Jun 16 2010

A Little Self-Interest In Afghanistan Is Not A Bad Thing

I’ve often attempted to remind readers of the importance of holding the line in Afghanistan for progressive reasons and firm principles: support for the universality of human rights, defense of women and children targeted by the thugs in the Taliban, support for democracy, the institutions of modernity and a better life for people who deserve something more than tyranny.

I’ve noted that this mission is something both in the finer tradition of Canadian interventions on behalf of freedom abroad. It is also a shining example of a United Nations-supported mission that has brought together the brave soldiers, aid workers and resources of dozens of nations in the fight against fascism and darkness.

On this note, the signs coming from Canadian politicians like Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff as well as a growing number of Conservative politicians and commentators about a renewed role for Canada in Afghanistan are very encouraging. Their brave words calling for a public debate on this important issue ought to be heeded by the Prime Minister, and quickly.

But the confirmation of perhaps $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan changes the equation for some people. With reptilian logic, they will point to a conspiracy of international neo-cons and their shadowy corporate masters being the real reason for international intervention — as though 9/11 never happened and Afghanistan had never served as a safe haven for some of the worst examples of thuggery and terror that this planet has to offer.

As any rational thinking person would, I dismiss these conspiracists out of hand. But their cynical response does certainly beg the question: what precisely is wrong about foreign mining companies making a decent profit and employing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Afghans in good, high-paying jobs that don’t involve the heroin trade or freelance work for the insurgency? And if keeping the insurgency down permanently and avoiding a return of terror bases to Afghanistan also provides some insurance that our trade routes and economies will not be sabotaged into recession, resulting in more financial hardship for both Wall Street and Main Street, what’s wrong with that, either?

I explore these questions further in my latest Mark Op Ed, Self-Interest in Afghanistan:

Ever since the Taliban got turfed out of office by American daisy cutters from above and horseback-riding Northern Alliance fighters on the ground, Al Qaeda hasn’t been able to use Afghanistan as a base to attack our cities.

Critics will point out that the bad guys are still using places like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and the odd apartment in Denver, Colorado.

But that isn’t an argument against finishing the job in Afghanistan. On the contrary, it’s an argument for building on our successes and taking down the rest of the terrorist enclaves in failed states, as well as those in middle-of-nowhere, USA.

Other critics will say that the cost of keeping the boys in the black turbans on the run just isn’t worth it. Way more people die from car accidents than terrorist bombs. Besides, if we stay out of their countries, won’t they just leave us alone?

Again, let’s look at it from the perspective of our pocketbook. We’ve just come through a bitch of an economic meltdown. Many of us are still hurting pretty bad. So how do you think it’s going to affect the world economy if the Taliban wins in Afghanistan and an endless stream of “martyrs” the world over are emboldened to carry out even more brazen terror attacks than they do now?

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “A Little Self-Interest In Afghanistan Is Not A Bad Thing”

  1. Edmund Onward Jameson 16 Jun 2010 at 1:31 pm

    The Americans established bases in Germany after WWII and they are still there. As well as in Japan. Why? For minerals and oil?

    Not so. It takes several generations for democracy to set in and old ways to vanish. To establish a certain form of demcracy and not quite like America or Canada. First the grandfathers must die, then the fathers, and then perhaps the children would appreciate a new way of thinking.

    In Japan they play baseball.

    The West thinks in days, months, years; whereas the Islamist Jihadis think in centuries.

    Commander-In-Chief Obama now wants to remove the troops even earlier. Thgis will be a victory for al Qaeda and Taliban.

    And Obama has done such a fine job with the oil disaster. Several countries and oil companies offered assistance, skimmers etc but he waited. This way he could promote Greeen Energy, his way. What does he think will happen when Afghanistan is left on its own too soon?

    President Obama is tough, and will change the role of Commander-In-Chief, too….

  2. Alexon 16 Jun 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Basically nothing has changed for the last 8 years. What makes you think throwing another 10 or 20 years at this country will do anything else?

    Staying there because we will be attacked from there means we are pinned. They are also semi-pinned but have the initiative.

    Its their move. If we don’t do something crazy (like let the Chinese have northern Pakistan or something) they’ll win. We can’t keep letting them pick our battles.

    It always comes down to this: If occupation is war, then how do we win the occupation?

  3. Dan Hilbornon 17 Jun 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Good news, indeed.

    But history is not a conspiracy theory, and I can point to many examples where resource extraction by foreign interests has only aggravated the local population. Central America comes to mind.

    Afghanistan has a population of almost 30 million. If we could figure out a way to bring tangible benefits to one-tenth of that number, then we will be on the road to ending the insurgency.

    Completing the Dahla Dam, building some energy infrastructure and following up on other <a href="http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-afghanistan/projects-projets/dev.aspx&quot; projects would be a good idea.

    There is much work to do.

  4. Dan Hilbornon 17 Jun 2010 at 9:12 pm


    Corrected link here (I hope).

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