Nov 30

According to CBC-TV, some 85 percent of those voting on whether WikiLeaks should release huge numbers of US State Department documents believed it should. The CBC said the number of responses - 60,000 - was one of the highest ever for its self-generated (unscientific) polls.

Is the 85 percent of CBC website users correct in its call for total openness? Is it important to have everything a government does, says, or thinks made public? Are we all voyeurs treating government confidential materials and actions as if they were of no more consequences than Lindsay Lohan’s latest titillating brush with substance abuse?

This WikiLeaks release of 250,000 US documents (including 1,958 sent from Ottawa), rolling out in installments all week, is in fact a disaster, putting forth American secrets for all to see, including frank comments made by officials about foreign leaders. Diplomacy relies on confidentiality, but now some lives may be put at risk and some policies may be endangered, a high price to pay for WikiLeaks’ self-assumed mission of putting all secrets on display. What is certain is that officials ever after will likely feel unable to report or speak bluntly for fear their despatches or comments will be published. It will be much like the effect that Access to Information legislation had on Canadian bureaucrats who, once the law came into force, began to keep their real records at home, away from their ministry’s access coordinators’ scrutiny.

The fallacy here is the widespread belief that the crowd is always right, a view much encouraged by Wikipedia and its users. WikiLeaks does its thing, essentially protected by the cheers of the 85 percent. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ devil-in-chief, somehow escapes prosecution because he has popular support and lives in hiding. It is long past time to bring this man down. Even governments have some rights to privacy, and someone must educate the crowd to realities of diplomacy and the meaning of simple rights and wrongs.

J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Research Fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

Nov 26

 Globe and Mail - November 26, 2010

North Korea’s penchant for irrational military strikes against South Korea is similar to the antics of a schoolyard bully. Intimidation and the use of force to compel obeisance or, better still, economic benefit has worked well for North Korea before. It should not be surprising to see this movie again, even though this is the first time since the Korean War that North Korea has attacked land-based targets. That is an alarming escalation of all too typical provocative behaviour by North Korea. The West responds with strong words while Pyongyang knowingly relies on the unflinching support of its neighbour, China.

The attackon the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong comes in the wake of reports from the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Siegfried Hecker, that North Korea’s march to nuclear weapons status is accelerating. Persistent efforts by the six-party negotiators to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and its equally nefarious habit of selling sensitive nuclear materials to the likes of Iran and Myanmar, are proving to be futile.

Just like the schoolyard bully, North Korea pockets the rewards from attempts to negotiate but adamantly and openly refuses to change its behaviour. Talk is no antidote to blatant aggression.

Whether the latest attack is yet another bait-and-switch or “provoke for reward” tactic or a means to prop up the newly designated and, except by heredity, completely unqualified successor to Pyongyang’s Dear Leader is not important. More critical is what North Korea’s neighbours, notably China, will do to contain and pressure better behaviour.

The United States and Japan have limited if not diminishing means of effective response. South Korea, because it is much more economically advanced, is far more vulnerable to sporadic attacks. North Korea, with an economy that is virtually dormant and a population that is mired in abject poverty, has less to lose. The North does have a mighty military, the backbone of its totalitarian regime. But it has little fear of military retaliation, given the limp reaction to previous attacks.

No one wants military hostilities to escalate, but nor should North Korea’s irrational action be rewarded, as it has been in the past. China’s priority has for too long been ostensibly to prevent the collapse of the North Korean regime and the potential flood of refugees into China.

The threat North Korea’s provocations pose to instability in Northeast Asia and to nuclear proliferation on a global scale should command greater concern. China alone provides or facilitates virtually all of the foreign goods needed to sustain a meagre life for most North Koreans, along with luxuries for those who rule. If China genuinely wants to demonstrate that it can play a role as a responsible global power, commensurate with its rising economic strength, it should do more than urge others to re-engage the six-party discussions with the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States. A public-wringing of hands will have little effect in yet another fruitless round of negotiation.

