Saturday, September 23, 2006

Has Canada no honour?

This morning, on NPR, I heard dispiriting news: our Canadian neighbors, and NATO allies, are questioning their commitment to completing the mission in Afghanistan. Of course, we've heard similiar things from other NATO allies.

Have they no honor?

May I remind all concerned that Afghanistan did attack the United States on September 11, 2001 -- that is to say, it provided a safe haven for those who did, and that does make it responsible.

On September 11, 2001, the NATO treaty was invoked, for the first time ever: "an attack upon one is an attack upon all."

I fully understand many of our allies are queasy about the war in Iraq. Many Americans, were and are, queasy about it as well. But Afghanistan was "the good war"--the war fully justified under classic moral principles; the Holy See agreed.

So responding to the aggression that was launched from the territory and with the connivance of Afghanistan was not only morally justified, for those who gave their word by treaty, it was morally necessary! I repeat: morally necessary!

A little refresher for those who don't know this...

For its entire history to now, the United States provided the major "heft" of the NATO alliance. NATO was formed out of the ashes of the Second World War, with the Atlantic alliance at its core; the need arose because of the rapid assertion of Soviet tyranny over roughly half of Europe. And for 35 years, NATO stood guard against any further Soviet aggression. The vast majority of the conventional forces, on the line, were American. To defend Europe--and the West.

I know, that may sound quaint to some; but it was a real threat for several decades.

For good or ill, the NATO allies did not consistently mobilize enough to match Soviet conventional forces, poised along the East-West German frontier. So the policy was--and this was fully public, everyone knew this--that if the outnumbered NATO forces could not contain a Soviet thrust, NATO would respond with theater nuclear weapons to stop the advance. That meant the Germans consented to their homeland being nuked.

But everyone understood that would almost certainly mean escalation--meaning nuclear attacks against both Russia and the U.S.

Realize what that means: for 35 years, the American people not only bore the burden of collective, conventional defense of the West, they also put their entire homeland on the line. (In fairness, as did the Germans, and likely the British. Did anyone else in NATO face risk similar destruction?)

And, like or not, it worked: NATO succeeded, and won the Cold War without firing a shot. Success by definition.

So as far as NATO is concerned, the American people gave their part.

When, at long last, an attack on a NATO ally came, and the treaty was invoked, it came not in Europe -- but here, in the U.S.

I submit that our allies have a debt of honor to help vanguish the Taliban, and rebuild Afghanistan--and that means more than holding the coats of Americans while they bleed and die.

I can't help recalling the scene in The Lord of the Rings, when the men of Rohan were called to assist Gondor, and Eomer cried:

"Now is the hour, Riders of Rohan! Oaths you have taken: now fulfill them all, for lord and for land!"

As the vastly outnumbered men of the west trembled before the gates of Mordor, Aragorn said:

"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship...but it is not this day... this day we fight!"

Has the courage of Canada failed? So it would seem. -- OK, based on a commenter's point, let me rephrase my last line:

Has the courage of Canada failed? We shall see.


Nancy said...

In fairness, the current Conservative government understands the importance of the mission in Afghanistan and the need to stick it out. It is a minority government, however, so they have to be careful not to fall. The Liberals, who had been in power for decades, and the New Democratic Party (aka Commie Light) are a different story.

It's a bit complicated to explain all the internal political dynamics except to say that certain vote-rich parts of the country are more hostile to military action than other parts of the country; as well, certain political parties (and media entities) try to gain power by cultivating anti-American attitudes.

The thing that, as a Canadian, really upsets me the most is the fact that 24 Canadians perished in the 9/11 attacks and that to me the previous government seemed to want to sweep that fact under the carpet with great speed. It's a bit inconvenient for those who want to portray 9/11 as a strictly "American" issue. I can understand, if not agree with, queasiness in coming to the aid of the Americans. When a people doesn't want to stand up for it's own citizens, that is inexcusable.

Ray from MN said...

Nancy would know more than I, but what scares me most about what is going on in Canada, is not their defense posture, but the way the Liberal Party, with very little national opposition began tearing down their Christian infrastructure

Gay Rights and "Design your own marriage" are the linchpins of the movement.

I've read that the Conservatives will be having a "free vote" this Fall in an attempt to repeal some of the Liberal legislation. But I don't sense that there is much fervor favoring repeal.

The West seems to be as much anarchic as Toronto.

Ray from Minnesota where we know a bit more than most down here about our northern neighbors. And I pray that I am wrong.

Mark Anthony said...

Knowing little about Canadian politics, I can't comment directly. However, I note with interest Afghan President Karzai's recent comment that the $300 million spent by the US on the Iraq War would have gone a long way to rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan. Had we focussed our money and manpower there instead of in Iraq, it is at least possible that the Canadians, along with the US, might be ready to leave a secure Afghanistan to take care of itself.

joeh said...

