A column written in today’s Toronto Star (of all papers) sums up my view of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. I cheered the columnist along to myself as I read it.
Feb 08, 2008
The Toronto Star – Rondi Adamson
The “deploy more NATO soldiers to Kandahar or we quit in 2009” threat contained in the Manley report strikes me as a sad reflection on current Canadian attitudes. It isn’t that more troops would not be desirable. But what if no NATO country sends us a military “partner”?
According to the report, in spite of the ongoing violence, the Afghan economy has been growing, millions of refugees have returned, more children (of both genders) are in school, child mortality rates are improving and infrastructure is being built.
Are we so small-time and penny ante in our world view as to dismiss the progress made? Do we tell the unprepared Afghan forces and population, “Sorry, you’re on your own”? Do we allow Afghanistan to again become a safe haven for Al Qaeda, again a threat to us and others?
I hope not, because another thing we would lose in the process is our reputation. I would argue that it has improved internationally due to our involvement in Afghanistan.
Far from the myth that most of the world used to view us as benign peacekeepers and now view us as pawns of the Great Satan, it is more likely that most of the world either never thought twice about us, or simply viewed us as an extension of the United States.
Now we are included in adult discussions and asked, in return, to behave like adults, responsibly and with integrity.
Instead we not our soldiers, but citizens and leaders behave like accountants with calculators in hand, tallying up every percentage, dollar, headline, slight or snub (real or imagined) and counting every sacrifice as a cause for indignation and (more) anti-Americanism, rather than as, well, a sacrifice.
Canadians like to believe they are broad-minded global citizens. But the pettiness on display when we complain about the “disproportionately” large load we are carrying in Afghanistan shows us to be self-absorbed, miserly and ignorant of history.
Venturing into the debate over “disproportionate” contributions is dangerous. A small number of countries (including Canada) carried a disproportionately great burden in defeating Nazism, fascism and the Soviet empire. Should those countries have not done so, crying foul instead?
Washington could point out that our military is disproportionately small, given our population and economy. In fact, for our military to be anywhere near proportionately the size of the U.S. military, we would have to double it.
It could also be pointed out that we have given disproportionately little in previous decades, in terms of NATO commitments and international conflicts. During the years leading up to 9/11, our armed forces were effectively defanged, making us unable to contribute proportionately to just about anything.
One of Jack Layton’s wishes is that we abandon Afghanistan in favour of “saving Darfur,” which, if it could be done, would necessitate doing things (invading, killing, getting killed) Layton objects to when done in Afghanistan. That aside, if we had a military proportionate to our size, we could contribute to both wars.
Many Canadians seem to have forgotten two things about Afghanistan. The first is that the 9/11 attacks were attacks on the West. Osama bin Laden himself said as much. This is our battle.
The second is that our military presence in Afghanistan has been authorized under international laws we purport to respect. The Manley report reminds us of this. It also offers a realistic assessment of what it calls a noble mission. Not rosy, not hopeless, but one that requires our continued and valuable (be it disproportionate or not) presence. Rondi Adamson is a Toronto writer.
I’m just back from a horrible ear infection, followed by a week on vacation. Forgive me if I seem a bit rusty. Here’s one of those cartoon progressions:
From the beginning of the year to the end of 2007, the issue of climate change dominated headlines throughout Canada.
The year old cartoon above depicting Stephen Harper as Ebenezer Scrooge captures the moment of epiphany in late 2006 when the Prime Minister came around to the realization that, like it or not, the environment had to become a Conservative priority.
The next cartoon, from February, compares Harper and Jean Chretien with both trying to reverse sagging polls by throwing buckets of money at instant priorities.
Speaking of former Prime Ministers, Brian Mulroney reemerged in public after years of being out of the lime light. 2007 was to be the year the unpopular former PM would attempt to elevate his legacy by defending his record with a 1152 page book of Memoirs. While historians will be eternally grateful, his jabs at Pierre Trudeau provoked predictable howls of outrage from those who thought it was unfair for a living PM to criticize his dead nemesis.
With great anticipation and fanfare, 2007 saw the entry of the next generation of Trudeaus to public life when the stylish but not so substantive Justin was nominated as a Liberal candidate to run the next federal election.
Finally, the other big story of 2007, the strength of the Loonie, and how it has sent thousands of Canadians across to the United States in order to spend, spend, spend.
For more Canadian editorial cartoons go to www.old.mackaycartoons.net/canada.
Uggh. To be a cartoonist and to open up your morning newspaper and to look again at your work from the previous day only to discover a spelling mistake is a very dreadful thing. It’s an immediate grouch maker. You feel stupid, and angry, and worthless, and thoroughly embarassed. I put an apostrophe in a word where it didn’t belong. “It’s” should’ve read “its”. I caught the mistake this morning and I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
In other news… Yesterday’s news of the government moving to restart the nuclear power plant at Chalk River in order to solve the shortage of medical isotopes inspired this cartoon.
I thought I’d pass this by a cousin I have who works at MIT in the area of Chemistry. Here’s what he had to say:
That’s great! I’m going to post this cartoon in my lab at MIT. My co-worker is from Edmonton so she’ll at least get part of the joke.
Science gets such little exposure in popular culture that any attention whatsoever is nice to have.
McMaster has a small nuclear reactor – as do many university-affiliated hospitals – for making radio-isotopes for use in medicine. Some have extremely short half-lives – on the order of hours – so they must be made in-house and used immediately. The more long-lived isotopes, like those made at Chalk River – can be transported.
I work with isotopes on occasion – they have their uses- , but not the radioactive ones which require special training and equipment, not to mention disposal hazards. But there are some people in the labs downstairs who use them. That also might help explain why they are such weirdos. That, and the fact they work in the basement.
Ironically the molecules you’ve drawn our eminent PM as holding look like cyclobutane derivatives. They are quite unstable due to something we call ring strain – carbon doesn’t like to make such small rings – and seeing those little pieces fly off reminds me of the times I’ve tried to build them with model kits and watched the pieces blow up in my hands as I bent them past the breaking point. I’d imagine that radioactive cyclobutanes would be even more unstable, so Isotope Man really has his work cut out for him.
And here it is, on exhibit at the world reknowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Know of any other place where my cartoons are on display? Send me your photos and I’ll post ’em here.