10.19.2007

canada out of afghanistan, and a "poll" doesn't matter

A new poll supposedly shows that the majority of people in Afghanistan want Canadian forces to remain in the country.
A new poll of nearly 1,600 Afghans shows the majority feel safer than they did five years ago, and approve of the direction their country is taking, thanks to the presence of international security forces from countries such as Canada.

Results from the Environics Research poll, conducted in partnership with the CBC, show 60 per cent of Afghans surveyed believe the presence of foreign troops has been good for their country.

As well, 51 per cent said they feel their country is headed in the right direction, compared to 28 per cent who responded that it's headed in the wrong direction. The remaining interviewees saw no change or didn't know.

Most Afghans said they believe their lives are better than they were five years ago, citing increased security, as well as better roads and schools because of reconstruction efforts. Those who feel they are worse off say they don't feel safe in the face of continuing violence.

"There's no consensus. It's not everyone [who] has a positive view," said Keith Neuman of Environics. "But more often than not, people feel that things are better than they were."

I don't know a lot about Afghanistan, but I've had a few Afghan friends, and I read an incredible little book called The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. The author walks across Afghanistan, alone or accompanied by a dog he befriends along the way. He brings only what he can carry, travels only on foot, and relies on the kindness and hospitality of strangers to house, feed and protect him.

From both my friends and this book, I have the distinct impression that no western-based poll of Afghanistan could possibly represent anything meaningful. People live mostly in remote regions, disconnected from any form of central government or national identity. In some areas, women are not seen at all. In others, there is great equality. Literacy is rare. Voting, rarer.

If the figures in the poll are true, and accurately represent the opinions of Afghans, what are those opinions based on? Why do people in Kandahar "have a somewhat or very positive attitude toward Canada's soldiers"? Because Canadian forces are keeping them safe? Because Canadians are not blowing them up and torturing them like US troops are doing in Iraqis? Or because they met a nice Canadian soldier and he did them no harm, so why not?

I have many questions about a poll like this, and I'm inclined to not believe its results. However, there's one much more important question.

Why should a poll taken in Afghanistan have any effect on Canada's foreign policy??

Since when does a country determine policy based on a poll taken in a foreign country?

How about the CBC does a poll in the US: Should Canada send troops to Iraq? Let's ask Americans! Can you imagine Canadians' reaction?

I generally like CBC, but when it comes to the "mission" (that is, war) in Afghanistan, it demeans itself by playing cheerleader. Usually they're kissing Rick Hillier's ass or asking individual soldiers whether they support the mission - as if that matters! But this poll of Afghans is really over the top.

A reminder: October 27, a pan-Canadian demonstration: troops out of Afghanistan, troops out of Iraq.

79 comments:

loneprimate said...

Since when does a country determine policy based on a poll taken in a foreign country?

Yeah, wouldn't that have been swell if our opinions on stateside import duties on softwood lumber had mattered this much? "Aw, shucks, guess we can't level duties on lumber no more; them Canucks say they don't like it." :)

M@ said...

I understand there's another poll where only 2% of Afghanis actually could name Canada as one of the countries serving in their nation. I'm not sure where I saw that poll, but it was only this morning so if I dig it up I'll post it.

I agree though that these polls are almost meaningless. Note that Kandahar had a sample size with more than twice the margin of error of the general poll.

By the way, I noticed that they really buried the results from Kandahar, where only 31% want the foreign troops to stay, and 32% want them gone within a year.

L-girl said...

By the way, I noticed that they really buried the results from Kandahar, where only 31% want the foreign troops to stay, and 32% want them gone within a year.

Yes, I noticed that, too. Thanks for pointing it out.

Scott M. said...

How about the CBC does a poll in the US: Should Canada send troops to Iraq? Let's ask Americans! Can you imagine Canadians' reaction?

Beleive it or not, a series of surveys were done at the start of the Iraq war, both in Canada and in the US for Canadian broadcasters. It's not all that unusual up here for our broadcasters to poll folks in other countries -- it all goes back to our national inferiority complex.

If I recall correctly, questions asked of Americans included such gems as "Should Canadians join the war in Iraq", and later on "Would you say your opinions of Canadians have changed since they decided not to join the war in Iraq? If so, how so?"

Poll use in this country is just crazy. Broadcasters will commission a poll like "Do you believe crime to be increasing in Toronto" and then report on it as if it was news. They rarely go to the effort of looking up the actual statistics, or attempt to correct an incorrect perception that was revealed in the poll. Why the hell they even do polls like that (or "Are Toronto's roads more cogested", etc.) when they could just get off their lazy ass and look at the statistics that are already collected, I'll never know.

L-girl said...

Poll use in this country is just crazy.

I have definitely noticed this. Polls are over-used in the US, but it's even worse in Canada.

Allan always says it operates like this:

media: crime is up - be afraid - crime is up - be afraid - crime is up - crime crime crime crime

poll: do you think crime is up? are you afraid?

Why the hell they even do polls like that (or "Are Toronto's roads more cogested", etc.) when they could just get off their lazy ass and look at the statistics that are already collected, I'll never know.

You just said it: lazy. And sometimes something more nefarious. But always lazy.

M@ said...

Scott, I agree with you about how polls have become a substitute for actual journalism. What bugs me even more is that this has led to the idea that people's opinions about things ("I feel less safe") is taken as more meaningful than real, actual, definable facts ("crime is down").

Harper's tough-on-crime circus uses this liberally, promising to make Canadians feel safe, not promising to actually change anything in particular about our society or criminal justice system.

It's pathetic.

impudent strumpet said...

I don't think a poll of [Afghans? Afghanis?] on whether Canada should be in Afghanistan is quite comparable to a poll of Americans on whether Canada should be in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the people being polled are, in theory at least, the same people we're allegedly supposed to be helping, and the same people whose are directly affected by our presence, which (if it's an accurate poll) is worth taking into consideration in foreign policy. But Americans' opinion on whether Canada should send troops to Iraq is as relevant as Zimbabwe's opinion on whether Mexico should send troops to New Zealand.

L-girl said...

don't think a poll of [Afghans? Afghanis?] on whether Canada should be in Afghanistan is quite comparable to a poll of Americans on whether Canada should be in Iraq.

You're right. I thought of that when I wrote it. And I wondered who would point it out to me. :)

which (if it's an accurate poll) is worth taking into consideration in foreign policy.

But I disagree with this, in that I don't think it can be accurate, nor especially informed.

To me it's still disingenuous and propaganda. But you're right that it's not as irrelevant as asking Israelis if Mexico should send troops to Brazil.

It's Afghans, btw. I've been corrected enough times that I can say that with certainty.

impudent strumpet said...

Re: number of Afghans who know that Canadian troops are there, there were a bunch of numbers in today's globe and mail

More here, I haven't gone through most of it yet.

deang said...

A couple of years ago, I saw Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls speak about their book, Bleeding Afghanistan. At that time, when asked what should be done about the situation there, the authors said the Afghan people by and large seemed to want at least the UN forces to stay, since the people hoped that would be some bulwark against both US and indigenous violence. I noticed in a recent interview on www.bleedingafghanistan.com that Kolhatkar is now saying that the UN/US forces kill more people than the indigenous groups do and so must "get the hell out" for Afghanistan to begin to recover. Don't know how that relates to the polls, but there it is.

Kolhatkar hosts a radio/web newsmagazine call uprisingradio.org. I recommend it if you like democracynow-style programs.

L-girl said...

Dean, thanks for that. You always have such interesting sources. I'll check it out, and hopefully some other readers will, too.

M@ said...

