Asking the wrong question about Afghanistan

This quote struck me as exactly what’s wrong with how some people frame the debate about Canada in Afghanistan:

“In the shoddy, shallow, squalid and grotesquely politicized ‘debate’ in Canada about Afghanistan and the role of our military there, the one question that matters more than any other is how we can prevent the return of this kind of savagery, still wreaking its havoc just across the border in Pakistan”

Shoddy, shallow, squalid. This has all the hallmarks of the sort of self-hating conservative Canadian mindset (Andrew Coyne sinks into this every so often). That’s not the problem I want to deal with now. My greater concern comes from framing the debate as “how can we prevent the return of this kind of savagery” when I think we have yet to answer whether we can prevent anything in Afghanistan.

Sure, we can occupy the country, we can control the airspace, we can go into a village (more than once, if need be) and clear out all the apparent bad guys. All this will be for nothing though if the Afghans (or even a good-sized percentage of them) simply refuse us. It is not as though they are without reason. Let’s remember who we installed as their new leaders – essentially the non-Taliban warlords. We’re also killing the livelihood of too many farmers to deal with heroin on our shores.

We might drive some more extreme elements of Taliban rule underground or to the fringes of Afghan society, but I do not believe that we can fully do away with it in five or ten years. Perhaps we can not do away with it at all. If a great number of Afghans are simply not interested in elections, constitutional government, and the other elements of a modern nation state – these will leave with the last C-17 to fly out of the country.

It would be nice to think that we could really, permanently effect change for those oppressed by the Taliban or whoever, I just do not believe it’s possible that a bunch of strangers speaking an alien language and living in armed camps can remake a whole society – no matter how genuine or well-intentioned they may be.


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