Thursday, August 13, 2009

Keeping Canada in Afghanistan

A quick note to address the debate heating up about Canada's commitment to Afghanistan after 2011.

A standard reference (such as Gen (ret) Lewis MacKenzie in today's Globe and Mail) in such debates is that Canada has been in Afghanistan longer than the combined periods of WWI and WWII. Well, I call shenanigans on that. First, Canada has not been in Afghanistan the entire period. Second, but most importantly, Canada's involvement in Afghanistan is nothing like what it did in the two World Wars in scale and scope. 127 dead over the course of eight years is nothing like an hour at Vimy, a day in Normandy, etc. So, this is really a fallacious argument, no disrespect to the General.

And yes, guys have done 4 or 5 tours due to the shortage of Canadian ground-pounders, but also because the tours are six months. A year long tour would mean half as many tours. Pick your stress--frequent rotations or longer ones.

And the casualty rate is likely to go down now that the actual area of operations is going to shrink with the Americans taking up lots of responsiblity in the immediate neighborhood.

I will have to develop a longer rationale for continuing Canada's commitment when I am not so rushed, but I do think it makes more sense to invest in Afghanistan where Canadians have made a real difference than in Arctic Sovereignty against either imaginary threats or ones that are so big that the Canadian investments would be symbolic at best (Canada will not be matching US or Russian military strength up north anytime soon).

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