I think it would be a lot easier to get behind the Afghanistan mission if it were actually a UN Chapter 7 Peacekeeping mission. But with the American way of doing things lately -- invade first, ask questions later -- it's almost impossible to put a peacekeeping mission in place; the country is too broken and divided to allow a peacekeeping force to work.

I would feel much, much better about the Canadian mission if it were a UN-administered mission. NATO, since the cold war, has been little more than a way to legitimize dubious (and aggressive) American foreign policy.

Btw, on the Afghan/Afghani question -- is "Afghani" the adjective and "Afghan" the noun? Or is "Afghani" just completely wrong?

L-girl said...

Btw, on the Afghan/Afghani question -- is "Afghani" the adjective and "Afghan" the noun? Or is "Afghani" just completely wrong?

My Afghan girlfriend told me it's Afghan, always. There's no such word as Afghani.

Here I thought I was calling her a blanket. But no.

Mark, Ottawa said...

Just in case people are not aware, both ISAF and separate US operations in Afstan have repeatedly been authorized by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter:

"Security Council extends authorization of international security assistance force in afghanistan as Russian Federation abstains from vote" (Oct. 19, 2007)

Note these from the resolution;

“Reiterating its support for the continuing endeavours by the Afghan Government, with the assistance of the international community, including ISAF and the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) coalition, to improve the security situation and to continue to address the threat posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and stressing in this context the need for sustained international efforts, including those of ISAF and the OEF coalition...

“Welcoming the completion of ISAF’s expansion throughout Afghanistan, the continued coordination between ISAF and the OEF coalition, and the cooperation established between ISAF and the European Union presence in Afghanistan, in particular its police mission (EUPOL Afghanistan)...

“Acting for these reasons under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations...

“3. Recognizes the need to further strengthen ISAF to meet all its operational requirements, and in this regard calls upon Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to ISAF, and to make contributions to the Trust Fund established pursuant to resolution 1386 (2001);

“4. Stresses the importance of increasing the effective functionality, professionalism and accountability of the Afghan security sector in order to provide long-term solutions to security in Afghanistan, and encourages ISAF and other partners to sustain their efforts, as resources permit, to train, mentor and empower the Afghan national security forces, in particular the Afghan National Police..."

Given the comprehensive failure of the UN-run UNPROFOR in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina (esp. compared to the 1995 successor NATO IFOR), why would anyone want the UN--having authorized international military action in Afstan--actually try to run the operation itself?

Srebenica anyone?

Mark
Ottawa

Mark, Ottawa said...

As to the mythical "invasion" of Afstan:

"Afghanistan has not been 'invaded' by foreign forces"

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

Mark, what's your point?

Mark, Ottawa said...

I-girl: Response to M@.

Also, an "Afghan" (noun) is a person; "Afghan" is the adjective when referring to the country (Afghan mountains).

"Afghani" is in fact a word; it's the unit of currency.

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

I meant Afghani is not a word when referring to people. So say my Afghan friends, and I believe them.

I understand you were replying to M@. I'm asking you if you could summarize your point. I'm a bit lost as to what you're getting at.

That the Afghan "mission" has UN approval?

Mark, Ottawa said...

I-girl: I quite agree about Afghan(s) as referring to people. Afghani however is also a legitimate noun in the context of the currency.

I think my point about the mission was quite self-evident. It's a UNSC-authorized mission and therefore those who support the UN should support the mission--and indeed its strengthening. The other point was that having the UN try to run military missions is not a good in itself and indeed is sometimes a negative, e.g. UNPROFOR (and esp. the Rwanda mission).

Finally, contrary to the meme now almost universal in the media, there was no invasion of Afstan in 2001, unlike Iraq in 2003.

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

Thank you for the clarification, Mark. I know you don't know me, but rest assured if I ask you what your point was, I did not find it self-evident.

I was still living in the US in 2001 when they invaded Afghanistan. It was most certainly an invasion. In fact, the invasion was planned for a long time - many people believe 9/11 was a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of that.

I'm not aware of a "meme" in the media, but I was very much aware that my former country invaded another country in 2001, as well as 2003.

L-girl said...

I would also ask, if it wasn't an invasion, what was it? Was Canada invited there by all parties, making it a peacekeeping mission? No. So...? What exactly was it if not an invasion?

Mark, Ottawa said...

I-girl: The military actions in 2001, during which the Taliban was comprehensively defeated, were an intervention (with perhaps 600 Western people on the ground), not an invasion. Aircraft do not invade (the European Theatre Allied strategic bombing campaign in WW II compared to the invasions of French North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy). Here is the text at a link above that perhaps you did not read:

'A letter of mine in the Ottawa Citizen today:

Re: Canada loses 40th soldier to bomb, Oct. 8.

This story refers to "the U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban." But there was no invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the fall of Kabul, and of most of the rest of Afghanistan, to the insurgent Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001 -- and the consequent collapse of the Taliban regime -- there were no foreign regular combat formations in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance did receive air support and assistance from special forces (both U.S. and British); that, however, is not an invasion. Substantial foreign ground-combat forces -- including Canadian -- only entered the country after the Taliban had been deposed by indigenous Afghan forces, and those foreign troops entered with the agreement of the Northern Alliance.

It is most unfortunate that the mythical "invasion" of Afghanistan has become common currency amongst journalists -- and this is no mere quibble. Describing what the U.S. and U.K. did in Afghanistan as an "invasion" tends to equate those actions in people's minds with the real invasion of Iraq. That equation implicitly and wrongly calls into question the legitimacy of NATO and coalition actions in Afghanistan, which have been authorized unanimously [until this year's vote, Russia abstaining] by the United Nations Security Council.'

In 2001 the Northern Alliance held Afstan's UN seat and was almost universally recognized as the legitimate government:

"A coalition of former Afghan leaders and military commanders formed an alliance in
1996 to combat the rising Taliban forces. This alliance, the National Islamic United
Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, is known today as the ‘United Front,’ or the
Page 3 - Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict
‘Northern Alliance.’ Today it controls the northeastern provinces of Afghanistan and its
political arm, the former government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, continues to
hold Afghanistan’s UN seat."

For a somewhat broader view of military (and other) matters in Afstan than generally provided by the Canadian media may I suggest you look at posts at "The Torch", to which I contribute, over the last year or so?

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

No thanks. I'm not interested in apologists for war. Very easy to support war from behind your keyboard, eh?

It's L-girl, btw. Not I-girl.

L-girl said...

Here is the text at a link above that perhaps you did not read

No need to post the text of your links. Readers can click on them if they like. Thanks.

Mark, Ottawa said...

L-girl (apologies): "No thanks. I'm not interested in apologists for war. Very easy to support war from behind your keyboard, eh?"

We have a son in the Canadian Forces.

"No need to post the text of your links. Readers can click on them if they like. Thanks."

You have not said if in fact you read the text at the link before I put it up. Sometimes rational discussion is difficult, but I have tried.

I am no apologist for war. Sometimes it may be justified; you are free in Canada to make your own judgments and express them. But I have seen no substantive response to any of the matters I have raised.

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

That's correct. I'm not interested in debating you. Thanks for your comments.

Mark, Ottawa said...

l-girl: I see. Abandon the field of discussion without having made an argument, having only reached a conclusion on what appears to be prejudice (in the sense of judging beforehand). With a bit of ad hominem thrown in, in the absence of substance. Pity, but glad that we agree of "Afghans".

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

No, sorry, you're not going to bait me. I'm just not into debating. It's not why I blog. I leave that to my readers, who I'm sure will be around to tussle with you.

