31 July 2007

Letter to the NDP

This is my most current draft of the letter I intend to send to every member of the NDP caucus. I'm not done tweaking it yet, so if anybody has some ideas or input to contribute, I would be very happy to hear it.

I am writing to you today about Canada's participation in the international reconstruction and stabilization effort in Afghanistan.

Like many well-informed Canadians, I believe that by participating in Afghanistan, Canada is employing a forward posture to concurrently defend its national interests and promote its values. This is crucial, and appeals to both the realist and liberal aspects of our international strategy. The central conflict in the 21st century is going to be between democratic states seeking to promote the rule of law, democracy, political freedom, and equality, and terrorist organizations and non-democratic states seeking to retain their tyranny over populations. These values are not strictly Canadian, nor are they a fig leaf cover for, as your party's caucus is so fond of saying, "George Bush's war;" they are the values of all peoples everywhere. Nobody chooses to live in tyranny and oppression, and Canada and other nations are right to embrace their responsibility to protect populations in far-off lands from elements that would seek to inflict deliberate harm and despotism over them.

The national interest of Canada is at stake in Afghanistan, as is our commitment to defending our interests. By seeking a precipitous withdrawal from the Kandahar province, the NDP is abandoning Canada's responsibility to ensure the safety of its own citizens and those of its allies. It is well-known that Osama bin Laden has specifically named Canada as one of the most important targets for his al Qaeda network; it is equally well-known that when this happens, the country in question has often had to endure a spectacular attack on its territory. Your party would have Canada throw up its hands and hope that the terrorists accept our capitulation. This is blatant abdication of your responsibility to safeguard Canadian citizens from external threats. In 2005, the Government of Canada identified terrorism as the greatest threat to Canadian security, and has been mobilizing resources in counterterrorism efforts to protect Canadians. This is an effort that must be handled on multiple fronts, of which Canadian territory itself is but one. Surely you and your party caucus must be cognizant of this fact.

I have regularly been astounded by negative light the NDP uses to portray Canada's mission in Afghanistan: speaking of so-called "search and destroy" missions, accusing the Prime Minister of being a lapdog fighting "George Bush's war," and its crass manipulation of the deaths of Canadian soldiers in battle to turn the tide of public opinion against a humanitarian intervention in which the best of what Canada stands for is at peril. The NDP rarely, if ever, speaks of the progress and achievements that have occurred in Afghanistan as a direct consequence of our presence in Kandahar. Your caucus prefers to undermine Canada's successes by speaking exclusively about the shortcomings that are inevitable not only in military conflict, but in the more difficult and challenging period that follows it. When remnants of an enemy that doesn't believe it has been defeated remain, they will always strive to undo progress achieved in their absence, and the NDP has been negligent in its duty by not highlighting this important fundamental. However, all of that pales in comparison to the following statement of MP Olivia Chow, who stated during the April debate on the failed Coderre resolution to force early withdrawal of Canada from Kandahar province:

"We know that Afghan women are still subject to arbitrary imprisonment, rape, torture and forced marriage. This is why in August last year the NDP asked that the present mission end."

I cannot, for the life of me, contort myself and my thinking to square the circle that because atrocities are still happening in Afghanistan, Canada should no longer participate in Afghanistan to end atrocities. Women's rights are an issue of great importance to me, and to see a political party in Canada abandoning the women of Afghanistan constitutes a refusal to fight for human rights and the right of Afghanistan's women to live their lives as equals in their society. We all know what life was like for Afghan women when the Taliban were in power, and we know that there is still much ground to cover before they have the same measure of safety and security that they deserve, and yet your party wants Canada to have no part in determining a better future for those women. Your party's position would leave a vacuum in Kandahar, one which our NATO allies do not seem willing or able to fill. The Taliban would be all too happy to fill that vacuum and re-institute their reign of terror over the women of Kandahar, subjecting them to life devoid of education and dignity but fraught with fear and degradation.

