The NDP's positions are only relatively sane, because there is an obvious tension between the two possibilities -- if we want to encourage talks then we need to stay in, and if we want to get out, we have to accept that Afghanistan's future fate is none of our beeswax.
But the respectable columnists are outraged that anyone would even propose talking to evil fundies who stone gays and persecute women. Please no one tell them what the penalty for sodomy is under the penal code of the official Afghan government we are defending. And the respectable position is crazier than anything the Americans did in Vietnam or the Russkies in Afghanistan a while back, since neither ruled out -- in principle -- talks with the enemy about anything.
The Pithlord supported the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001-2002, and might be a bit embarrassed at some of his rhetoric from those days if it could be thrown back at him. But justified wars are limited wars. We got rid of state support for Al Qaeda, which was a sound reason to send our men and women in harm's way. But we, and they, are not gods, and it would require omnipotence, omniscience and a large degree of omnipresence to make Afghanistan a stable state, let alone one that respected same-sex pension rights.
Let's define narrow objectives for the minimal level of behaviour we expect from Afghanistan. If we must include some human rights objectives, let's keep them very modest indeed Let's consider the possibility that the Taliban might buy into some share of the power in return. And let's modify our military strategy accordingly. We should stay only so long as our presence is making those objectives more realizable rather than less.
Lucidity in the NDP is always limited, and, of course, they want our forces to bring peace to Darfur (presumably without actually fighting anyone), which is perhaps the only project that could make the current mission in Afghanistan seem focused and realistic.
Anyway, all this is by way of background to explain my response to a letter from Barry Healey, a concerned Torontonian, to the Globe:
I assume that what Jack Layton is trying to do is to stop the madness before it escalates even further. This seems so obvious a step to me that I'm surprised Mr. Simpson isn't advocating it. How many Vietnams, Iraqs or Lebanons do we need to experience before we figure out that engaging in war begest more war?
What we should be sending to Afghanistan [...] is a green corps, a group of young people to help bring the ecology of the country back to life. Peace begets peace.
I don't know if I have attracted any peace activists or Green Party supporters to my site over the last year, and I have no idea whether Mr. Healey is a real person or an invention of the CSIS black ops department but, just in case I have and he is, I want to put this very clearly: DO NOT WRITE LETTERS TO THE GLOBE AFTER THE SECOND JOINT! Get some Doritos, or watch The Shopping Network or otherwise amuse yourself, but proposing to send Generation Z for some treeplanting in Kandahar will appeal only to the most brutalized and cynical of their elders. They annoy me too, Barry, but it isn't their fault they were in car seats until 9 and had their parents arranged playdates at 15. It's no reason to pin their lunch money to their vests and send them into a biker bar.
Hippies of the world -- there is a more effective way! Ask one question of our leaders and ask it on every opportunity, "What is the mission?" What counts as victory? The Tories have no idea, and until we have clarity on that, we shouldn't be killing and getting killed.