07 January 2007

What Canada Must Overcome to Succeed in Afghanistan

"The state of denial among the Canadian people, its academics and the unelected leadership in the bureaucracy has crippled Canada's response to that threat [posed by the totalitarian ideology of al Qaeda -- RGM] and may affect the conduct of our war in Afghanistan. Conditioned by decades of moral equivalency, cultural relativism, a dysfunctional interpretation of history and a lack of real understanding of foreign cultures have taken their toll."

Thus argues Sean Maloney of the Royal Military College in the latest issue of Policy Options. This succinctly captures what many of us who have been supportive of Canada's participation in Afghanistan have been struggling to overcome in winning support for the war here at home. As I have said before, it is incomprehensible to me that our efforts in Kandahar have only 50/50 support. Whether this is due to my own less-than-dysfunctional understanding of Canadian military history, my unwillingness to draw a moral par between democracies and dictatorships, or my rejection of cultural and moral relativism, or some combination of all three, I simply cannot grasp the arguments being made by many of those who oppose Canada's role in Afghanistan.

In addition to the problems that Mahoney lists above, we must also factor in the sense of detachment that many Canadians feel from the plight of the Afghan people and the efforts of our Canadian Forces and allies. Most Canadians simply do not grasp the concept that threats to liberty in, to use the old turn-of-phrase, "faraway places of which we know little" will eventually come to threaten the state of liberty in Canada. There is a layer of separation between what Canada is doing in Afghanistan and the survival of the Canadian nation-state. The war, and it is indeed a war, is not an existential struggle in the sense that World War I and World War II were, and it is because of this reality that there is a lack of connection with what our Forces are trying to accomplish.

However, while the fate of Afghanistan is not connected to the fate of Canada, what happens in Afghanistan will determine the future course of the lives of many Canadians. If we do not succeed in that theatre, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and those like them will re-acquire a base from which to plan and plot future terrorist attacks against Canada, the United States, and its allies. Moreover, they will achieve a key psychological victory that will have ramifications throughout the Islamic world: as Osama bin Laden is fond of saying, when given the choice between a strong horse and a weak horse, people will always choose the strong horse. Should the Taliban stand up to the supposed strongest powers on Earth, they will establish themselves as a strong horse, while the West will be perceived much as it was after Mogadishu: weak, unwilling to defend itself, and vulnerable to pinpricks that morph into much larger injuries and significant time spent on the psychiatrist's couch.

It is therefore imperative that the Government of Canada undertake a significant campaign to demonstrate the weakness and falsity of the claims of Jack Layton and his ilk. In order to maintain support for this mission, Canadians must be given a clear picture of what we are doing in Afghanistan, how it lines up with our traditions, beliefs, and values, and what is the nature of the endgame. It has become clear that fighting for the young girls of Afghanistan to have the right to an education is not enough to spur Canadians into action, nor is the desire of the overwhelming majority of Afghans to escape from decades of warfare and live a life of peace and tranquility. Doing it for them doesn't appeal to Canadians on the level that is required to sustain the popular support needed to give our elected officials the backbone to see through the mission to its conclusion. So it seems.

Rather than making the Afghanistan mission about the future of Afghans, it is apparent that the matter must instead be framed in the context of the future of Canada and its willingness to stand up and defend the principles that it holds so dearly. We must demonstrate the vacuity of the claims of the Left and remind Canadians of their proud history of standing alongside its allies to advance the cause of democracy, liberty, and justice in the world. Are there still some things in this world that Canadians believe in strongly enough that they will fight and die to perpetuate and maintain? Or do we stick our heads in the sand and pretend that there are no more monsters in the world except for that nefarious George W. Bush?

One great piece of evidence of the weakness of those on the Left is their belief that, as Maloney states, "Radical Islamists will somehow be converted to our way of life after having spent enough time in contact with our multicultural society." This position is fatally flawed given the importance than these radical Islamists stress in their religion; to turn away from Islam after having embraced it is the most surefire way to Hell. It is a crime worse than being an ignorant infidel to be an apostate. There is little chance that those 17 young men who plotted to storm Parliament and behead the Prime Minister will simply grow out of their extremism as if it were just a passing phase in their life. Those who hate Canada do so not only for its actions, but for its very existence as an infidel state that seemingly purposefully corrupts young Muslim men and lures them away from their beliefs. When Ayman al-Zawahiri goes on a rant in which he states that Stephen Harper is "obsessed with Christianity," it is an affirmation that he is an infidel and thus his killing is justified. This is a point of view for which there is little ability to compromise, making the "can't we all just get along" sentiment of the Left not only naive but very dangerous.

With all this in mind, Canada must overcome its psychological shortcomings if it is to be successful in winning in Afghanistan. For if this path of weakness and meandering continues, it will not only have dire consequences for the people of Afghanistan, but for the people of Canada itself. The Government simply must do more to denounce and render meaningless the bleating of the opponents of Canadian participation in Afghanistan. Ignoring them and assuming that Canadians will see through the empty rhetoric for what it is has failed and undermined support for a mission that in every way embodies the things for which Canadians have traditionally supported and rallied around. It is easy to roll one's eyes at Jack Layton when one knows the historical reality and understands the imperative of success in Afghanistan, but far too many Canadians do neither, and the lack of an authoritative voice that counters his fallacious arguments only boosts his credibility. And that has proven exceedingly harmful already, it should not go unchallenged any longer.

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