The Edmonton Journal today printed an excerpt from a letter I e-mailed them last week. I wrote it in response to a letter stating that there is not a compelling reason for Canadian troops to be in Afghanistan and implying there was nothing good to be accomplished there.
For the record, I am not a military adventurist or cultural imperialist; I was extremely relieved that we did not send troops into Iraq, but I think our troops do have a positive role they can play in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Here is my letter in its entirety:
Many people wonder why we are allowing Canadian soldiers to fight and die in Afghanistan, and what benefit our presence there has. It's a tough question, made tougher by the violent history of that region, but we saw the results of leaving Afghanistan in the hands of extremists on September 11, 2001. The hatred that fuelled those attacks and others like them will not go away on its own, and by fighting there now, we might even avoid fighting on our own soil in the future.
More importantly, by helping Afghans to secure their own country against insurrectionists and the Taliban, and by assisting them in projects like schools and wells, we can provide an alternative to the hatred and intolerance taught in Taliban madrasahs since the Soviets left. I, for one, am grateful and proud that we have a military able to lend a hand, and the willingness to fight for such abstractions as the rights of girls to go to school so they can learn to read and write.
No, success won't be fast, and it won't be easy. Yes, there are corruption and cultural issues to overcome, but in the end, I can't imagine a worthier use for our military than to help make a dark corner of the world a little brighter, and perhaps the rest of the world a little safer as well. I pray that their many sacrifices will not be in vain.
As we approach another Remembrance Day where so many of our friends and neighbours are in harm's way on the other side of the world, please take a moment to remember them and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make on our behalf. I look forward to a day when we can bring them all home knowing that they have left this troubled region at least a little better off than it was before they got there.