You feel the way you do, you're entitled. I feel the way I do, I'm entitled. I'm not going to change your mind and you're not going to change mine. So why bother? For sport? I'm not into it.

I'm sorry you have a son in the forces. I didn't mean to attack you personally. I'm accustomed to Americans defending the war when other people's children are fighting it.

Thanks again for your comments. Sorry I'm not giving you the argument you are looking for.

M@ said...

Mark,

It's ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, to compare UN missions now with UNPROFOR or UNAMIR. In the early 90s, many factors diminished the UN forces' effectiveness -- such as the fact that they were using many countries who had never performed peacekeepers before, and that many of those countries (Canada as much as any) were transitioning from Cold War to Post-Cold-War military stances. That UNPROFOR was a shambles is not in dispute; but many of the later UN missions in the former Yugoslavia have led to the relative peace and stability that the region enjoys. I have spoken with peacekeepers who have seen the differences for people in Bosnia in just the last five years.

And if you want to paint with broad strokes on the Rwanda mission, could we not say that the cowardly retreat of the American and Belgian peacekeepers were more at fault than the small force of peacekeepers who were left behind? Could we not say the same for Somalia too? The fact is, neither your description nor mine bears any relation to the entire history of those missions.

I notice that you conveniently sidestepped the UNTAC mission in Cambodia, which was one of the most successful peacekeeping missions of all time. Not to mention UNMISET and UNMIT in East Timor/Timor Leste, which continues to add increase security and stability in that country.

The fact is that denigrating the UN by pointing only to its peacekeeping failures serves one major political end: allowing the USA to act with unchecked impunity on the world stage.

And yes, I know that a UN resolution has authorized the action in Afghanistan; do you seriously think it's a UN-run mission though? Do you suppose a UN mission would have prioritized the flow of natural gas through the country over the flow of electricity and clean water to its villages?

As for it not being an invasion, I don't know what else you can call it. How is it all the foreign troops got in there if they didn't invade? As for the idea that bombing is something different from invasion, well, you're technically correct; it's merely an act of war against another country. The USA has declared wars on entire concepts ("drugs"; "terror") over much, much less.

I think your point is that there is nothing else that can be done other than what is currently being done in Afghanistan. I disagree; I think that the truly international character of a UN mission can increase the validity of the mission greatly.

One of my biggest objections to the Afghanistan mission for Canada is that we are acting as willing pawns in the USA's game. I don't want my friends or your son to die for that.

Mark, Ottawa said...

M@: "...many of the later UN missions in the former Yugoslavia have led to the relative peace and stability that the region enjoys. I have spoken with peacekeepers who have seen the differences for people in Bosnia in just the last five years."

In fact the major, military peacekeeping missions in the Balkans since 1995 have been:

Bosnia-Hercegovina:

NATO IFOR
NATO SFOR
EU EUFOR

Kosovo:

NATO KFOR

There have since 1995 been a number of much smaller UN missions--see here, under "Past Operations", Europe. There is one current UN mission, non-military (NATO is doing that, see above), in Kosovo.

Mark
Ottawa

M@ said...

Mark, the point is that Canada loses international credibility when it dances to an American tune. NATO has no business running these missions in the modern world. Without UN direction, we cannot as a nation say that we are acting independently and neutrally, and it ends up hurting our ability to do other work in the world if we're seen as an adjunct to US foreign policy.

I think you're using some very dangerous talking points about the UN, and those talking points are intended to undermine the UN so that it cannot effectively limit American power to do what it wants in other countries. I'm not happy when I see Canadians sign on with that kind of argument -- especially because Canadians like your son have to die for it.

Mark, Ottawa said...

M@: All the NATO/EU missions mentioned in my previous post were UNSC-authorized and Canada participated in all of them. Were both the UNSC and Canada wrong?

Operation PALLADIUM/BOREAS (B-H)
Operation KINETIC (KOSOVO)

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

No no no. Mark has a point. It’s a semantic one, but it’s very important to the future of our way of life that it be understood.

An “invasion” occurs when someone we don’t like sends their troops uninvited into a foreign country. When we, or someone we do like, does it, that’s not an “invasion”… there’s a euphemistic name for actions like that: “peacekeeping”, or “spreading democracy”, or “fighting terrorism” or the like. Oh, wait — “intervention”! That’s a good one, yes! No blood on your hands when you "intervene" someone's country; the very idea sounds silly phrased that way, doesn't it? Now, I will admit the results in either case look very much the same (thousands of dead civilians, the wholesale destruction of the infrastructure supporting basic living, and the rise of resistance, terroristic reprisals, and blowback), but as we all know, it’s the thought that counts. Which is to say, we never thought about those things, so… they don’t count. QED.

Keep in mind that when Russian troops entered Afghanistan in 1979, that was an invasion. We felt so strongly at the time that this was wrong that we boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Now if what we were doing constituted an "invasion", obviously Canada would have no choice but to boycott the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, and we haven't done that, have we? So clearly, what we’re doing in Afghanistan can’t possibly be an “invasion”, because that we mean we were doing something we condemned the Russians for only a generation ago and would be no better than they were: worse, really, since we objected. This would be to suggest that we were colossal hypocrites of the first order!

To put it more candidly: to say that the Russians had justifications is unjustified, whereas to it’s unjustified to suggest we have no justifications. That should be obvious.

M@ said...

Mark, I didn't suggest that Canada was wrong to participate in those missions. Don't put words in my mouth -- it would be more productive for you to spend time responding to some or any of the points I've made. But in response to your latest point, why are you so desperate to show that the UN has authorized those NATO missions if the UN has had, in your words, such comprehensive failures in the past?

LP, I see your point. The fact that one faction in Afghanistan actually wanted the Russians to come in doesn't have any bearing on it, does it -- or else we wouldn't have boycotted their olympics. Very astute on your part.

Although I would point out that while "peacekeeping" is a useful euphemism for an invasion, the UN does prefer to only deploy peacekeeping troops in international conflicts where both sides accept their presence. It's not a necessary part of the peacekeeping mission but it is definitely the preferred route.

That's why the UN wouldn't have gone into Afghanistan in the first place: they wouldn't have been invited. They would have had to... um... invade.

loneprimate said...

Although I would point out that while "peacekeeping" is a useful euphemism for an invasion, the UN does prefer to only deploy peacekeeping troops in international conflicts where both sides accept their presence.

Oh, I'm entirely in agreement with you, Matt; it disgusts me when I hear people say Afghanistan is a "peacekeeping" mission. It's actually a "shitdisturbing" mission. Whenever a Canadian calls it peacekeeping, Mike Pearson must turn over in his grave.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: I worked as research assistant on volumes two and three of Mr Pearson's memoirs, "Mike". I do not think he would feel that Canada's Afstan policy made it necessary to "turn over in his grave." Indeed, quite a bit of my appreciation of international affairs has followed from that work experience.

If you can find hard copies, check the "Introduction" in each of them.

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

Indeed, Mark. Did your research uncover the myriad Nobel Peace Prizes he garnered for his advocacy of "interventions" unsanctioned by the nations in question? Now that's something I'd love to read. Reference, please.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: You might also reflect upon the fact that Mr Pearson was Secretary of State for External Affairs when Canada had a combat role in the Korean War. A war in which all UN forces were under US command (with no NATO intermediary):

"June 27, 1950:...The United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution [luckily the USSR was boycotting the Council for failure to admit the People's Republic of China to the UN] recommending that the members of the U.N. furnish assistance to the Republic of Korea in order to repel the attack and restore peace and security in Korea."

