afghanistan

  • j

    Hm. Here’s a topical aside:

    I met an Afghani who was once close to the Taliban. They were in the business of buying his crops.

    "I know you’re trying to help," he said to me, "and a few Afghans know this too. But you’re not. It’s not your fault. When the Taliban is paying you to live, and then you see white men with guns walking around, who do you think you’re going to believe? Who do you think you’ll support?"

    The same way Conservatives are trying to earn your support by cutting taxes, the Taliban earn the support of average Afghans by buying their crops. For this reason, the Taliban are favoured in political talk around the Afghan "family dinner table."

    This "favour" around the dinner table sometimes turn into into blind ideological enthusiasm.

    Blind ideological enthusiasm. Sound familiar?

  • Sockeye

    Money , Peter , it’s all about money. To hell with Peacekeeping fix the dam Health Care system.

    And while we’re at it reform the Government & the Monetary system.

  • ALW

    Your two key arguments, Scott, seem to be that (a) Canada has "done it’s part, and (b) that we don’t want to sign up for a "never-ending mission".
    With respect to (a), we most certainly have done our part – we’ve done a lot more than our part, in fact. But that doesn’t answer the question: if we now leave, having done our part, will it makes things better in Afghanistan? Either you believe it will, or you are saying that you really don’t care if it makes things worse.
    With respect to (b) I am curious as to which types of armed conflicts have end dates to them. Isn’t the very idea of setting deadlines to solve what amounts to a civil war, a strange idea?

    I am asking these questions in good faith. Perhaps someone can answer them.

  • Aarons Beard

    Let me rephrase to make the point clearer.

    Exagerating the threat posed by the Taliban will create an unresolvable violent conflict lasting indefinitely into the future. If your aim is to help the sick and poor, finding a way out of the counter-insurgency war is the place to start. That would immediately improve their lives.    

  • Aarons – I said taliban not the entire Arab world.  HUGE difference.

    (German Christians vs the Confessing Church)

  • "We must ask what are the motives of the taliban.  It is to convert the world to believe what they believe."  -Peter

    Are you kidding me?

    Rightly or wrongly, there is alot of anger in the Arab world directed at the West, but who believes that they want to force us to convert to Islam? Really, Peter, that is a dangerous premise that completely obscures the actual problem. You need to take off the xenophobic blindfold because you are going down the wrong path.     

  • Peter, you sound distressingly like the US Republican neo-cons and their presidential candidate John McCain, who advocates staying in Iraq 100 years if necessary. I don’t see much different from your talking points then from those folks.  

    Harper and his Cons supporters have turned Afghanistan into their version of Iraq with all the cheapshot partisan stuff and the "either you support the troops or you don’t" crap that they borrowed from Dubya and Cheney.

  • We must ask what are the motives of the taliban.  It is to convert the world to believe what they believe.  This means no to everything.  No education for women, no medicine for the sick, no support for the poor, ect.  I cannot see a stable Afghanistan with even a single taliban member living in that nation.  We must help the poor, the needy and all others who need our help.

  • Aarons Beard


    It just does not seem realistic what you are saying. I think we need to start asking ourselves what Afghanistan would look like if it were to be stable. The Taliban are intimately allied with the Pashtun tribe. The Taliban are an unsavoury bunch, but a stable government in this country cannot exclude the Pashtun. Think about it. What does fighting a counter-insurgency war for another 5, 10, 15 years bring to the table other than to potentially exacerbate the conflict. Support for the counter-insurgency is a little more than a stalling manoevre by a government that fails to plan for a resolution to the war.   

    You want to "get the job done" but you have not even begun to conceptualize what "the job" is. I don’t want Canada to labour on in futility on behalf of a false goal. The vague idea of killing all the Taliban and subjugating the Pashtun is naive as well as dangerous.

  • Sockeye,
    I agree with what you are saying about
    the Infrastructure crisis but I fail to see what this has to do with helping others out.  What is stopping Canada from doing both?

  • "If we leave it will shame Canada. Image what the international history books will say about Canada and Afghanistan 20 years from now! If we leave Canada is another evil western nation. If we stay we will be international heroes. Ask the Dutch what they think of Canada’s actions during WWII. As Canadians we must never forget that."

    What nonsense.  Afghanistan is not Holland. This is not WWII. You have fallen for the sunk-cost fallacy.  We can’t leave or we’ll feel bad. We can’t leave or the world will look down on us. We can’t leave or all those live lost will be in vain.

    Guess what? They were in vain. They were terrible losses, but staying in a conflict that is a civil war, supporting a government that tortures, kills and rules by radical Sharia law, fighting in a region that could not be pacified by the Russians or the British Empire before them so that MORE Canadians die makes no sense. Staying and wasting more lives will not bring back those that have fallen nor will it make their deaths any less wasted or in vain.

    I have a brother who is in the CF and may himself be going to Afghanistan. If is not worth his life to prop up a corrupt government of warlords and radical Islamists just because they are marginally better than the other radical Islamists that used to rule there. Its not even with a single hair on his head.

    So not only should we not support the current motion, we should have gotten out the minute the mission changed from hunting Osama bin Laden to fighting an insurgency. We are stuck in a quagmire and its best for both our soldiers AND the Afghan people for us to get out now, not later.

    But Peter, if you feel so strongly, I’m sure the CF would love a strapping young Theology student.

  • Sockeye

    Well it’s pretty simple why we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan Peter , just go take a walk into any rural hospital or walk the downtown eastside in Vancouver. We are ten years away from a Infrastructure crisis in this country , are Health Care system is starting to show ware , child poverty has yet to be addressed , these are just some of the issues at play here. Canadian Society is corroding but we’re suppose to care what’s happening halfway around the world ? , sorry but let’s take care of ourselves before we go on any US led Crusades/Adventures abroad.

    We were seem as invaders the day we set foot in that country anyone who can’t see that needs to lay off the weed.

  • Hi Doug, I understand what you are saying, but if we leave now everything that we have done will go to waste. It may take 20 years – which I agree is a long time – but the people of Afghanistan are counting on us. If we leave it will shame Canada. Image what the international history books will say about Canada and Afghanistan 20 years from now! If we leave Canada is another evil western nation. If we stay we will be international heroes. Ask the Dutch what they think of Canada’s actions during WWII. As Canadians we must never forget that.

  • Doug

    Peter. Will you please define what you mean by "until it is complete" with respect to the Afghan conflict. How long do you anticipate this will take to achieve? I cannot believe that it can be achieved for at least 20 years. You cannot beat the concepts if the taliban out of their heads. this will NEVER be irradicated. It may be unfortunate but it is a reality. So what do we do? sat there for 20 years as an occupying force? Not for me.  Vote NO

  • Sounds just like the liberal way, lets do a half a job.  What ever happened to the notion that when you take on a job you do it until it is complete?  Image if you could graduate university by convincing your professors that you have only started your projects.  TISK TISK, Canadian liberalism – as in the Liberal party – is destroying societal values.

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