I therefore urge you to re-evaluate what your party is saying about Canada's mission in Afghanistan, and think about what the consequences would be if the current NDP policy were to come to fruition: the return of the Taliban's oppression, a hostile training ground to plan attacks against the legitimate and democratically elected government of Afghanistan and all those who support it, and the utter abdication of Canada's responsibilities and stature in the world. Our legitimacy and credibility are at stake. The Prime Minister of Israel recently commended the Government of Canada for its clear-headed approach to foreign affairs. The people and government of Afghanistan are largely supportive of our presence. Canada wields more influence and commands more respect from its NATO allies than it has in many years because we have taken on the toughest part of the international mission in Afghanistan and performed admirably. If Canada chooses to "cut and run" and abandon the people of Afghanistan, its allies, and its responsibilities, our legitimacy will be seriously weakened and it will be a return to the bad old days of Canadian irrelevancy in international affairs. That is a grave danger to our interests, and you have a responsibility to put country and principle above petty partisan politics.

28 July 2007

Afghanistan Minus Canada Equals Chaos

According to the top RCMP official in Afghanistan, the country will backslide into anarchy without proper training from Canadian and other international police forces.

Afghanistan is in the "middle of an insurgency" and countries, including Canada, that are rebuilding it shouldn't make a hasty exit, says the RCMP officer helping train Afghan police recruits.
The war-torn country risks going backward if international forces leave before it's self-sufficient, said RCMP Supt. David Fudge. Fudge is a police officer with 30 years of experience and his job is to help train Afghan police recruits who are often illiterate and arrive in tattered clothes and flip-flops. He has been on the job in Afghanistan for a year as part of Canada's provincial reconstruction team, a multi-level unit that includes soldiers, police officers and officials from Foreign Affairs and the Canadian International Development Agency. "Afghanistan is in the middle of an insurgency," Fudge said in an interview at the unit's headquarters, about 18 kilometres from the multinational base in Kandahar.

Establishing a viable police force in Afghanistan is one of the top priorities for the international reconstruction and stabilization mission. It will go a long way in establishing sovereignty and legitimacy for the Karzai government, and lessen the country's dependence on regional warlords who are often involved in shady activities that undermine the coherence of the Afghan state. Drug trafficking remains a major problem in Afghanistan, and the proper training is required for their national forces to combat and reduce the influence of the Afghan drug lords.

A hearty congratulations to Supt. Fudge for speaking in realistic and pragmatic terms. It is obviously not a popular concept in Canada that our responsibility there doesn't end when we reach an arbitrarily chosen deadline. To leave Afghanistan in February 2009 when the training of Afghan police forces--amongst many other things--is incomplete would be to leave uneasy, uncertain young men and women to fight a determined and highly capable enemy. That is not something that a responsible state does to a friend.

**Update** Mark, Ottawa over at The Torch has also posted about this story.

26 July 2007

Actual signage dialogue, about two blocks from my house:

Original: "Why are you eating meat?"
Response: "Because it's tasty!"
Rebuttal: "...f*ck off and die!"

Mmm delicious meaty irony.

Letter Writing Season

With the House of Commons adjourned for the summer, now is as good a time as any for ordinary Canadians to get in touch with their Members of Parliament, sending them letters, messages, and possibly even face-to-face conversations about the issues that matter to them. Earlier today, as I am prone to doing, I was thinking about Canada's mission in Afghanistan and its mortifyingly low level of support among the Canadian public. There are a number of things to blame for this: politicians with little to no conviction to stand up for our national interests, an irresponsible media, apathy and ignorance among the civilian population, a rising death toll that outstrips all of our other NATO allies, and who knows what all else.

Through this blog and other venues, I've tried to make the case for a continued strong Canadian presence in Afghanistan. I am now going to turn my attention directly to Canadian politicians by writing a series of letters that will be sent to each MP according to his/her caucus. I intend to ask the NDP whey they support abandoning the women of Afghanistan while in the same breath acknowledging that the work we're doing there isn't complete. I intend to ask the Liberals why they have abdicated liberal principles in international relations. And I intend to ask the Conservatives why they are unwilling to step forward, own the issue, and plainly state the case--as often as is necessary--for Canada's continued military and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. I will be unveiling these letters as I write them here on the blog, and will be sure to note any responses that I receive. I may also do "special" letters for the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, CIDA, and the respective party critics. Hitting the rank and file caucus members is one thing, directing attention to the key players is even more important.

