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Hold the Line

I’m going to start this post with a cheesy quote from a favourite TV show of mine.

Hold the line until the light,
Hold the line against the night.

-“The March of the High Guard”, from the show Andromeda

I will also say that I am a pacifist.

Within the context of this post, I interpret the quote as a call to “hold the line” against those who would strip people of their basic rights and freedoms. Freedoms and rights that we take for granted, like the right to an education (however reluctantly we accept it), or freedom of religion, or the right to a fair trial. It’s a call to fight for those freedoms until they are realized, and fight for those freedoms when they are threatened.

Specifically, I’m talking about Afghanistan. Simply put, we aren’t done there yet, and I believe the imminent recall of troops on active combat duty will prove disastrous for this war.

Perhaps I should qualify my previous statement – I’m a pacifist, but I also try to be practical in my beliefs. If we talked our problems out like rational creatures and lowered all our horrific ordinance for just a little bit, that would be a better world.

Unfortunately, violence is a useful tool. Some would rather take by force than compromise and negotiate. And on a world populated by human beings, an army is a necessity.

Some things are worth fighting and even dying for.  Freedom is one of those things. And right now, the freedom of all the people of Afghanistan rests in our hands, to elevate or to discard as just another empty promise made by the West.

The sheer brutality of the Taliban cannot be denied. Terror, murders, torture, the list goes on – these are not kind people. Yet, some question if the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has really made life better for the people. Regardless of your view of the reasons for invasion, the answer cannot be anything but “yes”.

Soccer games are no longer prefaced by public stonings. A woman turning down a suitor no longer need fear a drive-by dousing with a bucket of acid. Girls are allowed to go to school. Who in their right mind can deny that this is an improvement?

Yes, times are tough in Afghanistan. Yes, it is a war zone – but in over 80% of the country, daily life has returned to usual. The key problem areas are in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Most people in the West are under the very false impression that we’re losing in Afghanistan. Truth is, we’re winning. The increasing resistance of the Taliban is desperation, not some kind of turning point in the war.

The Western media, by and large, is quite biased against the war in Afghanistan. There are quite a few documented cases of media ignoring positive reports in favour of IED deaths or suicide bombings. Why? Because people don’t want to read good news in their paper. I can’t imagine why, but they must not – why else would we be constantly fed dismal statements? I leave that open to the reader to answer for herself.

Right now, at this crucial juncture, the chance to help the people of Afghanistan toward representative government is ours. If the West follows through on its plan to withdraw, the Taliban will seize the opportunity and move into the power vacuum created by the withdrawal. And you may rest assured, what we’ve seen already in Afghanistan under the Taliban will seem petty compared to what will follow should that happen.

From the beginning, this war was not a short-term commitment. Everyone with a good head on their shoulders knew this would be an ongoing conflict for more than a decade. From my perspective, it will probably have taken at least 20 years before we can say we are finished.

In my view, there is absolutely no reason for Canada to pull out. We are making a difference in Afghanistan. If we gave our military more than the pocket change our government can beg for on the streets of Ottawa, and if necessary, committed more than just the volunteers we send now, our impact could be even larger.

Canada is not this weak country we are characterized as. Our Newfoundlanders had an entire regiment wiped out at the Somme. We singlehandedly broke Vimy Ridge. We demanded and received our own seat at Versailles. After the Great War, Canadians were known as the fiercest of shock troops, ranking with the Scots. At Juno Beach we were tested again, and again we lived up to our reputation. Canada has a long, strong, and proud military history – those who doubt our mettle or the strength of our steel may ask the people of the Netherlands.

What do we do now, Canada? Do we fight for the ideals for which we have already sacrificed so much? Can we abandon such a fight and still lay claim to this great history? When asked how far we are willing to go for this fight, how will we reply?

My answer comes from the mouth of Pierre Elliott Trudeau: “Just watch me.”

Hold the line, Canada. Hold the line until the light. Hold the line against the night.



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