There are lots of UNSC cats to be skinned.

Mark
Ottawa

Mark, Ottawa said...

And the DPRK--a nation "in question"--certainly did not agree to the UN intervention.

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

You might also reflect upon the fact that Mr Pearson was Secretary of State for External Affairs when Canada had a combat role in the Korean War

You might also reflect that in his speech at Temple University in 1965, Pearson effectively rejected the paradigm of unilateralism, even collective unilateralism (as, after all, the US did have the support of some allies in Vietnam), in favour of a negotiated settlement, and he did so bravely and boldly in the very belly of the beast. At the same time, he was becoming disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of the UN due to the rigged Security Council, and preferred solutions where there was no party predisposed to having a veto, such as the ICC, with which the US refused to cooperate or even recognize. Unfortunately, we still live in such a world; indeed, lately, we've cynically acceded to it.

Now do you mean to suggest that Pearson, having gone on the record against such policies, and having withstood years of pressure from the US on Vietnam (to the point of the suggestion of CIA "interest" in Canadian federal elections in the 1960s), would be content to see Canada follow a similar policy itself; one that daily costs the lives of non-combatants, one that stains our international reputation as a trustworthy peace broker, sees the weekly return home of coffins draped in the Canadian flag in an undeclared war and the militarization of casual, everyday civilian institutions like the 401? I'm not convinced this is what he intended for our future. Neither his work in the Suez Crisis nor the course he steered for this country during Vietnam suggest that to me.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: Might I suggest that you read the books and then get back to us? And what about Korea?

Mark
Ottawa

Lone said...

Mark, why do you keep coming back to Korea? Western troops where there to remove the presence of the Japanese imperial administration and oversee the return to a governance by the people of Korea themselves. Unfortunately, the country was divided, and that was eventually the signal for civil war.

None of this is true in the case of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, we gave ourselves license to send over troops, uninvited and, from all evidence (bombings and six years of insurrection as opposed to a few flowery, cherry-picked spot polls), unwelcome. We invaded a country that had spent a decade getting its act back together after enduring a previous trial under the Soviets. The very same people who managed this were the ones we were championing and training when they were fighting our ideological enemies. When they were sending Russian boys home legless or in caskets, they were "freedom fighters". Why are they something different when the invading troops they send home likewise are our own? And why are our troops something different from the Russian ones when they're doing all the same things?

Do you really mean to suggest that the grown-up, educated people of this country (or Afghanistan, for that matter) can't identify an invasion for what it is when they see it? Do you really mean to insist on that level of intellectual arrogance? Very well... let me give you a hypothetical case and you can tell us if it feels like an invasion to you.

Let's run the clock forward, say, 25 years, after China has finished hollowing out North America of its wealth, manufacturing base, and technical knowledge, all with our willing acquiescence, making them the dominant economic, political, and (for the sake of argument) military power in the world. Suppose we interfere with some interests of theirs in, say, South America (our "own" back yard), imperiling some raw material they need, and they announce they have to draw the line on our 'imperialistic mistreatment and enslavement of the downtrodden in Latin America". Using their new oomph on the Security Council, or even just a vote in the General Assembly, they get themselves the mandate to act...

When their troops land in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton... will that be an "intervention", as I'm sure they'll characterize it... or will it be an invasion?

When they have overthrown our system of government, replaced our constitution with one more to their tastes, and imprisoned or hanged the "class traitors" who lead our country, will that be an "intervention"?

When you can't flush your toilet in Kanata or Gatineau because the "liberation" of Canada has caused the destruction of the infrastructure to allow for even that; when your granddaughter has no school to go to because some Chinese "smart" bomb has leveled it instead of some military target; when you're jobless because the company or agency for which you work has been seized and restaffed, or even destroyed, will that be an "intervention"?

When it's young men named Bob, Mike, Scott, Serge, and Marc being slaughtered in the hills of this country because they dared to fight back, labeled as terrorists because they did so without the sanction of uniforms or the authority of a government the "intervening" power didn't recognize in the first place, but simply out of love for the country they knew growing up before the "liberators" came, what will we call that then, Mark?

More to the point, what will you call it? Will you smile, shake their hands, and agree they are wiser about what our own country should be than we are? When you call it an "intervention", will you be sincere? When they do all this and more, will you thank them?

Now tell us again that what we're doing is not an invasion. Tell us again that the people of Afghanistan owe us gratitude and fealty. Try to convince us that we would be wrong to feel as they obviously do, if it were happening to us. Or maybe reflect on this as an ordinary, mortal human being with things you treasure and people you love all around you to lose at the whim of someone else, and then get back to us.

Lone said...

Man, we really need an editing button on the comments around here. :D

L-girl said...

Heh, no problem, I'm always tidying up. I can even delete these last two posts if you like. :)

Mark, Ottawa said...

"Another Afghan poll"

And read your Pearson.

Mark
Ottawa

Mark, Ottawa said...

Plus:

"Afstan and NDP economy with the truth"

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

So, Mark, have you actually figured out what an invasion is yet?

loneprimate said...

Let me put a fine point on it for you... it's not as mountingly stratospheric or as much a matter of blithe intellectualization as I'm sure you're comfortable with, but I think it bears consideration.

L-girl said...

LP, thank you for the link to NMV. A positively harrowing site that everyone should see.

War is so easy to support, when it's someone else's country being blown to bits.

loneprimate said...

I think the Environics poll is indeed interesting. Mark and his friends are using it... selectively... as supposed proof that Canadians are invited — nay, morally obliged — by the good opinion of the people of Afghanistan to stay.

And yet, the very same poll informs us that only 46%, less than half, of the people of Afghanistan are even aware Canadians are in the country.

Now, I admit, math was never my best subject... but it strikes me a little odd to suggest that more than 50% of the people in a given sample can approve of something of which less than 50% of that same set of people is even aware. How do you square the circle on that one, Mark? I'm curious.

And I think another telling point, if our lives are going to be ruled by Environics polls, is that they also point out that "that fewer than half (45%) of Canadians support the current mission, only one in three believe it is very (8%) or somewhat (24%) likely to be successful in the end, and a plurality (43%) want to see our troops return home before the mission is scheduled to end in 2009."

I think this begs the question: whom do the Canadian Armed Forces serve, and two whose will do they answer; the people of Afghanistan, or the people of Canada?

Over to you, Mark.

loneprimate said...

Here's an interesting poll. Zogby International discovered, in December of 2002, that "58% of Mexicans believe that the southwest US belongs to Mexico. That probably explains why 60% of Mexicans also believe there should be no border control."

I put the question to you, Mark: is the United States, therefore, morally compelled by the majority opinion of Mexicans to cede the US Southwest, and/or to eliminate border controls with Mexico? It seems to me that in order to be logically consistent with your stand that Canada is bound by the results of a poll in Afghanistan, you would have to concur. Might I suggest you begin your email campaign to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forthwith? She may be ignorant of her obligations as indicated by the cited poll.

loneprimate said...

Oh, this Environics poll gets better and better. It's really a gripping read. Now, I had been led to believe that the people of Afghanistan were falling all over themselves in recognition of our contribution there, aware of its inestimable value, and that's the reason they were supposedly begging us to stay... but I noticed this:

"Who, top of mind, is fighting the Taliban? Nationwide, it is almost exclusively the United States (89%) that is seen as playing this role. Few mention any other country, including Germany (4%) and, the U.K. (3%), with virtually no mention of Canada. Even in Kandahar (where our forces have lost 71 soldiers and counting), it is the U.S. who is seen as the military presence (90%), with only two percent naming Canada. This result is in sharp contrast to the perspective within Canada, where the public is painfully aware of our troop casualties, the highest proportion of any foreign country."

