I read what Cherniak, The Amazing Wonderdog, Babylon Project, Kerplonka, Daimnation, Paper Dynamite Online, and Le Revue Gauche had to say on this topic.
Understand first that I actively and vigourously opposed the Iraq war from the outset. I can even state what caused me to really become completely and utterly opposed to it. A speech and press conference at Camp David on Sept 7 2002 between Bush and Blair that claimed the IAEA has issued a report stating Saddam was potentially as close as six months from a working nuclear device. I knew from following Saddam's actions since the 1991-92 Gulf War that this was bogus. I followed him because I had actively supported that war from the day Iraq swallowed Kuwait, long before any propaganda/media campaign was started to drum up support, a campaign I might add that nearly turned me into an opponent because of its patent religious overtones " A just war, a moral war" I believe GHWB sold it as. However, my reason was simple, this was the first significant international conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain which was the de facto end of the Cold War. To set the precedent of one country being able to invade and assimilate another without challenge was a VERY BAD IDEA to me. It would lead to an extremely unstable and violent international reality, as opposed to the relatively peaceful one we got for the transition from the Cold War to what we live in today. Well, it was going reasonably well until 9/11/01 and especially after GWB and the GOP saw it as the perfect domestic tool to create the permanent GOP majority in both the Executive and Legislative branches by having a war on a domestic political timetable...aka Iraq.
However, Afghanistan is not Iraq, and it is to me incredibly irresponsible to even consider treating them as the same. Afghanistan was a reasonable response to 9/11/01 and the actions of the Taliban both before and especially after that fateful day where bin Laden was concerned as well as the training camps of the various Islamic terrorist groups particularly Iraq. The international community was united as I have rarely ever seen them be, especially on the topic of invading a country and overthrowing the government. This was not something bullied through by an aggressive America/Bush, indeed I was for the first six months or so after 9/11/01 being very surprised and having to give Bush credit for how sane and sensible his actions were up to that point. Seeing as I was someone that saw GWB as utterly incompetent for the Presidency since well before he chose to run for the GOP nomination that was no small feat.
Canada also along with every other NATO signatory declared Article Five was invoked. This stated that an attack on one was an attack on all, which given the makeup of those killed in the WTC attack in terms of nationalities was an additional reason to see this as not just an attack on America but the western world itself at the minimum. We have accepted responsibilities here that we have done our best in following through on despite the clearly deficient force and equipment levels of our Armed Forces for this mission. I happen to feel this is something we committed to for the right reasons at the time and that are still as valid now as they were then. The fact that Bushco caused America to abuse this so as to make it easier for them to attack Iraq by virtue of having the strong alliance in one front of this two front war they were embarking upon while regrettable does not change our commitment here. Indeed, I see it as very important to our long-term interests to follow through here even if it means we suffer significant casualties. The nature of warfare makes this an inevitable consequence of the profession. What is important is that this is not wasted, done for immoral/bad reasons, and especially not for a dishonourable cause/basis. This is despite all the Americans have done and not done in Afghanistan still an honourable responsibility Canada shares, we helped to overthrow a government and we have the responsibility to help stabilize the country and establish a better government that provides stability and hopefully the ability to become increasingly self governing/accountable to the people of Afghanistan. Until we have finished that task to the best of our and our allies abilities we cannot in good faith withdraw, at least I do not think so.
I do not like having to accept the fact that this position means I am inevitably supporting Canadian deaths as well as Afghanistani deaths, particularly any innocents as a result of collateral damage. However, we live in a world where force is in some circumstances necessary. Indeed, I fear this will be true so long as human beings exist, given our inherently flawed nature and our very human ability to self delude ourselves rather than face reality as it actually is. Combine that with the drive for power that runs through so many human beings and we will always need to defend against such abuses by those that see force and death as perfectly fine means to get ahead in the world. I realize that there are some in the progressive side that do not feel that Afghanistan is somewhere where we belong, but I cannot agree. While I think the "war on terror" is nonsense, I do believe there is a very real threat posed by these religious extremists/terrorists, and I thought this was a serious threat back in the mid to late 90s. 9/11/01 did not surprise me nor shock me the day it happened, although it certainly saddened me. I expected something of that degree from bin Laden, especially after the embassy bombings in Africa a few years earlier. We live in a world where asymmetrical warfare is going to be the main model followed I believe, and one where in which when one combines that reality with the increasingly powerful and available weapons of mass death and/or destruction is something we must treat seriously. We cannot afford to ignore that reality. I will add though that this religious extremism that threatens modern western society does not just comes from without, it also comes from within from many within the more fundamentalist Christian sects, especially in America but nowhere near limited to them. The main reason the American ones are so particularly dangerous is because of the power of America itself as well as the degree of clear political influence/control they have been demonstrating the last decade or two now.