We're on the verge of losing the Canadian public on a matter of our national interest because of their own disinterest. At the same time that Afghanistan's reconstruction and stabilization is in our national interest, it is also a matter of living up to our values and principles. Canada says it stands for democracy, liberty, equality, the rule of law, and human security. All of these principles are at play in Afghanistan. If we abandon principle and interest to satisfy a narrow and, frankly, dangerous, view of our role in the world, we will lose much more than a little bit of face in Washington; indeed, we will lose a piece of what makes Canada great.

21 July 2007

Summer Reading

With the Haligonian weather being its usual terrible self, I've had a good amount of time for reading lately. As I'm wont to do, here's my latest batch of readings and recommendations.

If you're interested in such topics as America's will to win the war on terror and tyranny, Clausewitz, and whether military personnel should pursue graduate-level education at civilian universities (and I'm looking through the Internet at my old Dal colleague, Rob, here), check out the latest issue of The American Interest. It's a journal that I usually look at online but I had to buy this one so that I could re-read it a couple times after the subscriber-only firewall goes up. It's one of their best issues and has had some very compelling reads.

Beyond that, I'm reading a book about Canadian intelligence services and another on the importance--and limitations--of intelligence in war. The latter is written by John Keegan, a truly fantastic historian whose histories of the world wars ought to be required reading for any aspiring historian/political scientist. I know that they were for me. Good old Nellis.

Also, BB's back posting at the Den, which is awesome.

Finally, think good thoughts for George Bush, as he's getting a colonoscopy. Remember, if it goes horribly, President Dick Cheney.

18 July 2007

Iconoclasm, Symbols, and What We Believe In

"If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything."

When I was a teenager, half a lifetime ago, to be exact, I was big into comic books. Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spawn to some degree. It was a strange time to be a fan, as the major publishers were going through a massive iconoclasm binge. They killed Superman. They broke Batman and temporarily replaced him with a younger, more violent version. They told us that the Spidey we'd loved for the past 20 years was a clone. They ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine. They had Green Lantern go insane and nearly destroy the entire universe. All of these mythic, epic characters were radically altered and put through the grinder for no other reason than to create a strange piqued interest. Everybody aped DC after the death of Superman. Entire histories were wiped out, re-written, shoved aside, and all logic suspended during this wave of symbol-smashing.

I read not too long ago that they've now killed off Captain America. It is a strange time to go about whacking one of the great symbols of American freedom and all the things that make America great. The Superman movie cut out "...and the American way" in order to avoid possibly offending anybody that may like Superman but not be a big fan of whatever conception of the United States they hold in their head. With America at war against Islamofascism, terrorism, and tyranny, American pop culture is committing suicide on a large scale. The hero that first leapt into the world's imagination by bopping Hitler square on his little moustache was killed on the front steps of an American court by a sniper, hardly a befitting and deserving send-off.

The other day I got exceptionally frustrated by a snarky comment that Hollywood et al. should refrain from blowing up or desecrating any and all symbols so that nobody can ever be offended. When I challenged this individual on his reductio ad absurdum, he responded with the flippant comment that there's few good places to start discussing such things, so he suggested the destruction of the White House in the movie Independence Day. Clearly this person didn't grasp my point: symbols and icons are things which we look to as part of our identity. When some filmmaker sends the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty rolling through the streets as part of a movie plotline, he/she is treading on grounds that would be offensive to a great number of people. For many, the Statue of Liberty is an icon of the best of American ideals--the "untamed fires of liberty" cited by George W. Bush in his second Inaugural Address are harnessed in that statue--and destroying it, even in a ridiculously cinematic fashion, can rub people the wrong way. Yes it's fictitious, no it's not real, but what genuine purpose does such wanton destruction of a cherished symbol serve? Is that entertainment? Are we to take joy from it? For the same reason that people get incredibly angry over the burning of a national flag, so too do people's nationalist tendencies get aroused sometimes over such iconoclasm.

We need not look squarely to fictional accounts to see how some people take their icons seriously. Remember the uproar last year when a veteran snapped a photograph of some drunken buffoon urinating on the War Memorial in Ottawa? Remember how many well-reasoned people were justly offended by that disgraceful incident? Yet, how many people were also saying "Who cares?" That location is a hallowed ground to people who have lost loved ones in combat, serving Canada and defending its interests and principles. It's not something to be treated as a urinal. Older generations led the charge in demanding some form of public embarrassment for the young fool who would desecrate the War Memorial, while younger generations, not entirely but for the large part, yawned, flipped the channel, and tuned out.