China should, instead, exercise its tangible influence to rectify the erratic antics of its neighbour. No more bribes, no more blandishments, no more circular diplomacy. It is time to tame the bully with leverage only China is able to exercise.

Derek H. Burney, Senior Strategic Advisor to Ogilvy Renault and Senior Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, was Canada’s ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1978 to 1980

Nov 25

J.L. Granatstein:

Ms. DiManno, you’re missing the point. Here is a post at the 3Ds blog I put up yesterday.

Rosie DiManno:

I don’t believe I’m missing the point. Why would you (or the Canadian Forces) think that “disobeying” a policy by having sex during deployment would render a commander less able to make proper decisions on the battlefield, or cause him to lose troop confidence?

I’m not ignorant about the military. I do understand the need for discipline. But some rules are so untenable, so archaic, they should be deleted from policy.

You think affairs don’t happen in newsrooms? Or government ministries? Or law enforcement? Or academia?

You see Tiger Woods banned from Augusta? Or President Clinton booted from the White House? I have immense respect for the military. But they need to grow up about sex, and stop thinking of it as toxic, destroyer of a man’s brain and reputation.

J.L. Granatstein:

Rosie, if I’m distracted by sex, how can I focus on the battlefield? If I’m hiding an affair in Kandahar, how can I devote full attention to the fighting in Panjwai? If I’m in charge of discipline how can I break the rules? If I ask someone to destroy evidence, why shouldn’t I face jail? The rules may be archaic, but they are rules and the CO must enforce them - on himself, too.

I appreciate that you know the CF and that you fire back at critics, but you’re wrong and every soldier would know it.

Rosie DiManno:

I don’t think sex makes people crazy - unless they’re already screwed up in the head, hence Russell Williams. And favouritism exists whether sex is a factor or not. I suspect people bend over backwards not to be seen favouring someone they love, or are being intimate with.

As I said before, rules that criminalize or fetishize inoffensive behaviour - i.e. sexual relations between willing adults - are an anachronism and should be ditched.

Menard’s troops may have indulged in gossip, some may have been resentful, but I simply don’t believe any would have refused to follow him in battle - not for this reason anyway.

Soldiers aren’t priests. (Well, some are but you know what I mean)

Nov 25

Nov 24, 2010 - Toronto Star

Golly. Why not just give the poor guy 40 lashes, Taliban-style? I mean, if we’re going to get all punitively hysterical about it.

Ex-colonel Russell Williams killed two women and got life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years, which is as far as the Criminal Code will extend unless a felon is formally deemed to be a “dangerous offender.”

Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard allegedly made love to a woman in uniform - or, presumably, out of uniform - and some people are tossing around the prospect of rotting behind bars: consecutive maximum sentences that could, theoretically, add up to 40 years before the mast, hoisted by his own petard.

It’s preposterous, of course.

There is a Criminal Code sentencing guide that applies to members of the Canadian Forces as well as civilians. But men and women in service are also subject to charges and punishment under the National Defence Act, which encompasses Criminal Court violations.

Thing is, no military historian I contacted Wednesday could recall an instance of a soldier actually brought to trial for having sex with a subordinate, under the extremely broad application of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline,” under Section 120 of the Defence Act.

Menard, Canada’s former top soldier in Afghanistan, is facing - technically - prison time and dishonourable discharge if convicted on two charges of conduct prejudicial and four for obstructing justice. The former relates to a five-month fling Menard had with a subordinate (a word I really don’t like in the context of intimate relations); the latter, according to sources, arise from Menard allegedly asking the woman to delete email messages he’d sent her.

Both were yanked out of Kandahar earlier this year, sent home in disgrace for purportedly sharing a leg-over whilst in-theatre, “sexual relations” that began Nov. 15, 2009, and lasted until April 27, 2010.

Somebody must have been keeping a jelly roll log.

Although the no-nookie directive is not mentioned in the Defence Act, what exists is a policy forbidding romance or sex between deployed soldiers - even married personnel - when posted overseas.

