necessity: stability over democracy in afghanistan

maclean's magazine is reporting that jack layton, leader of the ndp, is casting the war on terror as bush's pet project, and that there are more pressing threats, like aids and poverty and climate change that kill more people than terrorism. and it looks like his calls for a pullout of canadian troops is starting to take hold with his party, as 1,500 delegates meet at an ndp convention today to vote on foreign-policy positions, giving layton overwhelming support for his plan. layton is getting an early jump on the anti-war vote, becoming the first major party leader to try to capitalize on it.

i do agree that there may have been too much emphasis on the war on terror, that it is not the be-all, end-all of western civilization that the bush administration likes to portray it as, but what is really interesting is a special invitation to the convention that was extended to an afghan parliamentarian, malalai joya, who says that canadian troops are fighting to sustain a government full of murderers, rapists and warlords. she claims they are "like brothers of the taliban and this is the main reason why security situation in afghanistan is getting worse and worse." ultimately though, joya doesn't want a complete pull out; instead, she wants the canadian troops to stay in southern afghanistan, but she wants them to take on members of the current government in addition to the taliban.

this part is very intruiging, because there are parallels to what happened in iraq. in iraq, there was such an attempt at making sure that no remnants of the old baathist regime remained in the iraq army or other positions of power, that this resulted in a complete devastation of the former power structures. the de-baathifying was a mistake, admitted even by prime minister tony blair. it left a huge hole, one that soldiers just cannot plug. history has shown that soldiers are good at only one thing: war. if you have a target you want elimited, you send the soldiers in. they are not good at policing and they are not good at riot control. in iraq, there was such an overemphasis on democracy, that real stability was lost early on. it's like putting the cart before the horse.

we have to avoid the same type of mistake in afghanistan. to put democracy over stability, is a dangerous thing to do, because democracies, especially ones that are "non-organic" and seen as being "imposed" through puppets like the current karzai government are volatile at best. even in the most ideal of situations, democracies are fragile and need some sort of stability more than anything. after all, you can't build a home without at least some sort of foundation.

now, i'm not saying that we should prop up a despotic regime or anything, because i want democracy to flourish in afghanistan as much as the next person, but the suggestion that canadian troops have to be policing members of the karzai government as well as the taliban, is too much. before anything can really happen, before any stable rebuilding, the taliban have to be put down first, or to the point where they become manageable, and the situation is far from that right now. already, there are calls by nato for more troops, revealing the taliban to be more than a handful for the allies.

we have to be careful not to overreach. i know there is a temptation to want to do everything you possibly can as quickly as you can, and it's a good desire, but to realistically do such a thing may in the long run be more harmful and may prolong the engagement unnecessarily. without sacrificing too much forward thinking, we need to take a look at what is absolutely necessary right now, this very minute. so let's worry about the guys shooting at our troops first, because regardless of what the bush administration may have thought back in 2002, the battle - the war - for afghanistan is far from over.

(source 1) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)