From Martin Regg Cohn at The Star:
It took a milestone to remind Canadians of the millstone around our necks:
Three soldiers died in Afghanistan last week, pushing the death toll to the symbolically important benchmark of 100. That was the cue for newspapers to publish photo montages of the fallen soldiers, triggering more public grief and questioning of the mission.
Until then, Canadians had seemed blissfully oblivious to our biggest overseas military operation since the Korean War.
Canada’s political leadership has long been disengaged from this deployment. Afghanistan was conspicuously absent from the coalition accord signed last week by the opposition parties. And the war against the Taliban was missing in action from the fall campaign.
The debate – or lack of it – has slipped into a predictable pattern: When the mission is going smoothly, the less said the better. When soldiers die, there is much hand-wringing about how we got there – and wishful thinking about how we get out of there.
There’s plenty of second-guessing the mission, but relatively little forethought about the deadly serious consequences of the Taliban’s rebirth. Now, President-elect Barack Obama’s unequivocal commitment to bolster America’s presence in Afghanistan will force Canada to resolve its conflicted view of the conflict.
Obama ran on this issue. Canadian politicians have run away from it. Americans are likely to act on their words. Canadians are destined to talk around it, while our soldiers just get on with it.
Canadians wax nostalgic about the golden age of peacekeeping. But this conveniently ignores the diminishing returns of our most recent deployments to the Balkans, Haiti and Somalia, where we were sitting ducks.
We pay lip service to the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine advanced by Canada at the United Nations, which commits us to intervene when lives are at stake. And we make the right noises about rushing to Darfur to stamp out genocide – as if that would be any less bloody and costly than our commitment to Afghanistan.
Read the rest here