From my own nocturnal meanderings around KAF, the huge military base outside Kandahar city, I can emphatically report that this is not a policy directive being followed to the letter - at least not judging from the amorous sounds filtering out of tents and Quonset huts.

Let’s get realistic here: Far from home, living in close quarters, physically fit men and women coping with boredom punctuated by the occasional sharp up-tick of adrenalin and the very real threat of danger, it is entirely human nature to seek out comforts of the flesh.

Proscriptions against physical intimacy may be intended to safegaurd morale - or so the tall forehead brass claim - but the opposite is true in practice; a good fraternizing snog can do wonders for esprit de corps. Further, because the ban has never been tested in court, it’s entirely possible the no-sex rule could run afoul of freedom of association rights in the Canadian charter.

Menard’s sin, the reason they’re throwing the book at him, clearly derives from the uber-offence of shagging down - the general and the master-corporal, with its implicit aye-aye-sir power dynamics.

The mook may not be fit for command. Menard did, after all, earlier commit the boner of negligently discharging his rifle while preparing to board a helicopter, with Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, looking on - which earned Menard a $3,500 fine. It was further rumoured that he dragged his heels about fessin’ up to the embarrassing incident, though this is difficult to imagine, with Natynczyk as a witness.

But there’s been no evidence, at least not revealed publicly or in legal disclosures, that Menard - Canada’s youngest general, a bright light whose career appeared headed for the stratosphere - had amassed any kind of disciplinary or complaint file.

“Who did he piss off?” wondered his layer, Lt. Col. Troy Sweet, in a telephone interview Wednesday.

It’s unclear where the complaint against Menard came from, though it’s believed that the woman with whom he got jiggy in Kandahar will be summoned as a witness for the prosecution at trial, the Star has learned. Original reports suggested it was a third party that ratted on the twosome.

Menard, father of two, was married at the time of the affair, which may be not nice but is hardly criminal conduct. He’s still married. His wife is also a member of the Canadian Forces.

Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois, the “other woman,” has been fined $700 for her part in the alleged affair and received a reprimand during a summary trial that was held in September.

“I can understand a larger fine for (Menard) because he was in a command position,” says Sweet. “So, what, double the fine? Yet they relieved him of command. Wasn’t that punishment enough?”

Sweet says Menard has decided to leave the military willingly and has already begun the severance process.

The harshness of the undertaking brought to bear against Menard by the military is incomprehensible. “I can remember only one case of dismissal with disgrace over the past 40 years and that had nothing to do with an affair,” says Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel who practises law in Ottawa.

“We’ve seen so many cases of sexual misconduct in civilian life, involving politicians, teachers, even priests. And they’ve been sanctioned for it, personally and professionally. But it’s not often that they’re fired with disgrace.

“In my experience with the military, this kind of situation was always handled privately. Sometimes they’re recalled from a diplomatic posting or removed from a command position. But did the whole world have to know that Menard was having an affair? Does this belong in a courtroom?

“Okay, maybe Menard has been a bad cat, maybe he’s been adulterous. But the military even put out a press release about it. Did we really need all those fireworks?”

Going out with a bang…

Nov 24

So Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard is to face a court-martial for his conduct in Afghanistan. An officer with two children and a wife serving in the army in Canada, Ménard apparently had an affair with a married female corporal on his staff and then - again this is only alleged at this point - tried to obstruct justice by urging the corporal to withdraw her comments and then to delete their compromising emails. He also apparently tried to get another officer to get the corporal to erase the incriminating material.

Army orders forbade sexual liaisons in the field, and Ménard, the officer charged with enforcing discipline on the Canadian troops serving under his command, had made his own position completely untenable. Ottawa was correct to relieve him from command. Curiously, many civilian commentators in a Canada that understands almost nothing of the military saw little wrong with Ménard’s conduct. Why not have sex on the battlefield?, they asked. Virtually every ex-military commentator, however, understood that discipline had to be enforced and that those whose task it was to do so had to set the example.

