- Canada's legitimacy is at stake
- The 3D approach is a perfect fit for Afghanistan
- Multilateralism and the American Goliath
- The success of democracy in Afghanistan will be a blow to the terrorists and their non-democratic state sponsors
If Canada were to withdraw from Afghanistan, we would squander all credibility in the international community because we would deliver the message that we do not honour our commitments. The Government has pledged the Canadian Forces to Afghanistan until February 2009, a decision supported by the majority will of Parliament. One of our great strengths is that our word counts for something: a bilateral or multilateral treaty with Canada's signature has meaning, unlike a deal with North Korea, which is not worth the paper it's printed on. To precipitiously withdraw would leave our NATO allies in disarray because they have plans in place that are contingent upon a strong Canadian participation. NATO is already facing shortages of boots on the ground, we should not compound that difficulty. Other states would be wary of making deals with us on security-related issues, having to factor into consideration that we may well abrogate a deal if domestic opinion is blowing the wrong way. That is not the message a country with as proud a legacy as Canada should send.
The 2005 IPS document, A Role of Pride and Influence in the World, puts forward a 3D approach--defence, diplomacy, and development--that is so tailor-made for Afghanistan one wonders if it was written with Afghanistan in mind. Defence and security are at the core of this approach; without people in place to ensure security, schools cannot be protected, crowded marketplaces cannot be protected, political leaders in Afghanistan cannot be protected. Education, the economy, and a stable democracy are three pillars of the future structure of Afghanistan. We have a tremendous capability to build bridges (literal and figurative) with other states, and the PRT in Kandahar is doing both with exceptional results. Canada has helped to rout the Taliban and al Qaeda symbiote that contributed to the devastation of Afghanistan's civil society, and we are playing a valuable role in rebuilding it. Children are in schools, women are no longer stoned to death in stadiums built for playing soccer, and democratic institutions are taking shape. Countering terrorism, stabilizing failed states, and bringing democracy are three pillars of the current structure of Canadian foreign policy; Afghanistan is the test of our Weltanschuung.
Multilateralism is a crucial feature of Canadian foreign policy. We like to work with allies to develop solutions and effect positive change to less-fortunate places of the world. We have no better partner, no stronger friend than the United States, with whom our future is inextricably linked. Currently the United States is the dominant power in a unipolar system. Yet rather than using that preponderance to expand empire or thwart the aspirations of potential challengers, America is dedicated to expanding the influence of its ideals and fulfilling the aspirations of people currently deprived of liberty, democracy, and human rights. When Canada adds its voice to that of America, by itself or in conjunction with NATO allies and the broader international community, America is comforted by the strength of its message and reassured by its friends. If we--America's immediate neighbour and thus crucial ally--withdraw our support and diminish the importance of NATO and multilateralism, the United States will be forced to act alone to achieve its strategic objectives. Despite all of its power, America needs allies to do the things that the American military is not meant to do and to help the military meet the challenges that they are meant to do. We share many of the same objectives as the United States, and thus we should be assisting it in achieving those objectives.
Finally, if Afghanistan fails, so too does our paradigm, which includes 3D, the Responsibility to Protect, nation-building, and defeating terrorism and tyranny in the world. The terrorists and the Taliban will once again use enclaves in Afghanistan to plan their assault on liberty and human dignity. Simply put, the success of democracy in other lands affects Canada's security in the world. The West will be humbled, al Qaeda will be emboldened, and Middle Eastern dictators will rest comfortably, having been given a new lease on life to deny their citizens of their aspirations and rule absolutely and indefinitely. We have come a long way in the last five years. The work has been difficult, and more than two dozen brave and honourable Canadians have lost their lives. It is a true symbol of how far we have come that each loss is mourned, a far cry from decades ago when young men were sent to be killed en masse for a few hundred yards of hillside in the killing fields of Europe. Only democracies hold such high regard for humanity and life. The Taliban do not share our compassion; we know this because we have seen what happens to women, children, and men who do not subscribe to their ideology when the Taliban hold power. If the democratic experiment fails in Afghanistan, subsequent to our withdrawal, we will be complicit in its failure because we did not live up to our responsibility to: protect people from humanitarian disaster; deny terrorists and irresponsible state actors; respect basic human rights and build lives of freedom; to build, through CIDA, programs that allow people to develop their own economies; and, the future through encouraging global public goods and sustainable development. The Canada that I know and love would not abrogate these responsibilities and leave the fate of the Afghan people, who have suffered so much already because of our unwillingness to intervene prior to 9/11, filled with uncertainty other than this: it would be nasty, brutish, and short. We must adhere to our commitments, not only because it is in our interests, but more importantly, because it is the right thing to do.