Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Maj.Gen. Lewis MacKenzie +1 Jack Layton -7,912,368

UPDATE: I've put up the entire article as I've managed to get behind the subscriber wall.

This Globe and Mail article gives Jack Layton a nice (deserving) kick in arse:

The Afghan mission is not a failure
There's 'tradition' and then there's getting the job done, says retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

As the leader of a party that has little chance of governing the country, the NDP's Jack Layton can accept the political risk of holding up a mirror to the government's decisions and occasionally acting as our national conscience. On the subject of Canada's role in Afghanistan, however, I fear he is dead wrong and am left to wonder if he is following the polls and playing domestic politics on the backs of our soldiers.

Mr. Layton says that he and the NDP support our soldiers but question the wisdom and achievability of NATO's mission in Afghanistan. And, having said that, he goes on to say the mission is the wrong mission for Canada and is, at the very least, unclear. I can only assume Mr. Layton's call for a withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2007, to pursue more traditional Canadian roles involving mediation and negotiation, is based on a widely held myth that we are better than the rest of the 192 nations in the United Nations at the dated concept of "peacekeeping."

Peacekeeping between states that went to war and needed an excuse to stop fighting worked relatively well during the Cold War and Canada played a role in each and every mission. Mind you, at the height of our participation in UN missions during the 1970s and '80s we had a maximum of 2,000 soldiers wearing the blue beret deployed abroad in places such as Cyprus and the Golan Heights. At the same time, we had 10,000 personnel serving with NATO on the Central Front in Germany, armed with nuclear weapons, ready and waiting for the Soviet hoards to attack across the East German border. Peacekeeping was a sideline activity. We did it well, along with others such as Sweden, India, Norway, Brazil -- but it was never even close to being our top priority.

The other Canadian myth that might have influenced Mr. Layton's ill-timed call for our withdrawal is the oft-quoted description of Canada's policies being "even-handed," "neutral" or "impartial." We never take a stand for fear of upsetting someone. But the facts surrounding even our exaggerated peacekeeping role explode this troubling myth. For example, in the approval process preceding the very first UN lightly armed peacekeeping mission -- stick-handled by Lester Pearson through a hesitant Security Council in 1956 -- Canada voted against the British and French and, by default, sided with Egypt. We took a stand.

To suggest, as Mr. Layton does, that we should pull out of the Afghan mission next year and return to our more "traditional" roles ignores one compelling fact. There will be no significant capability for any nation to carry out those "traditional" roles of nation-building in southern Afghanistan until those who are committed to stopping such undertakings are removed from the equation.

In other words, by leaving, we would be saying to the remaining 36 nations on the ground in Afghanistan, "Hey guys, this is getting pretty difficult. We have decided to leave and go home, but don't worry, when the rest of you have put down this insurrection and things are peaceful, we will return and offer our vastly superior skills in putting countries back together. So please, call us as soon as the shooting stops -- for good."

For all those who, like Mr. Layton, say the mission is imprecise, unclear, without an exit strategy, etc., let me disagree and say that to a NATO military commander the mission is crystal clear.

It is to leave Afghanistan as quickly as humanly possible -- having turned the security of the country over to competent Afghan military and police forces controlled in their efforts by a democratically elected national government. Sounds pretty clear to me.

Retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie was the first commander of United Nations peacekeeping forces in Sarajevo


Anonymous Alex Meyers said...

Far too few people are able to see the distinction between supporting the troops and supporting the war. We can support the troops without having to support the war. Supporting the troops means not putting them unnecessarily in harms way.

It took the soviets ten years and tens of thousands of troops the realize that Afganistan could not be pacified. The British empire made several costly attempts to make inroads in Afghanistan, all of which failed. Why do we think we are any different?

Tue Sep 12, 11:23:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...

Hey Alex,

I agree, people often fail the make the distinction between supporting the troops and criticizing the mission. I made this point here.

However, I wish that, when Layton and other politicians figure wishing to criticize the mission, I wish that they also came to the microphone wearing a support our troops T-shirt or had a magnetic support our troops car magnet.

Alex you bring up a great point that bears discussing more, but unfortunately the MSM, political figures and supporters on both side of the spectrum, present company included, fail to make this distinction.

When Layton or anyone from the Liberal party opens their mouths about the mission, I feel as they do not support the troops. I cannot take very many people on the left side of the spectrum seriously when it comes to military issues.

Unfortunately, I have never heard anyone at Trent, or from the left-side of the political spectrum that can tell me about the family who was in the war, who grew up in cadets, who respect the military. Instead I hear the "make-love-not-war" or the more current mantra "it's about the oil" and when many people try to talk about the mission, or this sloppy article from the media.

If you read the article it's sloppy in so many ways. Juarez was a Reservists, and thus Afghanistan is a voluntary mission, and the time frame that he would be in Afghanistan is too soon, he couldn't be in Afghanistan early next year, because the training for it is 6 months long. The wording of being "lured" into the military is troublesome. Check out this this piece that also criticizes the article about the celebrated (by the NDP)war resister

Then with the Liberals, they are the ones that gutted the military and left it in shambles.

Although I have never found anyone with these qualities, you may very well be a rarity Alex ;) (but then again you had your experience in Borden and cadets to "lure" you to support the troops.

So when the NDP or Liberals criticize the mission, I take it as they do not support the troops either because of their history/past actions.

But I, too, am biased as well, I come from a military family, and I have friends in Afghanistan too. We all have our biases.

Thanks Alex for sharing your thoughts!

Tue Sep 12, 03:07:00 PM EDT  

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