Unstated so far by any of those writing on this case is that Ménard had charge of the battlefield on which Canadian soldiers were fighting the Taliban. If I were a platoon warrant hearing the gossip - and I’m all but certain there must have been gossip that the general was a “stickman” - how confident could I possibly be that the officer in charge was giving his job his full attention? That job, of course, was to take care of his troops and ensure that their deployments in action were the correct ones.

It’s not about sex, in other words. It’s about disobying orders and being distracted from the important aspects - the only important aspects - of the job. If he is found guilty, Ménard should be busted in rank and dishonourably discharged.

J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

Nov 23

November 22, 2010

I proceed with some trepidation for the NATO Summit concluded barely 48 hours ago. It is helpful that NATO is so superbly organized that all the Summit documents were made instantly available, as well as voluminous background material.

In brief, let me accord this particular NATO summit an A minus. It delivered on the most important issues before it and launched initiatives in a number of areas that will stand it in good stead in the future.

It wasn’t a complete triumph, however, for the Summit failed to rebrand itself in the public mind and missed some opportunities to move forward in areas that are of some consequence to Canada.

The highlights were these:

  1. Approval of a new Strategic Concept that articulates well the Alliance’s mission and purpose - and for the first time, I believe, outlines a vision to guide its future decisions.
  2. Agreement on a program to protect not just NATO deployed forces but also NATO populations and territories from attack by ballistic missile. With the plans now in place, every NATO country has taken a decision to protect itself from ballistic missiles except Canada.
  3. A transition plan for Afghanistan that will see Afghan forces assume increased responsibility for their own security, with a view to their leading, and conduction of, security operations in all provinces by the end of 2014.
  4. A new beginning with Russia. There have been others:this one looks promising. The Russians appear to have turned a page, in that their fear of NATO has diminished sufficiently for them to contemplate cooperation on such a neuralgic issue as BMD, to expand their engagement with NATO nations on other issues and to increase their support for NATO’s operations in Afghanistan.

These are remarkable achievements - and stand in stark contrast to the sterile pronouncements and empty achievements so often associated with the United Nations. It’s a good thing, in this day and age, that there is an organization as responsible and effective as NATO in the field of international relations and security.

These achievements were good for Canada to.

But I should point out that there is still a question that needs to be answered: Is NATO becoming a European security organization with a couple of North American add-ons? This may not matter much to the United States, but it matters greatly to Canada.

Why do I ask the question? Because the Alliance’s Euro-centric dimensions were very much evident in Lisbon, because the commitment of Europeans to expeditionary operations remains suspect and because the financial arrangements for funding the organization still hugely disadvantage Canada.

Paul Chapin is a recently retired Canadian diplomat with extensive service.

Nov 23

The Canadian government made the right decision in deciding to continue a Canadian presence through a training mission in Afghanistan after 2011, but it made the decision in the wrong way: without a vote of Parliament. Ironically, the Official Opposition Liberal Party was culpable in setting this poor precedent.

With the exception of Canada’s declaration of war against Germany in September 1939, Canadian governments never sought Parliamentary approval for the deployment of Canadian troops into war zones from 1945 until 2006. Both the Liberal and Conservative parties followed this practice. Strictly speaking, and in accordance with the written words of our constitution, the executive branch (i.e., the Governor in Council - the cabinet) doesn’t need the permission of Parliament to do so. But, participating in a war without the support of Parliament runs the risk that the people of Canada, who not only pay for the war, but send their sons, daughters, husbands and wives into harm’s way in fighting that war, will not support the effort with any real degree of enthusiasm, if at all. Put another way, the evolution of Canadian democracy ought to make parliamentary votes on troop deployments to war zones mandatory.

In all of Canada’s post-Second World War deployments, governments simply announced the decision to send troops to war. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent sent Canadian troops to Korea in 1950 in a radio address to the country. There were no votes on any of the peacekeeping missions Canada’s troops undertook, even the contentious ones in the Balkans in the 1990’s, the 1991 Gulf War or the 1999 air war against Serbia.

