Monday, March 20, 2006

Never Start a Land War in Asia. But If You Do, Don't Define Exit as Defeat

Unlike Iraq, I supported the war in Afghanistan and Canada's participation in it. The main difference was that the Taliban really was providing state support to Al Qaeda. The secondary difference was that it was perfectly reasonable to put Western technology in the balance between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.

Over the past 4 years, much like almost everyone else, I stopped paying much attention to Afghanistan, even though it is easily Canada's most important overseas military commitment since Korea.

Since I supported the intervention in the first place, I am not particularly sympathetic to the NDP/BQ's current opposition. I'm more sympathetic to the Liberals' disarray and confusion on the subject. Certainly our men and women over there need better moral and material support from us latte-swilling urbanites.

Harper deserves credit for giving this issue high priority, and good on him for going. But I want to register some concern about his rhetoric, which is (consciously) modelled on Bush's "stay the course" rhetoric about Iraq.

Harper's response to NDP calls for a debate -- that it would give aid and comfort to the enemy -- was unacceptable in a democracy. But it is the phrase "cut and run" that really makes me worry. The right way to fight one of these wars is to define limited objectives, and to define exit as victory. After all, the Taliban are no longer in power. If they get into power again, we can always overthrow them again. We are not going to be providing order in Afghanistan in the long term.

For a Canadian PM to define leaving as cutting and running is to cretate precisely the hostage to fortune Bush has given in Iraq.

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