Friday, July 18, 2008

Afghanistan – An involvement worth considering

Barack Obama has pledged to send at least 7,000 more US troops to Afghanistan if elected president in response to mounting concern about worsening violence in the country. I’m with him, as long as he doesn’t call it a war.

The Canadians say - We are not the Soviets ... though Afghanistan is an unpopular engagement for them. However one major figure, George Petrolekas, says the ‘most egregious error’ is to refer to everything the West is doing in Afghanistan as a foreign invasion, replete with the imposition of foreign ideas, control and values.

The Canadian Forces colonel, who was involved in the Afghan mission from 2003 to 2007 asserts that no one can suggest, with any seriousness, that Canada and its allies in Afghanistan are trying to create an adjunct state in their own image or with imposed values, save for a modicum of equality and freedom.

Australia's defence minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, used his first trip to Washington to call for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan and to defend Australia's withdrawal from Iraq. Fitzgibbon asks "What does winning in Afghanistan mean from my perspective?"
His answer is: "It means winning the hearts and minds of the afghan people, proving to them that we're offering is better than what the Taliban or any other group can offer them."

Australia's 1,000 troops in Afghanistan operate as part of the 1,600-strong Dutch task group with crucial support, including artillery, helicopters and jet bombers, provided by the Netherlands. They share the military base at Tarin Kowt with the Netherlands operating as lead coalition nation in Oruzgan since March 2006.

The point is, these countries are officially responding to what we see as a major need, perhaps one we would rather avoid. But it is not war! The whole basis of the actions is stabilization and reconstruction. Certainly it includes military actions, this is still a very dangerous region. But reducing that danger is part of an overall strategy.

America’s role has typically been more aggressive, indeed focused on the punishing terrain used as cover by the extremist elements. But that should be viewed as a stabilization efforts as opposed to a war. A workable strategic plan rests on modifying terminology and attitude, at focusing on sustainable outcomes.

The potential of adding Pakistan, or parts of it, into the mix makes a reasoned outlook even more imperative. These are both countries where the extremists can and do melt into the general population. Part of any western drive must be to give those populations reason to reject those who oppose stabilization and peace.

We are not likely to, and for most of us have no desire to, recreate these countries in our own image. There are many countries surviving quite happily without western democracy, some of them are our allies. But if the social structures allow for a measure of education and economic development, allow people to live with dignity, the involvement will have been well worth the effort.

An interesting aside from NYT
Talks Signal Mideast Shift

The United States, Israel and some of their European allies have begun to recognize that trying to defeat their enemies in the region by isolating them has failed.


D.K. Raed said...

okaaay ... I THINK I see where you're going with this. If the effort is to keep a state from failing, then I think it is in our interest. Afghanistan as a mission is more palatable than as a war. Especially since we are joined in that effort by UN peacekeepers, NATO & other forces.

But I have to say, as anti-war as I usually am, these Taliban guys, what they do to women, how they subjugated a whole country, how they teach hatred as a way of life, how they spawned AlQueda ... well maybe I should just say there are certain regimes, certain ideals, that inspire me to think warlike thoughts!

Plus I keep thinking of Tony Blair speaking to the Afghanis as we embarked on the original War on Terror ... he told them this time we won't just leave you in the lurch, we will stay until you have a workable country (I assume he was referring to past British cut-n-runs). I think we have really let the Afghan people down. Taliban is back in town & we are looking ridiculous as a feasible option to the people there.

Cart said...

I remain anti-war, but not opposed to facing down bullies - internationally or otherwise.
I guess what I'm really arguing is that any action should be well considered and not just a 'let's go gt em!'
And you are right about the women, and I've met some of them. Little wonder the blokes want to force them into line - they are impressive.