Oct 08 2008

Globe & Post: Afghanistan and the Murder of Foreign Policy by a Thousand Headlines

The media’s job is to inform the public. But when it comes to Afghanistan, there’s been so much disinformation this week that one begins to question motives.

Actually, the stories we’re reading aren’t the problem. It is the headlines which tend to mislead. A few examples:

Foreign troops cannot bring peace to Afghanistan: Canadian PM

Actually, what he said was that foreign troops ALONE cannot bring peace to Afghanistan — an important distinction. The headline would make it appear that Canadian PM Stephen Harper has made a dramatic about-face. Actually, it’s just a restating of a longstanding position that the Afghan National Army will ultimately have to bear the brunt of protecting Afghans from an insurgency that is likely to continue at least on the scale of similar conflicts in Columbia, the Phillipines or Israel.

Another headline, Commanders call for Taliban talks validates NDP position: Layton

Again, the commander in question, Brig.-Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith, simply repeated the longstanding mantra of the international effort in Afghanistan, that the Taliban can’t be beaten by force alone, but that hearts and minds must be won. Standard stuff. As for his remark that a negotiated settlement with the Taliban could be a pragmatic way forward, that’s not new either. The Afghan government has already negotiated the demobilization of thousands of Taliban fighters. The problem is that since no particular group of Taliban seems to speak for the whole insurgency, and negotiators have been murdered by the Taliban on several occasions, a wholesale peace negotiation likely isn’t in the offing in the near future.

The NDP’s position, as put eloquently by fellow Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee member Terry Glavin, is not at all what Carleton Smith is talking about:

And let’s not forget that the Taliban isn’t interested in negotiations, and they’ve made that clear, but still, Carleton-Smith quite reasonably hopes and expects that eventually, the Taliban leadership will be crushed to the point at which its only choice is to negotiate or die. Let’s also not forget that this is a prospect that isn’t even possible to contemplate under Layton’s approach, which requires that the Taliban’s international adversaries should first withdraw their troops, and then disarm themselves, and then return with some sort of list of demands.

It is particularly important that during a federal election, a leader of a mainstream Canadian political party like the NDP should be absolutely clear what his strategy means: unconditional surrender by the West to the international jihad, a Darfur-sized humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan and the retreat of Canada into fortress America for the foreseeable future. Is that what Canadians really want?

In any case, the Afghanistan issue is certain to affect the outcome of the Canadian election. Let’s hope Canadians are reading the full articles, not just the headlines.

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