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.

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