Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canadian Forces Afghanistan Debate

Salim Mansur is a columnist with the Toronto Sun as well as a professor at the University of Western Ontario. He is also a Muslim with some of the keenest insight into the nature of Islamic extremism and the threat to Western Civilization. The following is a column he wrote for this past Saturday's edition. As usual he's right on the money.



The debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan is the type in which democracies engage, and Canadian soldiers on a mission in harm's way need to know they have the government, Parliament and the people of Canada behind them.

This debate, however, will be heard beyond Canada and it will indicate, despite spin doctoring, that a parliamentary majority is lacking for Ottawa to meet its obligation to the UN-mandated and NATO-led mission to support the Afghan people and the elected government in Kabul.

It will send a message that Canadians are unwilling to see their soldiers engaged in combat missions, and that among the NATO members there is insufficient commitment to sending the minimum number of troops requested for deployment alongside Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar region, where the Taliban insurgency remains robust.

And the message will be unmistakable.

It will tell the enemies of the Afghan people -- Taliban insurgents and al Qaida terrorists -- that while the West is not about to cut and run from fighting, it does not have the stomach to stay in the fight for the length of time needed to eliminate them.

This is what Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have been telling al Qaida and Taliban fighters from their hideouts in the mountainous caves of the Hindu Kush on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

This is also what the Afghan people fear, given their past experience of being abandoned by the West after the former Soviet Union withdrew its communist army of occupation in 1989. At stake are the hard-won gains made since 2002 by a society liberated from the cruel grips of savage fighters and foreign terrorists.

But there will be others -- Iranian clerics, Hezbollah and Hamas leaders, Syrian and North Korean dictators, Chinese leaders and African tyrants who have made wastelands of their countries -- hearing the message that the West, except for the United States, is reluctant militarily to secure interests beyond its immediate frontier.

The debate in Ottawa and in the European capitals is revealing about where the world's richest democracies stand in confronting Islamists -- the contemporary enemies of freedom and democracy -- and those who might well be the future enemies in a century that is barely a decade old.

Canada is a member of the original G-7 and a founding member of NATO together with Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

The economy of these allies taken together exceeds $12 trillion. Their combined population is close to 300 million.

Yet the message over the Afghan mission is that these rich democracies are reluctant to send soldiers into combat against an enemy possessing neither an economy nor holding territory -- an enemy that is more or less a pack of medieval-minded brigands. Also an enemy that can well be eliminated with the required resolve, as the American soldiers have succeeded in doing in Iraq.


If Canada and its NATO allies are unwilling to engage in combat missions in Afghanistan, why then should anyone have any faith that the West will defend itself in its own backyard, or intervene militarily elsewhere to prevent Rwanda-type genocide?

The Afghan mission was not designed to test the collective will of NATO countries, nor the leadership capacity of its richest members and show them wanting, yet it has come down to this unpalatable truth.

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