Saturday, 6 February 2010

Afghanistan Descending

Mere days after the Allies had rained nuclear catastrophe upon two of his cities, Emperor Hirohito announced to his subjects his decision to surrender not by saying that Japan had lost the war but that "the war situation [had] developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage".

Last week, NATO coalition forces announced their surrender to the Taliban not by saying that they had lost the war but by admitting that "when all is said and done, the Afghan jihadist movement—in one form or another—will be part of the government in Kabul". The Vietnam analogy so often applied to this lamentable enterprise has thus finally been vindicated, with our grovelling, abject request for quarter occurring after almost eight years of war (roughly equating to the time-span of major U.S. operations in Vietnam) and a mere two weeks after Kabul suffered its own humiliating Tet Offensive.

Canada has just lost its first war, after having dragged over a hundred of its bravest souls into futile slaughter, without having earned a single battle honour worthy of being affixed to any of our regimental colours, and without being able to promise those on whose behalf our fallen gave their lives a future measurably better than the one to which they were sadly resigned in the year 2000. It shall take us a while, I think, before we fully grasp the depth and magnitude of this catastrophe. Western military impotence has not been this luridly exhibited since Augustus lost three legions in a German forest.

If we Canadians had remaining to us even the smallest dregs of pride at the bottom of the tankards of self-loathing phlegm our √©lites have been serving us for generations—if our collective spinal column had not been sloppily extracted decades ago and chopped into a bloody pile of soggy toothpicks by the civic evisceration of continentalism and the nihilism of swinish consumerism—we would be taking the news of our utter rout with something slightly more engaged than the bored, unblinking catatonia that has marked our public reaction so far. In fact, if we had enough moral capacity to weigh rightly the full extent of the Afghan tragedy, our menfolk would this hour be joyfully parading down Sussex Street, in review order, brandishing the severed heads of our political and military leadership stuck high upon pikes, with our women dancing and throwing garlands before the throng.

But there shall be no bloodshed. Instead, we shall celebrate the conclusion of our shameful part in America's latest Third-World misadventure by self-conferring all the traditional sacraments of suburban banality whilst praying for the intercession of Saints Blockbuster and Facebook. For we are civilised.


Shiner said...

Sir Francis, did you happen to catch Maclean's In Coversation on the subject of Afghanistan? The hawks (who, I believe made up all but one of the panel) put foreward an argument that struck me as incredibly odd.

Essentially, we must stay in Afghanistan, because if we don't, that'll be the end of NATO. How backwards is that? I think their main concern was that they had spent their entire careers studying NATO and, without it, wouldn't have anything to do anymore.

Here's the show:

Shiner said...

Sorry, Link

Sir Francis said...


Thanks for that link. The conversation was fascinating, morbidly fascinating at times.

I love how former ambassador Chris Alexander, apparently a pretty bright guy, asserts that Denmark never experienced warfare in the 20th Century, forgetting that it resisted a German invasion (though briefly and unsuccessfully) in 1940. Let's hope his diplomatic acumen is stronger that his historical one.

As for their desperation to see NATO survive at any cost, it makes perfect sense (at least for instinctive pro-Americans like Wells and Coyne). NATO is effectively a U.S. global intervention force, but, fortunately, it carries a multilateral veneer that lends it a certain respectability whenever it's deployed on behalf of American geo-strategic priorities. The likes of Coyne would be devastated if ever NATO broke up and left the U.S. without the fig leaf that's been hiding the ugliness of its self-serving interventionism for the last five decades.

jkg said...

Coyne and Wells are sometimes a funny bunch. I remember one of their "weekly podcasts" they lamented how Canadians should not define themselves in the counterfactual to the American identity. I found this rather odd considering I have observed that, with few exceptions from both of them, their discussions and vernacular betray their implicit willingness (or perhaps subconscious?) to define Canadian issues in pan-American way as if it is a given that being part of the West must necessitate a concession to whatever discourse is occurring with cousins to the South.