Two percent, wow... And that's not in Afghanistan in general, that's in Kandahar, where our troops are on the ground and supposedly making the world safe for McDonald's. You know, I think all those "Highway of Heroes" folks ought to all get together and stand on the bridges over the 401 as massacred Canadian soldiers pass beneath them in hearses and wave big placards reading "2%!" I'm sure that would really warm the hearts of the parents, spouses, and children they've left behind forever.

It just keeps coming. The poll goes on to tell us that only 25% of the people of Kandahar mention Canada as a country involved in reconstructing the nation, way more than the 4% of Afghans generally who know that... And that only 23% of the people of Kandahar mention Canada as a country training their army and police (again, more than the 14% of Afghans who know this). Nationwide, 20% of Afghans mention Canada as "doing a good job helping Afghanistan" (whatever that empty phrase is supposed to actually mean)... but at least a whopping 37% of the people of Kandahar feel the same way.

Sorry, I'm just starting to question where the idea the people of Afghanistan are clinging to the legs of Canadian soldiers and tearfully begging them to stay is coming from. I admit, it's a little hard for me to form that impression from these numbers.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: The Taliban were driven out by the Northern Alliance, with US air support and some 600 special forces/CIA (plus some UK personnel), from control in Afghanistan by the end of November, 2001.

Are airplanes, bombs, and some 600 people an "invasion"? Pretty thin it seems to me.

The first significant US military unit arrived on the ground at the end of Nov. 2001 when the Taliban had already been largely defeated. Can you provide another narrative that is historically accurate?

I'm interested to see that you present yourself as a lemur.

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

Yeah, speaking of thin, any comment on the numbers from the poll you keep crowing about?

loneprimate said...

loneprimate: The Taliban were driven out by the Northern Alliance

They were?

That must come as a shock to all the guys getting killed by them, but... yeah, if you say so...

loneprimate said...

Are airplanes, bombs, and some 600 people an "invasion"?

So you mean to tell us there are only 600 non-national coalition troops in Afghanistan? Hmm, I had understood there were even more Canadian troops in the place than that. Maybe my numbers are off; how many of those 600 are our guys, exactly?

The first significant US military unit arrived on the ground at the end of Nov. 2001 when the Taliban had already been largely defeated.

Oh, "Mission Accomplished II"! Thank heavens; now our troops can come home! Hell, apparently, they never even needed to go in the first place. Speaking of wonky history...

Now then... getting back to my questions...

Would the presence of Chinese troops in Canada against our wishes constitute an invasion, even if China had tacit international support from its friends and allies, yes or no?

To whose wishes do the Canadian Forces answer, Afghans or Canadians?

Do you agree that the US has to hand the US Southwest back to Mexico because a majority of Mexicans polled support it, yes or no?

And from where in the cited Environics poll do you draw the conclusion that Canadian soldiers in particular are being urged to remain beyond 2009, or even tomorrow morning?

loneprimate said...

And the DPRK--a nation "in question"--certainly did not agree to the UN intervention.

Hmmmm... do you suppose then they termed it... an "invasion"? Or did they accept they were only being intervened?

Mind you, I'm sure they didn't call what they were doing in South Korea an "invasion", either. No doubt they were "liberating" the place, or performing some other high-minded act that only the unenlightened could mistake for an actual invasion.

L-girl said...

I'm interested to see that you present yourself as a lemur.

Watch it, Mark. Please stay on topic and refrain from personal comments.

loneprimate said...

I'm interested to see that you present yourself as a lemur.

Watch it, Mark. Please stay on topic and refrain from personal comments.


Oh, I wasn't offended... I actually had a laugh. I took it as a compliment, coming from someone who represents himself as nothing. :)

loneprimate said...

Oh, wait, am I being rude or unprofessional in an academic sense by failing to provide a link to illustrate the concept? I'm sorry. I mean to say, "coming from someone who represents himself as nothing." There, that should help.

deang said...

What could he possibly have been implying by the lemur comment? That your knowledge of political issues might not extend much beyond Madagascar? That prosimians are more basal than other primates and so are you? Strange.

loneprimate said...

What could he possibly have been implying by the lemur comment?

That his arguments didn't hold water when you point out the cracks in them and he couldn't/wouldn't step up to the plate. He was just laying down dust and hoping we wouldn't notice.

Mark, Ottawa said...

Actually the Lemur remark was just an excuse to give a link to an amusing movie.

Now, if any of you actually want to reflect on what we are doing in Afstan, please read this article (pdf, p.10) and comment on it:

"Reflections on Canada’s first 18 Months in Kandahar and Prospects for the Future"

I await the lack of body armour, shades and mike comments.

Mark
Ottawa

Mark, Ottawa said...

By the way, I think the article "Canadian Military Strategy in Distress" is a bunch of nonsense à la Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

Mark, by now everyone reading this thread knows where your blog is. No need to continue to post link after link. Thanks.

loneprimate said...

No, Mark, here’s YOUR link: "Reflections on Canada’s first 18 Months in Kandahar and Prospects for the Future". I suggest YOU read it. I suggest YOU sit up all night pouring over it to glean the points to buttress YOUR position; that YOU perform concatenation on them and YOU apply critical analysis to the result in the hopes of formulating YOUR interpretation of what they mean (or at least what you hope they imply); and then that YOU return here and present YOUR argument for us to consider and discuss. It’s not our job to make your case for you, Mark. It’s YOURS. It’s nice that you cite your sources, but there’s more to defending a position than that. You were supposedly a researcher; you should know that. Or did your job consist entirely of composing bibliographies?

It's pretty clear to me by now that your modus operandi consists of:

1. Swanning in on blogs you've identified as unconscionably liberal with a big "I'M AN INTELLECTUAL" button on your lapel with which you hope to gull your opponents into awed silence;

2. Purporting that they can't tell the colour blue when they see it and informing them that it is, in fact, "periwinkle afternoon en ciel";

3. Firing off a lot of links where other writers have done all the work for you cataloguing the wonders and nature of "periwinkle afternoon en ciel", sparing you all that boring thinking and typing and arguing, and;

4. Moving on to the next 10, 20, 30 other like-minded blogs and running the process down from step one, probably recycling the same posts and links, no doubt rubber-stamped from a handy Word file.

Now if you're going to come out of the phone booth with a big "S" on your chest anytime soon, I'd suggest you do it. Because so far, all I've seen is a Clark Kent who won't even come out from behind his glasses and engage the questions I've asked or address the facts I've brought to the discourse here... other than to send us off-site to read about the movie Madagascar.

And, by the way, Mr. Kent, those questions, once again, were:

Would the presence of Chinese troops in Canada against our wishes constitute an invasion, even if China had tacit international support from its friends and allies, yes or no?

To whose wishes do the Canadian Forces answer, Afghans or Canadians?

Do you agree that the US has to hand the US Southwest back to Mexico because a majority of Mexicans polled support it, yes or no?

And from where in the cited Environics poll do you draw the conclusion that Canadian soldiers in particular are being urged to remain beyond 2009, or even tomorrow morning?

L-girl said...

And Mark? Take Lone Primate's challenge or get lost. Those are the choices that remain to you on this blog.

Mark, Ottawa said...

Loneprimate wrote:

"4. Moving on to the next 10, 20, 30 other like-minded blogs and running the process down from step one, probably recycling the same posts and links, no doubt rubber-stamped from a handy Word file."

