Saturday, August 22, 2009

Canada and NATO

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Stephen Saideman, the former Pentagon intern and a current McGill University professor, argued that it was in Canada's interest to play second fiddle to the United States in its international misadventures. I disagree. Canadian soldiers and tax payers have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan, which has slid further into chaos, poverty, and misery since 2001.

Mr. Saideman believes that the Canadian willingness to lead and bleed in Afghanistan has earned her "power, influence, and stature." While Canada may have earned the bragging rights in the big boys club (read: NATO), there is no denying the fact that the war in Afghanistan has pushed South Asia further into chaos.

To date, 125 Canadians have laid down their lives in Afghanistan. Scores others have been injured or maimed. Canada's Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that by 2011 the Canadian taxpayers will spend up to $18 billion on a war, which according to an EKOS poll in July 09, only 34% of Canadians support.

All of this would have been worthwhile had there been real progress on the ground. Sonia Verma, also in today's Globe, reports that corruption has worsened in Afghanistan, drug production has doubled, and law and order has completely deteriorated in the past few years.

The lack of adequate infrastructure in Afghanistan has left most Afghans without potable water, electricity, sanitation, and education. Add to this the insurgency, and the chaos in Afghanistan appears to make sense.

While Canada has spent billions in military intervention, it has done little in supporting sustainable development in Afghanistan. Canadian imports from Afghanistan stand at a piddly $800,000.

Afghanistan can use more of Canada's generosity in re-establishing its institutions and infrastructure. Billions spent on guns and bombs are unlikely to earn respect for Canada in Afghanistan even when it may buy Canada some power and influence with NATO.

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