The Liberals, under Prime Minister Jean Chretien, introduced the notion of the “take note” debate in the 1990s, when the House of Commons would set time aside from its regular business to have a debate - really a discussion - over a troop commitment already made, but with no vote taken. The first vote on whether or not to deploy troops ahead of the actual deployment took place in March of 2006, when newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for a vote in the House of Commons over whether or not to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan to 2008. In 2008, another vote was taken in the House that extended the mission to 2011.

But now there is to be no vote on extending the mission beyond 2011 because, the Prime Minister suggests, the mission will be restricted to training the Afghan Army “behind the wire” and will thus involve no combat. The strong implication is that there is no more need to vote on this “non-combat” mission than there was to deploy troops to Haiti in the aftermath of last January’s earthquake.

But there is a very significant difference between the need to act quickly to deploy troops in times of emergencies, either natural or man-made, and the deliberate extension of a mission in a war zone, even if that mission is designated as non-combat. Canadians may not fight in Afghanistan after 2011, but they will be helping NATO and Afghanistan in a fight and they will be living and training in a war zone where they will still be subject to mortal danger. Simply put, the excellent precedent that Prime Minister Stephen Harper established in 2006, and reiterated in 2008, is now being undone by he himself.

But the Prime Minister isn’t alone in turning the clock back on troop deployment. The Liberal Opposition is going along right with him. In fact, the Liberals themselves mooted the idea of a training mission last summer after Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae visited Afghanistan. This newest mission extension, then, won’t be voted on because neither the Liberals, nor the Conservatives, want to test their party’s mettle in a House of Commons debate and vote. It’s a sweetheart deal all the way.

There is some comfort here for those who believe that Canada has paid too high a price in Afghanistan to simply walk away. Both major national parties are on the same side of the issue and this is good. It would have been even better to see the MPs of both major national parties standing side by side in a new vote of affirmation of the nation’s commitment to the cause.

David Bercuson is a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Nov 19

Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau - Toronto Star 

LISBON, PORTUGAL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s calculated political stance as an anti-Russian cold warrior has made Canada an irrelevant, mischievous force within the NATO alliance, according to a former Canadian diplomat.

Christopher Westdal, who served as ambassador to Russia from 2003 to 2006, blasted Canada’s outdated foreign policy stance toward the former Soviet state as outdated and specifically designed to win over ethnic votes in Canada. In doing so, Ottawa has removed itself from the debate over “sound security policy.”

As leaders of the 28-nation military alliance gather in Lisbon starting Friday, Harper will be on firm ground only when talk turns to the nine-year Afghan war, which Canada has committed to participating in until 2014.

But when leaders discuss the so-called Strategic Concept – the future of the alliance – and better relations with Russia, Canada becomes the most marginal of players, he says.

“Our prime minister’s credibility is undermined by widespread suspicion that his government’s policy in East-West security relations is tailored to suit Ukranian, Baltic and other Russo-phobe diaspora voting blocs in Canada,” Westdal writes in a policy paper for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

“Rigid neo-con antipathy to Russia (reinforced by conservative national media) and a foreign policy narrowly designed for diasporas have led us to the margins of irrelevance and mischief.”

At the NATO table, those policies include long-standing support for extending alliance membership to Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics.

Canada, along with the United States and a few other countries, championed the two countries’ bids to join NATO in 2008, when Russia was engaged in a brief, bloody border war with Georgia. Alliance relations with Moscow have been frosty ever since.

Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Harper, said while the contentious issue of new NATO memberships are not likely to be broached at this two-day meeting, the government’s position is unchanged.

“It’s Ukraine that we are supporting entering the alliance, provided they want to,” he said.

Nevertheless, Harper will meet privately with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Friday, as will U.S. President Barack Obama.

