Monday, June 19, 2006

Afganistan and Canada

Once again there has been a break of almost a month between posts - eventually I will find the routine to do this regularly.

Meanwhile, Canada and Afganistan.....

I am Quaker and therefore a pacificist from a religious background. Normally this means I am not that keen to comment on military issues because of the complexity involved and the lack of understanding by most people of a religous pacifist conviction. But I will comment this time because I see an interesting change happening.

At no point in Canadian history can I think of a time that Canada has been the real lead in any military campaign. Yes Canada has run many peacekeeping operations - Golan, Cyprus etc.... but those were all very small and not really military campaigns.

Now in Afganistan we have Canada taking the lead for the international force. Afganistan is becoming Canada's baby and the government is getting serious about doing this - witness the recent decision to purchase large long distance transport aircraft. With this capablity Canada will be able to deploy a force anywhere on earth with a decent runway and supply it.

At the moment Canada has to function as extra part of the US military and hitch a ride with them or rent planes from other nations. This is an interesting transition we are seeing - an chance to have an increased independent international action.

Is Canada going to go the route of Australia and become an international force of its own? Do we want to go there at all? How much will this cost as us as we will need a much larger armed forces to accomplish this? Where else are we going to go? In the next Rwanda, will Canada intervene with enough to troops to stop it?

Rwanda is one the classic quandries for many pacificists - should Canada have intervened with a few thousand troops and tried to stop the slaughter of 800 000 people? For the non-pacificists the answer is easy - NO. North Americans and Europeans are happily content to allow mass slaughter of black people to occur because they can not relate to them and see them as an "other" and not really human at all - they are an abstract.

But the pacifist is driven by the sanctity of life - the question comes to the old one of do you kill a few people to save a large number?

As a pacifist from religious reasons, the answer is easy for me, you never take another life for any reason because to do so is to kill that of God within them. I do not run the government and therefore my views make little difference, but if I were in charge my approach to international conflict would be very different. First of all foriegn policy would be based on the simple premise that all nations must be democratic and respect human rights. As a start I would cut all diplomatic ties with any nation that was not a democracy. How can one have diplomatic relations with groups pretending to be governments when there is no popular will in the nation for the government? Frankly, I think having diplomatic relations with China makes less than sense than having with the Hells Angels.

China needs Canadian raw materials - but so do many other nations that are democratic, one example being Taiwan. We do not need China and will do fine if they are cut off from us. But even if we needed them, the relationship is fundamentally wrong because it is not based on a clear understanding of a common morality or belief in human rights and democracy. Most times politicians I hear talk about China sound like battered wives talking about not so bad the man is that is beating them up.

From Pearson onwards Canada has tip-toed this middle power irrelevancy act when it comes to world affairs of the most base variety. Do we finally have a nation ready to step forward and embrace military intervention in the cause of protecting human rights, civil society and democracy? Maybe in Afganistan we do. Maybe as a nation we are ready to stop being a small colonial addition to the British and now American empires.

No comments: