It is 2:30 AM and I cannot sleep. Damn, I really shouldn’t have had that nap at 5:00… And in true Nicole-style, all things political are running through my mind. I’ve exhausted my attention span on last night’s Democratic debate, so I started thinking about what to write my American foreign policy class paper on. I tired of that, and then started thinking about my Master’s thesis on the state of Canadian foreign policy (at least, that’s what I’m planning on writing my Master’s thesis about; I guess I have to get in first…). And then my thoughts turned to a document I downloaded onto my laptop last week: the Manley Report.
What is now known as the Manley Report is really the report of a Stephen Harper-appointed panel on what Canada’s future role in Afghanistan should be. Now I’ve been notoriously wishy-washy on this subject. It was only relatively recently that I decided that yes, we should be in Afghanistan.
The answer is pretty simple, actually, and the panel’s report confirms what I have come to believe: we should stay. First of all, before getting into the reasons why Canadians should stay put, it is extremely important to denote the differences between the Afghan mission and the Iraq war. The Afghan mission is UN-sanctioned and the troops present in the country are there at the invitation of the Afghan government. We all know the UN Security Council opposed the invasion of Iraq.
The fact that the Afghan mission is supported by the Afghan people is an important element in determining that we should stay. Obviously the Taliban doesn’t want us to stick around (goodness knows they’ve hidden enough IEDs in the countryside to make sure we don’t), but does their voice count? Canada prides itself on its history of defending those who cannot defend themselves, and coming to the aid of those in need. Does the Afghan mission not fit these ideals? Canada was the main supporter of the doctrine of R2P – the Responsibility to Protect; this is the notion that countries have a moral responsibility to help those people whose nations cannot protect them. Is that not what occurred in Afghanistan? You could easily refute this argument, or at least greatly weaken it, by pointing at the dozens of other countries where governments commit daily atrocities against their people while the Western world turns a blind eye. Darfur is a prime example. But this is beyond the scope of this specific situation, although the debate deserves its own postings.
My main reason for supporting the extension of the Afghan mission is the fact that we must finish what we started. It would be hypocritical and cowardly to retreat now. We would be putting more Afghanis at risk than we already have. Furthermore, we have put years of work into creating a stable Afghanistan, and to walk away now would be A) admitting defeat and B) a complete and utter disrespect of the sacrificies made by the 79 soldiers who have lost their lives. We owe it to our fallen and the citizens of Afghanistan to see the committment through.
I love the above picture of the Canadian soldier holding the hand of the young Afghan boy. Maybe it’s because I’m tired, but the image makes me cry. That little boy deserves a future full of hope. He should be able to live in his home country without fear. He should be able to dream and have the resources to live those dreams. This is why we are in Afghanistan: to give people the same freedom and peace that we live in, so that they can live their lives the way they choose. That is what is, and should be, at the heart of Canadian foreign policy.
John Manley says it best in his foreward of the report: “We like to talk about Canada’s role in the world. Well, we have one in Afghanistan.”(4) Canada’s foreign policy has lost its focus and has floundered in the past decade. Afghanistan has given us a purpose and a mission. It is something we can build upon in order to regain our reputation in the international community.
Odd as it sounds, we need Afghanistan as much, if not more, than Afghanistan needs us.