The catch is that Ukraine, which voted in Victor Yanukovych as president earlier this year, no longer aspires to join the alliance.

Georgia still does hope to join NATO, where it hopes to benefit from the mutual defence the alliance offers when one of its members comes under attack.

Harper met Friday with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili just before the official opening of the summit.

“As you know, we’re very appreciative of your efforts with NATO in Afghanistan and also, we’re big supporters of your NATO aspirations,” Harper said.

Ottawa’s menacing stance toward Russia goes further, Westdal says. It includes very public complaints about Russian bomber flights encroaching on Canada’s Arctic territory, which experts have judged to be out of proportion to the threat those flights pose. Canada has also imposed new visa questionnaires that require Russians seeking to enter the country to disclose their membership in a political party, trade union and the particulars of their military service.

Russians can be sent to prison for providing such information to a foreign government, and the dispute between Moscow and Ottawa is yet another irritant in the already strained relationship.

“In Moscow. . . we’ve just been hard to take seriously these last five years, what with the open antipathy in our Last Cold Warrior Standing posture,” Westdal says. “Such nonsense gets notices – and does us no good.”

On Saturday, NATO nations will sit down with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for the first time in years to discuss building closer ties and better relations. That will include new plans to build a missile defence shield across Europe – something Moscow once took as a personal threat but to which it has now warmed.

Russia will also agree to help out the NATO coalition in Afghanistan by transporting equipment and supplies by rail and providing helicopter and counter-narcotic support.

Most countries’ outmoded attitudes toward Russia have been successfully recast, Westdal says.

“Ours never were. The world has moved on, but neo-con thought is alive and well in Ottawa. We need to lift our sights and our game.”

To read the full article from Christopher Westdal visit www.cdfai.org

Nov 18

Citizen Special November 18, 2010

The ultimate test for any democracy, on issues relating to defence and security, is its maturity — and by this I mean its capacity, on occasion, to set aside pettifogging partisanship in the interest of a higher cause. The coming re-calibration of our Afghanistan NATO deployment will be just such a test of maturity on all sides.

To date, parliamentary deliberations on Afghanistan, while intense and principled, have not been narrowly partisan. As an example, the June report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, comprised of committee members of both stripes, unanimously recommended a continued training mission in Afghanistan post-2011 to assist the stand-up of a national security-capable Afghan army as soon as possible.

This committee is chaired by Senator Pamela Wallin, a Conservative from Saskatchewan, and Senator Romeo Dallaire, a Liberal from Quebec. The former was consul general to New York in the immediate post-9-11 period and a leading member of the independent panel on Afghanistan headed by John Manley; the latter is a former general in the Canadian Forces with multiple mission experience and a leading advocate on issues such as genocide and child soldiers.

On March 30, I made a statement in the Senate appealing for a continued Canadian military presence post-2011 in Afghanistan, which need not in any way violate the terms of the joint parliamentary resolution that mandated the end of combat operations in Kandahar province by July 2011. That statement paid tribute to the prime pinister and the Official Opposition leader for their faithful reflection of the 2008 resolution that followed the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan.

Much of what was called for by the panel, more helicopters and more NATO re-enforcements in Kandahar for example, has been provided.

And, in fact, one should remember that this deployment originally began under the Chretien and Martin governments and has been continued under the present Conservative administration. It began when a Princess Patricia’s battle group joined the initial American and Afghan allies’

assaults on Taliban strongholds in and near Kandahar. Canada then redeployed to Kabul in order to stabilize the city for the establishment of a new government and the first elections. Subsequently, Canada deployed to the toughest part of the country, which was Kandahar, to contain the insurgency and hold the fort so the rest of Afghanistan could make progress.

This was done at a real cost of casualties and capacity but the Canadian Forces, diplomats, police and development people carried on.

