Why Are We In Afghanistan? by Terry Glavin and Stan Persky
Or, what are two nice lefty writers like you doing in a war like this?
So we now move to the question of whether we should be there in the first place, and I can answer only in the affirmative, precisely because of the contents of the answer to the first question—the reasons why we are there. Those specific reasons involve some pretty basic duties of solidarity and global citizenship. And this is where the ethical dimension seems fairly straightforward to me.
Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Prior to 2001, the Afghan people had already been brutalized by a quarter of a century of almost constant warfare and despotism of the most savage and merciless kind. The women were slaves. Almost a quarter of the country’s population had fled, and wandered the world as exiles, or survived in refugee camps.
Since the rout of the Taliban, a baker’s dozen of national public opinion polls and focus group surveys has been undertaken in the country, and they present overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that the Afghan people themselves want us to be there. Is it ethically possible to say “no” to them? I can’t see it.
But if we put the question slightly differently— “Are there good reasons to leave?”— there might be defensible answers. But when one surveys the “anti-war” arguments, two things become obvious.
The first is that on their own, the “anti-war” complaints rarely withstand any serious scrutiny at all. Secondly, just for argument’s sake, if we were to go so far as to grant all but the most lunatic “anti-war” arguments—and there is no dearth of those—they still don’t add up to a case for withdrawal. They don’t come close to justifying an abdication of our basic obligations of solidarity and citizenship as a member of the UN, as a member of NATO, as a member of ISAF, or as a signatory to the Afghanistan Compact.
As for the directly personal, ethical context, I approach these questions from a fairly conventional social-democratic and internationalist perspective, and what is probably a distinctly Canadian version of that perspective as well. So, when I try to assess the struggle in Afghanistan from that perspective—and in light of the left’s traditional understanding that shooting fascists is no vice—I can’t help but notice that our soldiers in Afghanistan are clearly engaged in the advance of the historic mission of the left.
The rest. For any on the Right who have given up hope of ever finding common ground with the Left – look no further. This piece appeals to the better polemics of our nature.