Friday, May 25, 2007

Grim Reaper Harper

I wondered why Harper had gone to Afghanistan this past week. Usually there's some political game he's playing.

It seems it was a trip to "see the troops off" to get killed in an offensive. One of the classic stunts in the "support the troops meme".

Fundamentally, Harper goes over to Afghanistan for one of two reasons - he thinks he can get a boost in the polls, or he wants to take "credit" for sending more of our troops off to die in battle. It might qualify as amusing if it wasn't so damn depressing.

Recently, I've found myself musing aloud about whether we have any right to be in Afghanistan today. Superficially, there is a moral obligation to help the country pick up the pieces and rebuild, but that must be weighed against whether we can in fact be useful in that regard, or like the Soviets in the 1980s, are we merely propping up something that cannot sustain itself?

The notion of Afghanistan as a nation is somewhat suspect to begin with - the region's geography tends to reinforce and encourage the tribalism that is pervasive through much of the Middle East to begin with, and I suspect that optimistically, you might achieve some kind of loose tribal coalition, but it would never be a "government" in the sense that we understand it.

The second question in my head is the moral/ethical imperative surrounding the kind of government being propped up in Afghanistan. Do we have any right to impose our style of government (with all of its cultural assumptions) on Afghanistan? I fail to see how Afghanistan itself poses (or ever posed) any real threat to Canada. Let's face it, originally the goal was to find Bin Laden in the days following 9/11/01 - a goal that Bush soon abandoned when he decided that Iraq looked much more exciting to play in.

Looking at the situation today, it's quite apparent that "The Taliban" (tm) is no more a discrete enemy than "al Quaeda"(tm) ever was. It's part of the local social and political fabric - which renders it next to impossible to "defeat" in any real sense. It may go to ground only to rise up again when opportunity knocks.

There are no "easy" or "pat" answers, but at the moment, I'm not happy with a Prime Minister who is using Afghanistan to further his political ambitions, and I am less than convinced that Canada has a compelling story to be there.

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