Why is Canada in the Middle East?
There was a recent story from Afghanistan that shook me although I don’t know why because it’s scarcely unusual. A raped woman was set free as long as she married her assailant! Is this the society we’re trying to save? Nearly 2800 Americans and 160 Canadians have perished in this war without a cause. My purpose today is to examine what’s happening in the Middle East and why the hell Canada’s messed up in it and what it should be doing.
The original object of the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was to punish Al Qaeda for the 9/11 outrage which killed nearly 3000 people. It was also part of President George W. Bush’s plan to bring democracy, America style, wherever there was an opportunity, especially if there was oil around.
Afghanistan was a special case where anarchy resulted when the Soviet Union left in 1989. Apparently President Bush didn’t know that there was anarchy before the Soviets came, an anarchy that went back to Alexandra the Great and before. When 9/11 came the US decided to become the next victim of history and invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden. Along the way it was noted that the Afghan government wasn’t very nice to anyone, especially to women and since the most powerful nation in history couldn’t find bin Laden, the object would be forcing democracy, American style, onto this nest of vipers.
In going into Afghanistan, the US made the fundamental mistake that happens when big countries invade and occupy small ones – they lack an acceptable motive and, more importantly, have no exit strategy. Moreover, especially in the case of George W. Bush, the leadership hadn’t a clue about the countries they invaded. In fact it’s worse than that – Bush never seemed to notice that the population being “saved” never seemed very grateful.
For several years I’ve been arguing that the terrible governments in the area would, if overthrown, be replaced by worse ones at least in terms of attitude towards the West. At the same time, Israel, always a problem to America, is illegally using more conquered land for Israeli settlers and is, it would seem, about to attack Iran. If we look at the region from Libya to Pakistan it’s a pretty mess indeed with the United States stuck in middle of a hopelessly perilous region it should simply leave.
What role should Canada play in this nest of vipers with Pakistan a very loose, nuclear, cannon on the deck, Afghanistan a hopeless place to govern as it has since before Alexander the Great, Iran about to be a nuclear power itching to get at Israel, Iraq with the same problems if not more than it had when the US invaded in 2001, Syria in turmoil with the outcome of its civil war unpredictable, Egypt looking more and more like a theocracy about to denounce its peace agreement with Israel – repulsive to most in the region – and Libya in political uncertainty, to put it mildly? And what happens when the Arab Spring hits Saudi Arabia, as it certainly will and the Saudi royal family are sent packing? They rule today in an unhappy truce with the Wahhabi who are the godparents of 9/11 and religion of bin Laden and home of all but one of the 9/11 gang. And what about the 600,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians in Jordan, many still in refugee camps set up in 1948 after their expulsion from their homes in Palestine.
There’s a danger in casting all Islam as terrorists as pointed out by Adam Cline in About.Com.
“Too many critics of Islam, including atheists, fail to appreciate just how diverse and varied Islam can be. There are things you can say that apply to all or most Muslims, as is the case with Christianity, but there are many more things which only apply to some or a few Muslims. This is especially true when it comes to Muslim extremism because Wahhabi Islam, the primary religious movement behind extremist Islam, includes beliefs and doctrines not found elsewhere.
It would be a mistake and unethical to criticize all of Islam on the basis of doctrines particular to Wahhabi Muslims. Modern Islamic extremism and terrorism simply cannot be explained or understood without looking at the history and influence of Wahhabi Islam …”
The situation in what we rather inaccurately call the Middle East is, in many ways, is reminiscent of the break-up of Yugoslavia where you couldn’t tell the players without a scorecard.
As a Canadian I’m tired of being called upon to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire – a fire negligently sent by the West which has got out of control. It’s unfair, to hold the US solely responsible for anti West feeling for the turmoil was helped along, in their time, by the UK, France, Italy and the Soviet Union. They, however, got out, ingloriously to be sure, but still out. The US filled the vacuum and has become like Bre’r Rabbit stuck to the tar baby in Joel Chandler Harris’s wonderful children’s book Uncle Remus, and the Tar Baby.
The US must get out if only because their continued stay makes the situation worse. It can start with Afghanistan – now! Any country that makes victims marry rapists cannot be assumed to be on the road to democracy. To expect Afghans to change their ways is folly.
This would likely involve cutting ties with Pakistan, as unstable as any country in the region but how does an American presence there help? American forces in the region won’t stop nuclear war and in fact may encourage it.
Then it’s Israel’s turn. America has to lay down the law and using it’s funding as the stick, compel Israel to knock down all settlements in occupied territory, now. It must then reverse it’s position, and recognize Palestine as a nation. Concurrently it must advise Israel that it will pay a huge forfeit in money and arms if it attacks Iran. Today, Canada with no interests to speak of in Israel bobs and weaves in time with America and plays no useful “third party” role as it helpfully could.
The US, with Canada holding hands like a child in the park, has made one mistake after another. Its ability to broker peace is badly compromised by their role in financing and arming Israel. Any understanding arrived at flounders and the US, afraid of Jewish voters, does nothing; thus hopes are raised, then dashed, leaving the American president of the moment looking powerless, and worse, foolish.
The US must then turn to diplomacy with the entire area but in so doing must make it clear that Israel will make a deal and then implement it – or else. Does such a proposal carry dangers? Of course it does, but the dangers of a status quo, in my view, are even greater.
What must Canada do? Pull out all its troops in Afghanistan and advise that they will no longer be in any area of strife except as UN sponsored or requested service as peacekeepers. If Canada is to play a constructive role in bringing peace to the Middle East it must do so, not by being Uncle Sam’s poodle but prepared to be diplomats, counsellors and what they do best, peacekeepers.