I have no Word file. Each link I made here (and I doubt you read many of them whilst providing no supporting evidence of your own) was researched contemporaneously. Pity my time was wasted :).

There are only some five or six blogs (if that) where I generally comment. Judge for yourself whether these two are "like-minded":

http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/
http://transmontanus.blogspot.com/

My question still remains: what is wrong with a mission repeatedly authorized by the United Nations Security Council and effected with the full agreement of the legitimate, elected and internationally-recognized government of Afstan?

Whereas on September 22, 2001 only two countries recognized the Taliban government and the Northern Alliance held Afstan's UN seat.

Mark
Ottawa

L-girl said...

legitimate, elected and internationally-recognized government of Afstan

You mean the US puppet government? International bodies have always recognized US puppet governments. That doesn't make them legitimate.

loneprimate said...

I doubt you read many of them whilst providing no supporting evidence of your own

What, aside from the Environics poll that started all this nonsense, where I actually reviewed its particulars, retrieved the relevant facts, brought them back here and presented them for everyone to see, and then went on to interpret them as refuting your central thesis? Yes, I suppose a truly professional forencisist like yourself would have done the hard work of posting a link, not just wussed out and offered an open critical analysis of fact. My apologies. I'll look harder for links to wave everyone off to from now on.

My question still remains

So do mine. You first, Mr. Kent, since I, unlike you, went to considerable lengths to frame mine.

You mean the US puppet government? International bodies have always recognized US puppet governments. That doesn't make them legitimate.

No no no; again, Mark Kent's got a point. After all, we all know Taiwan ran China from 1949 to 1971; it was, after all, the officially recognized government and held China's seat at the UN till the passage of resolution 2758. Where these commies got the idea they were running China just because they were... well, y'know... running China... is beyond me.

Now, Mark Kent has been all over the place with this. The Taliban were defeated before we even got there. The Taliban weren't the government, in spite of running the place. They're gone, a thing of the past, on the run, without a friend in the universe. And yet... aren't these the same chaps who are on the verge of negotiating their way back into government with the blessing of the Mayor of Greater Kabul, Hamid Karzai (AKA the President of Afghanistan, or at least the parts of it coalition troops have pinned down at any given moment)? Not bad for a bunch of guys Mark holds were wiped out before the first doughboy made a boot print in the country, don't you think?

So, Mr. Kent... will take on my questions? If you do, I'll take on yours. Is that a deal? You talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? C'mon, get in the phone booth. I'm ready.

loneprimate said...

You know what? I’m actually going to step up the plate here. I honestly don’t think Mark has the guts to answer the questions I put to him, because he’s already realized what they imply for his thesis. In effect, I’ve already answered him. But he’s made the pitch and I’m going to swing.

Marks asks:

“What is wrong with a mission repeatedly authorized by the United Nations Security Council and effected with the full agreement of the legitimate, elected and internationally-recognized government of Afstan?”

So many things, Mark. So many things. First of all, the invasion was predicated on capturing Osama bin Laden. Do you remember that? I do. It was undertaken in October of 2001, roughly a month after 9/11. It began on October 7. I objected to it at the time because it was an exercise in military triumphalism; to wit: if Osama bin Laden had been resident in a country that was either pro-Western, or had strategic value to the West, or was of a military capacity that precluded its being invaded (i.e., it had the Bomb), there never would have been an invasion. Due process in international law would have been followed. I do recall that the government of Afghanistan at the time maintained that they did not know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, but that even if they did know, in order to legally extradite him, they would have to be presented with the evidence against him. The United States refused, openly, to honour that request, though it was actually a requirement of international law. Due process, in the practical sense, is for white folks (or their proxies). Afghans aren’t sufficiently white. They got bombed and invaded instead. Part of the justification was that they were hiding, shielding, abetting, protecting bin Laden. After six years of war and invasion, when the coalition forces still don’t have the man, it seems not that hard to credit they probably didn’t know where he was any more than we do. So part of my concern is for the people of Afghanistan. They didn’t do anything to us. I know of no Canadians lying dead in their ruined homes because of the actions of Afghan soldiers. Sadly, they can’t make that same claim of ours.

But another concern is a selfish one. It’s for us. Arrogantly certain of our ascendancy and its permanence, we have done as we pleased, blithely disregarding the precedents we have set, time and time again. I was not being facetious when I used China in my challenge to you — one that you’ve cowardly ignored for most of a week now while proficiently directing us to reading material… No, I meant it in earnest. The time is approaching when Western preeminence will be a thing of the past, when our word will not be law, when we will come to sleepless nights over the opinions of others and their judgements on how we live and what we do, just as they live now. And what we have basically done for the past fifty years is demonstrate that so long as you get all the cynical, bureaucratic paperwork done, you have license to do what you please. And I do fear that we will live to regret the example we’ve set. But people like you will have left us with no moral defense. You’ve made a hollow joke of the protections the UN Charter and international law were meant to furnish; in the words Robert Bolt put in the mouth of Sir Thomas More, “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned on you, where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man's laws not God's, and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety sake.”

And, finally, there’s another matter of principle. Democracy cannot be transplanted; it must grow from native soil. Even in Japan, it succeeded only because the people were ready for it. Consider that no one forced it on Britain. The French Revolution, and the ideals it inaugurated that took so long to finally grow roots, was initiated, sustained, and prosecuted by none by the French themselves. No one fired a shot at Lexington on behalf of the Patriots or threw the tea into Boston Harbor on behalf of American liberty but those people themselves. Of Russia itself, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said just a few days ago:

"...it takes time to build the institutions of democracy. Just having an election doesn't mean you have a democracy. So these institutions have to grow. And you're looking at a country in Russia that in a thousand years of its history has not had a democracy. So my view is, I think we need to encourage the development of freedom in Russia, we need to encourage the development of democratic institutions, but also think we need to understand that those things take time."

But of course, again, such generosity of spirit flows only to countries sufficiently white, or sufficiently armed (and Russia fits the bill on both scores in spades), to preclude any possibility of ungenerosity of spirit… Not so, countries like Iraq, or Afghanistan, or, increasingly, Iran — a country, it should be pointed out, that did have an elected government until the United States and United Kingdom dispensed with it in 1953 for nationalizing the oil industry… leading directly to the government that exists there now, which is again threatened with invasion and disruption; another nail in the coffins of self-determination and sovereignty… perhaps, one day, our own. But the point is, we cannot force democracy, or our beliefs, or our values, onto Afghanistan, or any other nation. They must themselves become convinced of their merits, and, if necessary, struggle to establish them. They may not succeed. Indeed, they may never try — never becoming convinced of the wisdom of our ways; they are not obliged to, simply because those ways suit us; neither are they obliged to give us any explanation or apology. It’s their country, their culture, their destiny. It is for them to decide, over time, what they will or will not be as a people; what they will, and will not risk, or choose to establish — just as it was for us, and still is. We cannot do it for them. Any attempt to instill our ways by force will be resented, and our values will be viewed as a foreign imposition; such an effort must fail because of it. We are on a fool’s errand there, costing scores of Canadian lives, hundreds or thousands of Afghan lives, and imperiling our own security in the future with the bellicose example we set today.

That’s what’s wrong with it, Mark.

Now… please answer my questions.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: I apologize for being white. One of my grandfathers died in China (Yunan province) working with the YMCA. He had a stroke whilst showing the kids how to punt a football. Imperialism at its best, I guess. Maybe he should have worked on basketball. If imperialism don't work, capitalism surely does, especially in China.

"The Taliban were defeated before we even got there."

On the ground, yes.

"The Taliban weren't the government, in spite of running the place."