Ours is a generation that is desperately lacking something in which it believes. When more young people see the United States--not people around the globe, but Americans--as the greatest threat to world peace than they do genuine threats such as Iran or North Korea, there is something severely wrong. They don't believe in America, they don't treasure the ideals of democracy, liberty, the rule of law. They have a misguided view of what liberty is: "let me do whatever the hell I want, I don't care if it hurts or affects other people, I enjoy it." We are de-sensitized to any number of atrocious actions. There is almost nothing we believe to be worth fighting for. When people say that they don't think President Bush being assassinated would necessarily be a bad thing, a) is it any wonder that politicians don't take younger people seriously, and, b) what does that say for their level of respect for the office of the President? I've seen other Canadians who wouldn't have complained too bitterly if the snuffed terrorist plot to kidnap and behead Stephen Harper had been able to come to fruition. What is behind this strange, almost nihilistic, mentality? Is nothing important actually important to these kinds of people?

To me, symbols and icons are important. The Maple Leaf is something that I hold dear to my heart. Values and ideas are central to my thinking. Wearing my "Support Our Troops" hat is but one outward display of what I stand for, and what I believe in. The idea of someone trying to blow up the Parliament Buildings in repugnant to me. Someone who would cheer inside at the murder of Stephen Harper or George W. Bush is not someone who I would call friend. The concept of genuine equality in our society is something I believe we should all strive to achieve so that we may all reach, together, our true potential. These are things that I believe in, and I am befuddled to see that there are many people who seemingly don't believe in anything.

12 July 2007

Memo to Harper: Your New Friend Sided with Saddam

The Prime Minister of Canada is spending pretty much all of tomorrow with the King Abdullah of Jordan. By definition of his title, he is no friend of democracy. He enjoys his position of power because of who his father was. Moreover, his was the only Arab government that fully supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91. The King of Jordan is not a friend of Canada, and I am disappointed to see the Prime Minister setting aside an entire day to chum around with him.

Update: He added this in a post-meeting news conference: "We strongly support countries that support values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law." And Jordan, too.

11 July 2007

What is the Canadian Public's Interest?

This is a question that I, and many others, have and will continue to wrestle with. It is clear to me that there is a distinction between the national interest of Canada and the interests of the Canadian public when it comes to the mission in Afghanistan. I've written many times on Canada's participation in the reconstruction and stabilization mission in that country, and I am very proud of our contribution to that noble mission. Speaking as a Wilsonian realist, there is no doubt in my mind that ensuring security and prosperity in Afghanistan is in the Canadian national interest and concurrent with our ideals of promoting democracy, human security, and liberty in the world. I know that I am not alone in that perspective; the folks over at The Torch are staunch supporters of the mission, and yesterday I read an all-too-rare post by my former Dal colleague Riley expressing his continued support. There are thousands of other voices out there who get it.

But there are also thousands who don't, and some of them happen to occupy important places in our media and government. These folks are the ones who are winning the public relations side of this conflict, undermining the government, public support, our Canadian Forces, our allies, and the people of Afghanistan in reaching the objective of a peaceful, secure, democratic Afghanistan that need not worry about a resurgent Taliban-al Qaeda symbiote overtaking that country again.

And it appears that they have gotten to the Prime Minister.

The Torch today cited a news story in which the following was stated:

Mr. Harper reaffirmed his government's plans to seek a "reasonable degree" of parliamentary support before considering any extension to the current Afghan mission, or agreeing to a new one. But when asked whether he has any desire to prolong the combat mission in southern Afghanistan beyond 2009, Mr. Harper said, "No."

I don't know if he's just being coy, and leaving out whether or not the Government plans to have a continued presence in a different region of Afghanistan after February '09, or if he's conceding that there's no chance of Canada being a participant in any part of the larger reconstruction and stabilization mission. My great fear is that it's the latter. I'm not going to go into another diatribe on why Afghanistan should matter to Canadians, and why I feel as though we should maintain a strong leadership presence in the country. I've done that enough, which is why I'm putting links to some of my many posts on the subject. What I really would like to know is why can Canadians not wrap their heads around the importance of Afghanistan's future and how it is squarely in our interests.

