Why has our beloved prime minister pledged Canada to give $110 million a year to Afghanistan, after our troops have been pulled out in 2014?
Stephen Harper must know, as every with a room temperature IQ knows, that when NATO troops are gone from Afghanistan, whatever hopes we have for that bedeviled country are gone too.
Harper pledging $110 million in 2015 and beyond -- rather than soldiers training Afghans -- is more like guilty conscience money than a lifeline for a secure future.
Pulling out after close to 10 years in Afghanistan means one of three things: 1) We've won, in the sense that what we went into Afghanistan to achieve has been achieved. 2) We've lost, and there's no point fighting a lost cause that cannot be won. 3) We've neither won nor lost, but there is no end in sight, and since it's not our country anyway, we might as well get the hell out and go home.
Probably the last point is closest to reality. If it is, then replacing soldiers with taxpayers' money is a poor substitute -- and a waste of money in the long run.
The NATO summit in Chicago (which could have used some "peacekeepers" to quell violence-prone demonstrators) figures that some $4 billion a year needs to be spent to keep Afghanistan relatively stable -- most of the money coming from the U.S. More wasted money.
So much has already been invested in Afghanistan during the past decade that the country cannot return into the primitive, isolated state it once was. The world doesn't work that way.
There are more schools and social infrastructure in Afghanistan now than in past centuries combined. More girls go to school now. The aspirations of Afghans have changed. The outside world has intruded on them, and what they've seen and experienced cannot be forgotten, ignored or put aside.
The country will change, but not quickly, and not with foreign troops keeping a lid on what will inevitably happen.
The Jeremiahs of our society will brand Afghanistan as a failure. That's partially true, but not entirely. Seeds have been planted among the people; that life need not be as bleak or as narrow or as restricted as it once was.
Even if the "new" Afghan National Army (ANA), trained and financed by foreign troops, fails to prevent the Taliban from regaining control of the country, it does not mean that changes will cease or stagnate. There is no going back -- as the Taliban will soon discover.
Inevitable, too, is that some will view Canada's involvement in Afghanistan as wasted and useless -- at the cost of 158 soldiers killed; 97 of which were killed by roadside bombs, 22 in firefights, and 13 by suicide bombers. Twenty-six died from non-battle accidents.
Over 600 were wounded in action -- many with life-changing wounds that would have been fatal in past wars.
A heavy cost, but on the positive side, Afghanistan revived our military to the point where Canada is recognized as, arguably, the best small army in the world. As good as any, and better than most.
Troops of high morale and ability, respected by allies, feared by enemies, appreciated by civilians for whom they are simultaneously diplomats, social workers, humanitarians and protectors.
In that sense, for Canada, Afghanistan was not useless, not a failure, but a success in achieving what could be achieved, and our nation was never being beaten, intimidated or subdued.