Now that large commitments of American forces are helping to change conditions on the ground, the manner in which this NATO deployment ends is very much a factor of how effectively Afghans themselves are trained. That Canadians, who have been in the country for a decade in the toughest of circumstances, should be trusted as trainers by the Afghan Army, its government and our NATO allies, should surprise no one who knows the men and women of our armed forces. Their professionalism, courage, competence, flexibility and determination are legendary and precisely the qualities an experienced training operation on the ground needs.

The recently announced new deployment of Canadians for training purposes is really a non-combat mission that, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated, does not necessarily require parliamentary approval, unlike the dispatch of troops for any major combat mission. Keep in mind that it was Harper who, to his credit, established the principle that a parliamentary vote is required when a major combat deployment is to take place. Training behind the wire, or at a war college facility in Kabul, does correspond to the 2008 joint resolution passed by Parliament and supported by both government members and those in the official opposition.

This is not a time for beggar-thy-neighbour debates about who is for war or who is for peace.

A well-trained and capable Afghan army is both the key and the essential prerequisite for any eventual NATO withdrawal and any authentic, durable peace in Afghanistan. Almost universally when one talks to Canadians who have served, either through the regular forces or the many reserve units that have been vital to the Canadian operation, many who have done several tours of duty, they want Canada to stay until the opportunity for a unified NATO draw down is real. That draw down will be the result of training and capacity building with Afghan forces, police and civil society and an accommodation between Afghans themselves. It is the next crucial objective and Canada’s ability to contribute substantially and effectively to its attainment should be endorsed by parliamentarians as soon as possible.

This is not about partisan differences in foreign and defence policy here; it is about Canada as a trusted NATO partner committing to the next central priority in the stabilization and development of Afghanistan.

Hugh Segal is the Senator for Kingston-Frontenac-Leeds and a senior fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Nov 18

Many in Canada howl that we should be militarily involved in Afghanistan because the government is too corrupt:

“Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt nation on earth, just after Somalia, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based advocacy group. That represents a level of corruption difficult to imagine and this is why allies now see the Karzai government as a bigger threat to the instability of Afghanistan right now than even the Taliban insurgency.

“This is what the money of Canadians and the lives of our soldiers are supporting and it is a battle that we cannot win. We should leave now.”

Yet our government is working very hard, with general approval, to strengthen links with another country in the area (which the Liberals are also mad keen on courting) that has very serious corruption problems of its own:

Canada-India trade talks overshadowed by corruption scandals

The difference? India is a country that lights up dollar signs in Canadian eyes. While corruption in Afghanistan is really just a convenient justification for those flatly opposed to our military presence there.

There are also major human rights problems in both countries, but we only obsess about them in one. There’s a hell of a lot of willfully blinkered hypocrisy in Canada.

Kashmir and the Great Game - and Double standards

In fact we are so desperate to gain Indian favour - and business - that we even abandon our supposed principles on human rights:

Tories apologize to India over visa feud

The Harper Government has issued a groveling apology to India in a spat that began when Canadian visa officers barred several members of the country’s security agencies from coming here.

New Delhi had summoned Canada’s high commissioner to lodge a protest over the rejection of Indians who had worked for its army or intelligence services in the contested Kashmir region - which the Canadian visa officers termed notoriously violent.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued a statement Friday saying Canada works closely on security matters with India.

“The Government of Canada therefore deeply regrets the recent incident in which letters drafted by public service officials during routine visa refusals to Indian nationals cast false aspersions on the legitimacy of work carried out by Indian defence and security institutions, which operate under the framework of democratic processes and the rule of law,” Mr. Kenney said in the statement”.

See the post above about Kashmir for more about that “rule of law”. Mr. Kenney might also do well to read this:

In India, Torture by Police is Frequent and Often Deadly

Canadians are no pure boy scouts. Like everyone else, we see what we want to see to suit our purposes; and then we also have our own supremely smug self-satisfied regard. Nonetheless we essentially follow our self-interest.

I would also point out that by staying seriously engaged in Afghanistan we have at least some chance of affecting its government’s behaviour on these matters.

Mark Collins is a prolific blogger at Unambiguously Ambidextrous