It shouldn't be that surprising that some people up here want to contrast themselves against the Americans. I think it is just a reaction to the instinctive need to have a political discourse that is endogenous to our own nation state. After all, we have seen so many examples of ideological assimilation in Canada in both my personal and societal experience.

The most recent one was regarding the announcement of Layton's prostate cancer. Some former coworkers of mine who are adamant CPC supporters were wishing him well, which was a decent thing to do, but without hesitation, they segue into making a political point about how healthcare needs to be privatized.

The second is more salient to your point about our participation in this conflict. At the outset, some NATO members were less than enthusiastic in taking the more dangerous missions in Kandahar. When I was following the defense of de Hoop Scheffer (sp), it seemed to me he was trying to quell the U.S. and Canada's complaints about some other nations dragging their feet. That observation alone should tip off anyone just who are the major stakeholders in this. Nevermind the fact that any information coming out of the Afghan mission is filtered and opaque at best by traditional media. Even when we get a glimpse of the cost, media outlets (like the CBC) are usually flogged by the Usual Suspects as being "leftist" and "bias."

The ridiculous part of it all is that collectively, the Canadian citizenry has fallen for the empty, yet very persuasive slogan "Support our Troops," which has been used to hit over the head any one who dares ask the most basic questions about this mission. Most responses just pile on the open-endedness of this entire affair. It should be of concern of even the most layperson that our theatre of combat is in a region that has never been successfully 'rebuilt' much less occupied by any outside force, yet we are asked, as an article of faith, to believe that 'bringing democracy' would be a panacea to all the complexity this campaign brings.

Sir Francis said...

It shouldn't be that surprising that some people up here want to contrast themselves against the Americans.

The most oft-cited symptom of our "cultural insecurity" and our "inferiority complex" is our allegedly obsessive need to contrast ourselves with Americans. One wonders, then, what flaw in the American psyche causes our southern cousins to contrast themselves obsessively to Europeans. Is it their insecurity? Their inferiority complex?

At the outset, some NATO members were less than enthusiastic in taking the more dangerous missions in Kandahar.

American failure to rally the NATO partnership around the Afghan mission has been a key sign of America's waning global influence: it's still huge, but it is clearly in its senescence. Twenty years ago, NATO member-states would have happily poured personnel and resources into a U.S.-led mission like this without hesitation. Now, they baulk. I find all this quite heartening, naturally: Europe is re-familiarising itself with its testicles after six decades of eunuchoid sedulousness.

Ti-Guy said...

Coyne and Wells are sometimes a funny bunch.

Especially when both of them have established careers on saying "never mind" when they turn out to be horribly mistaken about something they robustly defended for quite some time; Paul "Right Side Up" Wells on Harper and the Conservatives and Coyne on neoliberalism. Most of our journalistic class is like this by the way, but since those two are my age and of similar class/education, I feel particularly aggrieved when confronted by their lack of wisdom and humility.

Wells shouldn't be allowed to write about politics anymore and Coyne should be forbidden from writing about economics. I'm sure Wells would much prefer to write about jazz and classic music. Coyne really should just go away, already.

Sir Francis said...

...those two are my age and of similar class/education...

Well, I don't know much about your class and education, Ti, but Coyne—the son of a former chairman of the Bank of Canada—is an alumnus of Trinity College and the London School of Economics. Canadian blood can hardly get much bluer.

Now, lived we still in the days when Canadian patricians felt the burden of a moral, intellectual, and fiscal debt to their communities, Coyne’s pedigree would be an asset. As it is, the Coynes and Wellses of the country use their cultural privileges the way a pox-ridden streetwalker uses her thigh-highs.

Ti-Guy said...

I meant class and/or education.

thwap said...

I agree with your post entirely.

We shrug our shoulders at accounts of corruption, torture and massacre.

And the people who orchestrated this failure will start talking about how it was all for the best as soon as they step onto Canadian soil again.

Sir Francis said...

[Those] who orchestrated this failure will start talking about how it was all for the best as soon as they step onto Canadian soil again.

I'd like to see them step into some Canadian soil—six feet deep, to be exact.