They were. Running it horribly and, as I have pointed out, with virtually zero international legitimacy, the position of almost all Muslim states and the UN. Maybe they knew something.

"They're gone, a thing of the past, on the run, without a friend in the universe."

Yes, as a government.

"And yet... aren't these the same chaps who are on the verge of negotiating their way back into government with the blessing of the Mayor of Greater Kabul, Hamid Karzai"

No. Any negotiations--which will be necessary and must be conducted by Afghans--will try to separate the extreme Mullahs and their fanatic supporters from others who may just prefer a decent life. If that can be provided, a case at issue as long as the Mullahs try to restore, by violence, an utterly repressive theocratic state.

"(AKA the President of Afghanistan, or at least the parts of it coalition troops have pinned down at any given moment)?"

The Germans in the north, the Italians and Spanish in the west, and the French in Kabul, don't seem to be doing very much actively to pin down anyone (why some say they should help with the action in the south and east)--which indicates, along with many other measures, that those parts of Afstan are much more secure, indeed close to normal by Afghan standards, than the other parts of the country.

"Not bad for a bunch of guys Mark holds were wiped out before the first doughboy made a boot print in the country, don't you think?"

I never said they were wiped out. They were however comprehensively defeated by indigenous Afghan ground forces in 2001, with air and special forces support, before any significant Western military units
arrived
(the one link for factual reference I will use here).

I wonder why you seem to have so much enthusiasm and admiration for their resurgence--which has so far, thanks to the military and other assistance mandated by the UN Security Council, achieved little other than making life difficult and deadly for many other Afghans in certain parts of the country.

I am forced to conclude, by the way, that you consider decisions of the UNSC not to have legitimacy. What then for any (thin) prospect of international agreement on the use of force?

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

Now, I was polite, and I was brave enough to answer your question, Mark. At considerable length. And for the record, I did privately remark to L-Girl — and I'll quote myself here — "I don't think he has the courage to take on my questions; he'll probably want to pick over the bones of the response I gave his question." ...which is precisely what you have done, in fact. You continue to ignore my questions, and insist the dialog be channeled down only the avenues you feel comfortable with.

Now everyone here can see that I've had the guts to face your question, to answer it honestly and sincerely, and that you have not had the courage of your conviction to answer mine. Not one. I realize they're tough questions; they're meant to be. They're meant to put the shoe on the other foot and make you feel uncomfortable. To THINK, instead of just quote from rote memorization the happy little things you've read in a hundred articles that warm your heart. But you don't seem to be equal to it.

Mark, I'm not afraid to answer your supplementaries. But I refuse to allow you to monopolize the content of the discussion, particularly when you've yet again dodged my charges to you. It's rude, inconsiderate, and cowardly. So once more... Mark, I challenge you to grow a pair — hell, grow just ONE — and take on the questions I asked you, before you dare require another accounting of me, when I've just provided you with one.

How about it, Mr. Kent? Those questions, AGAIN, are:

Would the presence of Chinese troops in Canada against our wishes constitute an invasion, even if China had tacit international support from its friends and allies, yes or no?

To whose wishes do the Canadian Forces answer, Afghans or Canadians?

Do you agree that the US has to hand the US Southwest back to Mexico because a majority of Mexicans polled support it, yes or no?

And from where in the cited Environics poll do you draw the conclusion that Canadian soldiers in particular are being urged to remain beyond 2009, or even tomorrow morning?

loneprimate said...

I thought I'd read up a little on the history of Afghanistan, in the hopes of understanding why all the myriad attacks on it from outside over the centuries constitute "invasions" historically, and yet, according to Mark, the most recent, our own, does not. Here's what I found out.

In modern times, Afghanistan was a kingdom. For many years, it was under the thumb of the British, but it regained its independence in 1919.

This changed in 1973 when Sardar Daoud Khan, the brother-in-law of the king at the time, Zahir Shah, overthrew the kingdom and established a republic with, of course, himself as president. Obsessed with a border dispute with Pakistan, he militarized the country, bringing it to financial ruin. What little democracy had existed under the monarchy dried up and resistance to the regime was suppressed. When the riots finally started in 1977, they were brutally crushed. The murder of Mir Akbar Khyber in 1978 served as a rallying point, and the Communists overthrew Khan, murdering him and most of his family.

It's interesting to note that the Communists, once in power, moved to find stability by recognizing the ethnic balance in the country, and in furtherance of goals we would have found laudable, had they only been undertaken by a party with a different name:

"...the initial cabinet appeared to be carefully constructed to alternate ranking positions between Khalqis and Parchamis. Taraki was Prime Minister, Karmal was senior Deputy Prime Minister, and Hafizullah Amin of Khalq was foreign minister.

Once in power, the party moved to permit freedom of religion and place agricultural resources under state control. They also made a number of ambitious statements on women’s rights and waived the farmers debts countrywide. The majority of people in the cities including Kabul either welcomed it or were ambivalent to these policies. However, the secular nature of the government made it unpopular with religiously conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside, who favored traditional Islamic restrictions on women's rights and in daily life. Their opposition became particularly pronounced after the Soviet Union occupied the country in late December of 1979, fearing it was in danger of being toppled by mujahideen forces."


...these "religiously conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside" are the main reason the Taliban are, six years into the invasion, still a force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan. We love to represent them as maniacs without support; the truth of the matter is, they have lots of it... it just comes from people whose attitudes we find tragically backward and lacking in compassion for others (not unlike the attitudes of Westerners like Mark, for that matter).

It's also interesting to note that Soviet forces where invited into the country by the government of the day, something Mark has assured us is a key pillar to the legitimization of our own invasion this time around. And yet, we objected to just such an action in 1979 regardless of that fact, so such a consideration would seem mooted for the sake of defending our own actions if we were to avoid hypocrisy. Now Mark, I'm sure, will be eager to spring up and tell us that the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to oppose the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, but I think it's more important yet to relate exactly what they were calling for when they did so:

"total withdrawal of foreign troops [from Afghanistan] as to enable its people to determine their own destiny and without outside interference or coercion."

Perhaps most telling of all is the fact that the mujahideen who fought the Communists with our support all those years were trying to return Afghanistan to a culture of Islamic exclusivity and the denial of the rights of women. They factionalized after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union; one group became the Taliban, and one the Northern Alliance (that is, Mark's heroes of modernity and all that's right and fair and just). So in effect, we're in Afghanistan to champion the cause of one group of anti-democratic arch-conservatives against another group of anti-democratic arch-conservatives. Meanwhile, we objected to the invasion of the country 30 years ago in aid of a society we would at least identify as politically more progressive because it had the wrong label and the support of people we considered our own enemies; the better angels of our nature be damned.

When you look at this history, and consider it in light of the remarks Robert Gates recently made about the nature of the progress of democracy (in that case, in Russia), I have to ask where people like Mark get the idea we can simply parachute into a society like this, which demonstrates no general cultural readiness to embrace values very similar to our own, and simply stuff it with democracy as one might stuff a bag with potatoes. Better we had continued to set an example for that country's own progressives from a distance, as we did for South Africa, as we did for Czechoslovakia, as we did for Poland, Hungary, Latvia... After all, it must be a little hard for people see the light when the message is "be peaceful and respectful of one another and treat each other as equals, otherwise we're going to come over there and beat it into your little brown heads". This mission is a malicious farce exacerbating a tragedy already centuries in duration that anyone with a sense of history beyond the purchase of his latest cell phone could recognize, and I am — and we all ought to be — ashamed of our country's support for and involvement in it.

L-girl said...