Why Afghanistan Matters

What Canada Must Overcome to Succeed in Afghanistan

On Timetables and Afghanistan

PMSH in Afghanistan

They Still Just Don't Get It

07 July 2007


If you want to see my thesis abstract on the Internetz, go here:


You can also order a copy of it at Library and Archives Canada. Just go here.

I have an ISBN number and a Canadiana number for it, which is pretty cool.

Wouldn't That Mean Her Suffrage is Gone Too?

This week, as I occasionally do, I read Ann Coulter's column. If anybody ever wants to get a sense of what they do believe in, visit her site because you will either come away knowing that you're a conservative or fully assured that you are not. Me, I'm not. In this week's festival of hate she gives favourable review to a new conservative-penned tome and gives examples of just some of the many agreeable things she finds in its pages. The very first one she posted is another anti-feminist, anti-woman offering that she's become noted for. No doubt she'd find common cause with the traitors at REAL Women.

Women shouldn't vote: "What changed ... that explains the growth of government? The answer is women's suffrage."

Now I'll admit that I'm not in favour of big government running the show in all aspects of life. I'm still perplexed about Canada's waking up one morning in December 2005 and deciding that a state-funded and -run national daycare program was a top priority that deserved drowning out almost everything else for a week--even the environment. But that doesn't mean there aren't areas where I'm happy the government is calling the shots: health care and education immediately spring to mind.
What Coulter is saying--or, at least, endorsing--however, is that we should return to the bad old days of the 19th century when only white, property-owning males had the right to determine the make-up of their government. Simply astonishing. Does she forget that she's a woman, and thus her advocacy of ending women's suffrage would result in her losing her democratic rights to vote? What if the menz, once fully freed from having to deal with such cumbersome issues like educating children and protecting women from numerous forms of male violence, decided to go one further and start stripping away other women's rights, like their right to own their own property or have and create their own wealth? All of those proceeds from her hate-filled books would simply evaporate, and her platform would thus be lost. It is amazing that this woman of incredible privilege would come and state that every member of her gender should not be equal citizens. What's even worse is that there are millions of people who would agree with her.

06 July 2007

Cat Pictures

These are our new cats. The tiger-looking boy is called Orion, and the very sweet grey girl with the white face is Nebula.

04 July 2007


Happy Birthday today to America and Jim.

The latest fatalities in Afghanistan are, as always, nothing short of tragic, and will inevitably be politicized by all of Canada's political parties. Rather than being accepted for what they are--an unfortunate consequence of military action in hostile territory--they will end up being spun as either "senseless" and indicative of why Canada shouldn't be in Afghanistan, which will in turn spark a row from the Tories. These deaths are always hard to digest, my heart goes out to the families, and I hope that their deaths will not be in vain. There is so much at stake for Canada in Afghanistan, and hopefully political wrangling will not come before our national interests.

The outrage overthe commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence sure has been a sight to behold. As usual, it is right down partisan lines, which makes it far less fun. Listening to Republicans going on and on about what Clinton did 8 years ago is tedious, and listening to Democrats castigating Bush in hysteria mode is equally so. He broke the law, and he'll be severely punished for that, even in the absence of jail time. A quarter-million dollar fine is nothing to sneeze at. Lesson: don't lie to the judiciary, no matter who your friends in government are.

The weather in Haligonia is doing its unpredictable thing again. You just never know if it'll turn out to be a day of sun or rain--usually both. Meanwhile, it's 28 and not a cloud in the sky in Kelowna. No fair.

01 July 2007

Happy Canada Day

Always my favourite annual post.

Today Canada turns 140 years old. She doesn't look a day over 139. *sigh* That's not even funny.

This is the day that we all celebrate the great things and the greatness of Canada, a day where flags are everywhere and pride runs high. Plus, fireworks! At 140, Canada's democracy is one of the longest-standing in the world, something which we can all be proud of. Our country is strong, vibrant, innovative, compassionate, diverse, and confident as we move forward in facing the challenges that lay before us. I can think of no country on Earth where I would rather live, and no place that offers as much opportunity to its citizens. For that, I salute the idea, the nation, and the state of Canada.