One of the best works I have ever found for understanding much of the world around us is from Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Their works Future Shock, The Third Wave, and Powershift along with War and Anti-War help makes sense of so much I find. I see the rise of religious fundamentalism as a direct result of the fundamental change in the nature of power itself. No longer is it merely land or money, information itself has become the currency/form of power of the world we are in and even more so in the world we are creating and have been for the last several decades now. There are those people that find such a world where free flowing information and a necessity to be able to think/reason for oneself frightening. They find it too difficult to operate in such a world, they need things to be simpler and following routines they comprehend for them to be able to function. Then there are those religious figures/leaders that find the idea of their followers thinking for themselves instead of following what they are preaching/saying a direct threat to their power base. Not to mention those belonging to a political/philosophical/ideological movement/group which requires surrendering critical thought in deference of the leader and/or to the ideology/philosophy/political beliefs themselves. There is more than these generalizations in my thinking on this, but they do help demonstrate why I see the rise of religious fundamentalism and its increased presence in political affairs within governments as a symptom of something more than an underlying driving cause.
We are a very secular country, Canada is. We have an inherent interest in seeing religious fundamentalism not become the dominant political governance of other countries as well as opposing it in our own. The conflict in Afghanistan I see as something that furthers those interests, a reasoned response to a serious attack on 9/11/01, setting a limit on what a government can excuse within its borders and not be held accountable for it, and to not breaking our commitment when we invoked Article Five of NATO regarding Afghanistan. There are many other reasons that others will have for why they agree or disagree with Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. This however is mine, and it is a mission I continue to support and see as morally justifiable, even considering the abuses America has committed. We are still being seen as a country of laws and principles, and how we continue to deal with Afghanistan is something I believe that will have a significant long-term impact on this perception as well. I do think though that if there are not more resources poured in from the other partners, particularly America herself, that this is going to fail eventually. I am not happy acknowledging that, but is unfortunately what appears to be the reality. The Taliban are not gone, they are resurgent in the outlying areas. In the event of withdrawal before a stable government has been established with the means to protect itself from overthrow I suspect the Taliban would be the de facto government again within a year at the most given the current reality. However, until that point is reached we must continue to support this mission, even knowing the terrible price some will have to suffer as the costs of this mission inevitably increase over time.
War is never a good thing, but it is unfortunately occasionally a necessary thing. One can be opposed to the abuse of war without being a pacifist or inherently anti-war at all costs, something I believe some people have a hard time understanding. Afghanistan is a necessary conflict, Iraq never was. The one thing Afghanistan will not become again quickly is the primary training ground for terrorist groups, Iraq has more than adequately replaced anything they could have learned in Afghanistan, both before the 9/11/01 attacks as well as after. We (NATO/West/America) are not doing as well by the Afghanistani people as we promised we would when we invaded and deposed the Taliban, but we are at least a lot closer to it than in Iraq and we have gotten there by at least trying to involve the local people in the rebuilding from the outset, again unlike Iraq. I am troubled by the massive resurgence of opium in Afghanistan, but given the shambles of their economy I am not at all surprised. I have to wonder how much better the situation would be if America had actually provided the follow through it had promised in the rebuilding instead of getting sidetracked onto Iraq so quickly afterwards. Even six to twelve months delay and a single focus on Afghanistan would have made a massive difference for the better. Unfortunately we have to deal with the reality as it currently exists, and at least for now I do not see we have much choice but to continue on. I do think it wise to continue to keep an eye on things, and if or when it does become necessary to withdraw we are not afraid to consider it, but I do not see that time as being anywhere close to here yet. I do think having our MPs discuss the mission itself though is not a bad idea, I just do not think we should be talking about withdrwal as the way to go at this time. I also think the poll question was misleading in the manner pointed out by Paper Dynamite Online in this post.
I do think these polls underscore just how much Iraq has undermined and damaged American credibility on these matters, as well as alienated the populations of traditional allies like ourselves towards Americans. I wish I could say this surprises me, but it was unfortunately an entirely foreseeable and foreseen outcome of the Iraq folly along with things like renditioning people, disappearing people when you even bother to acknowledge you them in your custody to begin with, torturing people, and killing them while they are in your custody, all the while still claiming America is that shining beacon of light in that city on the hill inspiring the best of humanity for all to strive for. People need to understand that much of the anti-American sentiment is anti-Bush, unfortunately once he was re-elected (assuming one believes that was a legitimate win, I do not if only because of the inability to verify/audit the votes of one in four votes cast for President in America along with some other serious questions which I am not going into at this time) that is being placed onto the American people for supporting such horrors. I see no easy answer for countering this phenomena, and it will as it already has further increased overall anti-American sentiment globally as well as in this country. That it has poisoned the well on Afghanistan to this extent in Canada is really a bad sign given that this is only four years old since the Taliban was overthrown.
Congradulations GWB, you have made America more hated, less safe, and less credible, destroyed her reputation as a nation of laws and rights, and most especially as a champion of democracy and freedom from persecution. Worse, you have done this in your allies, who unlike your country's enemies actually did have some faith/belief in America as the shining city on the hill. That so many Canadians now believe Afghanistan is a bad idea speaks volumes to just how much your policies have poisoned the well for your country.