Canada's Conservative government wants to extend the stay of Canadian troops in Afghanistan another two years beyond the current February, 2007 deadline. (See reports from The Globe & Mail and CBC.) After a 6-hour debate tomorrow, members of parliament will vote, and Canadians will have to live with the consequences. Pronounced Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
"What we are doing there is not just protecting our national interests, but providing international leadership and providing real advancement to the standard of living and human rights of the Afghan people."Do these claims stand up? First, how is the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan protecting our national interests? No doubt there will be some grand words in the House of Commons tomorrow, but I'd like to hear a cogent argument, not just hot air. A national child-care plan would be in our national interest, but the Conservatives won't hear of that.
Next, does a foreign military adventure demonstrate international leadership? Perhaps we're supposed to believe this simply because the words "military" and "leadership" happen to be in the same sentence. Living up to our Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions would show real leadership, but instead the Conservative government wants to back out of that agreement.
Finally, is the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan advancing the standard of living and the human rights of the Afghan people? Perhaps, but what's the evidence? And could we achieve more by different means? I believe it would be much better for Canada to provide financial support and diplomatic interventions to nurture real democratic progress in Afghanistan.
I wonder if the Conservatives have anything more than pompous rhetoric to support this military adventure?