Canada has extended its military presence in Afghanistan until 2009. I’m not going to pretend that it was an easy decision for MPs to make. How do you do a cost-benefit analysis or calculate an ROI when human lives are the price? How do you pick the right side in a false dichotomy? That said, the decision was still the wrong one.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s lots of good work to do in Afghanistan. There are warlords to remove from power, democratic infrastructure to be built, and local citizens to be empowered. The two questions that remain are, 1) are we the best ones to do that, and 2) is that what we’ve been doing? The answer to both is no.
“No” to the first because we are trying to impose things that can only be facilitated at best. “No” to the second because the mission in Afghanistan was designed from the outset to hunt al-Qaeda and find bin Laden, not to nurture democracy or healing. It is a mission associated with the illegal holding and interrogation of prisoners. It is a mission associated with rendition. It is a mission linked with Guantanamo.
The other problem with taking on this mission, at this time, at this scale, is that we’re now completely maxed out. Yes to Afghanistan means no to Darfur, and anywhere else that needs our help in the next few years.
Finally, I shouldn’t even have to mention the way in which this vote was rushed through the house. Even if this were the right decision, it would have been made in the wrong way. I hate to admit this, but looking back I think I believed Harper when he said he was going to respect parliament and begin to move power out of the PMO and closer to us. At the very least I didn’t expect him to make things worse in that respect. My bad. Didn’t take him too long to start behaving like he has a majority.