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To fight or not to fight?

by admin October 7, 2009 0 comment

To fight or not to fight?

by Archives October 6, 2009 0 comment

According to an Ispos Reid survey released this month and commissioned by the Department of National Defence, the public has become uneasy about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
On the issue of our involvement in Afghanistan, we are a nation divided. Almost exactly half the people polled in the survey think the duties of the Canadian Forces should include only observational duties or monitoring conflict resolution; the other half wants us to continue fighting alongside our allies.
The survey stated that people don’t really know a lot about Canada’s role in Afghanistan: “Participants underlined that they do not feel they have the whole picture when it comes to the mission in Afghanistan. There was evidence of a lack of clarity around its objectives and a feeling that the mission might be losing ground and shifting away from its original purpose.”
Norrin Ripsman, a political science professor at Concordia, understands why people wonder what Canada’s interests in Afghanistan actually are. “They forget about our economic and strategic interests in the United States,” he said in an email. Ripsman believes that part of the reason Canada needs to be in Afghanistan is to command the political attention of the Obama administration.
Though our relationship with the United States is important, it should not take precedent over our integrity. We should not be putting our soldiers’ lives at risk; Canada should pursue its diplomatic agenda with a non-violent approach instead.
The Conservative Party has repeatedly stated that combat troops will pull out of Afghanistan by 2011. Recently, however, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that an undetermined number of troops and resources will remain in Afghanistan after the pull out date to facilitate the transition from “a predominantly military mission to a civilian humanitarian development mission after 2011.” Hopefully this will actually happen, not like when troops didn’t end up leaving in 2009.
Canadians like to view the Canadian Forces primarily as peacekeepers and worry that this is changing. Bragging about how our country’s military is chalk full of calm, helpful soldiers has become something of a national pastime.
That notion is an illusion according to Michael Lipson, another professor of political science at Concordia. “I am a fan of peacekeeping,” he said in an email, “and would like Canada to contribute more to UN peacekeeping than it currently does. But I think the myth of Canada as a “peacekeeping nation’ distorts Canadians’ understanding of their military and diplomatic history, and ignores Canada’s non-peacekeeping contributions to international peace and security.” According to Lipson, “peacekeeping has never been more than a marginal activity for the Canadian Forces. Canada’s participation in NATO is more important to Canadian security and Canada’s national interest. And Canada’s distorted image of itself as a “peacekeeping nation’ promotes an unhealthy and unfounded sense of moral superiority.”
It’s reasonable that experts are frustrated that public opinion affects foreign policy since the everyday citizen doesn’t appreciate the specifics of the issue. Academics, politicians, and military officers may understand the complexities of our involvement in Afghanistan, but they may also want to lead Canada in a direction that citizens do not approve of. Getting ahead in terms of our relationship with the United States and our standing in the international community may be beneficial to Canada, but not when it comes at the cost of more than one hundred dead soldiers. The Canadian government and military should aim to provide real foundation for that national sense of morality we all cherish. Optimistically, 2011 will make the myth a reality.

According to an Ispos Reid survey released this month and commissioned by the Department of National Defence, the public has become uneasy about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
On the issue of our involvement in Afghanistan, we are a nation divided. Almost exactly half the people polled in the survey think the duties of the Canadian Forces should include only observational duties or monitoring conflict resolution; the other half wants us to continue fighting alongside our allies.
The survey stated that people don’t really know a lot about Canada’s role in Afghanistan: “Participants underlined that they do not feel they have the whole picture when it comes to the mission in Afghanistan. There was evidence of a lack of clarity around its objectives and a feeling that the mission might be losing ground and shifting away from its original purpose.”
Norrin Ripsman, a political science professor at Concordia, understands why people wonder what Canada’s interests in Afghanistan actually are. “They forget about our economic and strategic interests in the United States,” he said in an email. Ripsman believes that part of the reason Canada needs to be in Afghanistan is to command the political attention of the Obama administration.
Though our relationship with the United States is important, it should not take precedent over our integrity. We should not be putting our soldiers’ lives at risk; Canada should pursue its diplomatic agenda with a non-violent approach instead.
The Conservative Party has repeatedly stated that combat troops will pull out of Afghanistan by 2011. Recently, however, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that an undetermined number of troops and resources will remain in Afghanistan after the pull out date to facilitate the transition from “a predominantly military mission to a civilian humanitarian development mission after 2011.” Hopefully this will actually happen, not like when troops didn’t end up leaving in 2009.
Canadians like to view the Canadian Forces primarily as peacekeepers and worry that this is changing. Bragging about how our country’s military is chalk full of calm, helpful soldiers has become something of a national pastime.
That notion is an illusion according to Michael Lipson, another professor of political science at Concordia. “I am a fan of peacekeeping,” he said in an email, “and would like Canada to contribute more to UN peacekeeping than it currently does. But I think the myth of Canada as a ‘peacekeeping nation’ distorts Canadians’ understanding of their military and diplomatic history, and ignores Canada’s non-peacekeeping contributions to international peace and security.” According to Lipson, “peacekeeping has never been more than a marginal activity for the Canadian Forces. Canada’s participation in NATO is more important to Canadian security and Canada’s national interest. And Canada’s distorted image of itself as a ‘peacekeeping nation’ promotes an unhealthy and unfounded sense of moral superiority.”
It’s reasonable that experts are frustrated that public opinion affects foreign policy since the everyday citizen doesn’t appreciate the specifics of the issue. Academics, politicians, and military officers may understand the complexities of our involvement in Afghanistan, but they may also want to lead Canada in a direction that citizens do not approve of. Getting ahead in terms of our relationship with the United States and our standing in the international community may be beneficial to Canada, but not when it comes at the cost of more than one hundred dead soldiers. The Canadian government and military should aim to provide real foundation for that national sense of morality we all cherish. Optimistically, 2011 will make the myth a reality.

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