Thank you for the history lesson, Lone Primate. I really appreciate it.

More on the poll.

Mark, Ottawa said...

loneprimate: "It's also interesting to note that Soviet forces where invited into the country by the government of the day..."

Actually no. From Human Rights Watch (another bastion of imperialist aggression?):

"The PDPA government, under Khalq leadership, then embarked on a campaign of radical land reform accompanied by mass repression in the countryside that resulted in the arrest and summary execution of tens of thousands. Those targeted included political figures, religious leaders, teachers, students, other professionals, Islamist organizations, and members of ethnic minorities, particularly the Hazaras, a Shi'a minority that has long been subject to discrimination by Afghanistan's ruling elite. The government's repressive measures, particularly its attempt to reform rural society through terror, provoked uprisings throughout the country.

Alarmed by the deteriorating situation, especially the collapse of the army and the prospect that a disintegrating Afghanistan would threaten its security on its southern border, the Soviet Union airlifted thousands of troops into Kabul on December 24, 1979. The Khalq president, Hafizullah Amin, was assassinated after Soviet intelligence forces took control of the government and installed Babrak Karmal, a Parchami, as president..."

Real history.

Irrelevant questions:

"Would the presence of Chinese troops in Canada against our wishes constitute an invasion, even if China had tacit international support from its friends and allies, yes or no?
...
Do you agree that the US has to hand the US Southwest back to Mexico because a majority of Mexicans polled support it, yes or no?"

Those "yes or no" remind me of Mr Layton during Question Period.

"To whose wishes do the Canadian Forces answer, Afghans or Canadians?"

To the Canadian government, acting under the authority of the the UN Security Council with a Chapter VII mandate (the General Assembly is irrelevant in this context) and with the agreement of the elected (under UN supervision) Afghan government that is internationally recognized.

The UN has no doubt been a co-conspirator in denying Afghans their freedom; who can we trust?:

"The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) played a significant role in making sure that the 2004 landmark elections were peaceful and credible, notwithstanding the difficult conditions in the country. UNAMA’s electoral team supported the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) as it carried out an extensive voter registration exercise in which more than 10 million voters were registered. The JEMB, with support from UN election experts, then conducted a successful presidential election in October 2004.

The Mission also played a central role in resolving complaints raised by opposition candidates, some of whom had questioned the legitimacy of the election results. The United Nations Development Programme, as part of its mandate, also played an important complementary role in providing technical electoral assistance..."

Mark
Ottawa

loneprimate said...

Irrelevant questions

"No guts."

Sarah said...

Hi there,

Sorry, this is ages after the fact, but I was on a trip to Afghanistan when the CBC/Environics poll came out. Your point about the meaningfulness of responses of Afghans to a Western poll is right on. If you're still interested, here are some other points that I think bear some discussion on the poll's methodology:

Concerns with Validity -

Methodology involves entering people's homes and ask people's opinions on the military, especially the Afghan National Army/Afghan National Police. While the ANA/ANP are not quite like the militia in Iraq yet, they (esp the ANP) are very corrupt and often seen as dangerous to civilians.

Poll was conducted from September 17-24th, right at the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan, which for many Muslims represents a period of charity and goodwill, and when the good that is done by fasting can be considered void is one speaks ill of others behind
their backs.

Afghans' oral culture and hospitable nature makes the linearity, aggressively
direct, and confinement of responses into five categories of intensity (highly agree, somewhat agree, etc) bewildering. My own direct attempts at conducting quantitative research in Afghanistan are written up here (Kish grid, audience research survey):
http://cms.mit.edu/research/theses/SarahKamal2005.pdf, pages 42-3, 81-3. The problems I've listed in my Master's thesis barely skim the surface of the research challenges I've continued to have while conducting my PhD.

I have spent 7 years working in and around Afghanistan as an academic, development practitioner, and "undercover Afghan." As a Dari-speaking Afghan-looking woman, I have tended to find that after you scratch the surface of Afghan discourse, something else comes out that could never adequately be captured in as blunt and culturally unfamiliar a tool as a western poll. I usually find that people from other cultures tend not to appreciate the underlying resentment or suspicion felt by many Muslims towards the powerful West, and how quickly it can bubble up over a quiet discussion over a cup of tea.

Finding a good facilitator for polling is hard in Afghanistan. ACSOR has done polls for organizations like the Asia Foundation (said to have been founded with CIA funding) and the US state department, and their polls tend to have eyebrow raising results which run counter to other research but are advantageous for suggesting the military operations are running well. The Environics poll is not the first strange public opinion poll coming out of Afghanistan by ACSOR.

Sometimes the timing of the release of such polls is telling. I did a survey of publicly available public opinion in Afghanistan in Dec 2005, it is available here: http://c4o.unitycode.org/me/PeaceConditionalities.final.20060413.pdf . The studies that I looked at are listed in the appendix. Shortly after I finished this study (which found sharp pessimism and a downturn in public opinion), a new quantitative survey was released that claimed that Afghans were very pleased with the reconstruction process and international presence, released right before a major donor conference. This was in the same year that friends of mine were chased out of a UN compound in Jalalabad by angry mobs, who set fire to the compound. Also the same year as the Koran riots and Afghan Minister of Planning Bashardoost winning major public support in demanding that NGOs leave the country.

Methodology doesn't state how questions were piloted. Were there ways of triangulating responses? For instance, if people are so positive about the future, why is it that in the Environics poll only 40% think the government and foreigners will prevail in the current conflict? (20% believe the Taliban will win, 40% don't know). 20% believe Al Qaida is a positive force in the country - how does that mesh with other responses?

Concerns with generalizability -

Poor to non-existent communications and road infrastructure in rural areas, inadequate mapping, lack of security, illiteracy, widely divergent population estimates and shifting displaced populations hamper statistical generalizability of their poll of about 1,500 Afghans.

--

I have been in Afghanistan many times in the last 6 years, and in my three visits this year I found the security situation to be the worst I have ever seen. I first entered Afghanistan during the time of the Taliban, and even then did not feel as threatened as I did in my most recent journey in October 2007. There is no sense of safety anywhere, and even longtime Afghan friends of mine now feel uncomfortable entering downtown Kabul. Such fears could only have worsened with the Nov 6th suicide bomb killing children and MPs in Baghlan, formerly considered a "safe" area.

I have been wrong more times than I can count when it comes to Afghanistan, which I find a fascinating and unendingly complicated space. I don't object to surprising research findings, but I do object to bad science that run counter to common sense. The Environics poll runs counter to what I and other longtime development workers have found to be the mood in the country (including a practitioner who has lived for 6 years in Kandahar). The poll is also dangerous, in my opinion, because the word for expressing the public's mood that is more and more being bandied about in expert circles, and among Afghans, is "occupation." I was a panelist at the Middle East Studies Association annual conference this weekend, and everybody there agreed with that framing. So I believe it is particularly important to not allow a poll (which, as we understand, even in the best of situations is just a poll and not reflective of anything other than what people choose to say to a pollster) to be taken as more than it is.

Sorry for the long post - I agree that policy should not be influenced by the poll but polls are intrinsically political, so I guess that's why I think this one should be debunked thoroughly...

Cheers,


Sarah Kamal
2007 Trudeau Scholar
PhD Candidate, London School of Economics

L-girl said...

Sarah, thanks for the very interesting and thoughtful comment. I had read about the flawed methodology and other issues with the poll, and this is an excellent summary.

I'd be happy to highlight your comment as its own post, but your profile link doesn't go anywhere and the URLs you posted don't work. If you can give me some sources or even your own website, it would help a lot. Thank you!