War costs money and we are fighting terrorist in Iraq. I say anywhere the terrorist want to come and fight our troops is a plus rather than have them in a hole plotting the next 9/11.

As to Canada, it does appear that recent changes in the government have been good. I could sense things were not looking up years ago when the move toward French became the rage. Something about speaking that language brings out the yellow streak.

Paul_B said...

On a weekend where the dead was being repatriated, this was a crass post. Who are you to judge the actions of Canadians? What is outrageous is that you are judging based on political discourse not action. Canada has always been on the front lines. Even in Germany facing off the Commies during the cold war. If you knew anything about Canadian military history, you would realize that Canadians have paid a huge price for freedom. You want to talk about principle...explain why the US joined WW2 only after being attacked? Canadians were already dying in Europe by the time the US could be bothered to get involved. We have been in Afghanistan since the beginning and have taken a disportion amount of the casualties. Read this article written after the US bombed Canadian troops the first time and decide whether you want to rephrase your frustations in words other than Canada has no honour.

Catholic Wife and Mother said...

Okay, but Canada is part of the Commonwealth. Would that not be the reason they were involved in WWII before the US?

Father Martin Fox said...


At your request, I did rephrase, as you can see for yourself. But I will stand by this: if Canada, or any NATO ally, steps back from the fight in Afghanistan until the job is complete, then I say that is dishonorable.

I found no fault with Canada's contribution to the Second World War; and the excellence of that does not allow for failing to honor the NATO treaty.

Nancy: you make several good points, which I appreciate. One in particular: you remind me that all who died on 9/11 were not Americans, and I tend to forget that, I'm sorry; and thank you for reminding me.

Paul_B said...

Thanks you.

By the way. Don't get all your info from the's a tad biased.

Catholic Wife and Mother: Canada has been a sovereign country since 1867. It was not compelled to enter WW1 or WW2

Canada has never run away from a fight that needed fighting. It's military...though underfunded since the 70's has always been extremely effective in battle. Be thankful that your neighbour to the north isn't a country that doesn't debate war and is another war mongering nation that the US needs to worry about.

Here is a couple of links to familiarize yourself with Candian forces accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

"...for lord and for land..."

Neither of which apply to the current conflict.

Father Martin Fox said...


In fact, the NATO alliance is bound, by solemn oath, to fight together "for lord and for land" -- "lord" being lower-case, hence leader; and for "land" -- that is, homeland.

The NATO pact is summarized: "an attack upon one is an attack upon all." Afghanistan, through its proxies al Qaeda, did attack the U.S.! In fact, every nation whose citizens died in the towers, which included Canada, UK and other NATO members.

I remind you that President Bush gave the Taliban regime an ultimatum first--I think it was, turn over bin Laden et al. and allow forces in to deal with the camps...and the Taliban didn't comply. That, too, was a moral response.

So invading and defeating the hostile government of Afghanistan was a moral objective, in defense of "lord and land" -- as is the present phase, which basically is mopping up the remainder of the Taliban, and securing the peace for the people of Afghanistan.

If defeating an enemy who attacks you -- after you give an alternative to war, that is refused -- isn't morally justified, what is? Or do you think no military action is justified, ever?

Deacon Jeffery BeBeau said...

Canada is committed to its mission in Afganistan, Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed that only today. We are in it for the long haul.

I had a listen to the broadcast you mentioned Father and in my opinion it contained a lot of fluff and little substance. It was obvious that PM Harper is supporting the mission, and yet the commentary seemed to focus on anything that was contrary. There wasn't commentary on anything or from anyone who was in favor of continuing the mission.

Much in the same way that support for America's presence in Iraq is being questions more and more because of the high number of casualties, especaily by those parties not in power, so as in Canada in regards to our presence in Afganistan. Yet I am not worried in the least that the United States is planning on withdrawing from Iraq. I would hope the same would be said for Canada.

As to our history, especially in the 20th century, Canada and the United States have been close friends and allies. Indeed as part of the British Empire Canada was compelled to declare war on Germany and its allies in WWI. While Canada was "established" as a country in 1867, our indepenence from the Motherland, i.e. Great Britian, came slowly. It was not until 1931 that we were given full autonomy over our foreign relation, at it was technically not until 1982 that we became truly independent of Great Britian, we were given the authority to amend our own consitituion. In WWII Canada declared war on its own. And through the Cold War it was Canada who was on the front line between the United States and the Soviet Union. Any nuclear attacks between the countries would have gone over the poles.

The last major conflict Canada was involved in was pretty much the Korean War, which is over 2 generations removed from the minds of most Canadians. In recent months Canada has begun to experience casualties as a result of our NATO committements in Afganistan. This is essentially "new" for Canada. The actions of the media have done nothing to help popular support for the mission. We are struggling with the human cost of the war.

The mission in Afganistan is particularly difficult for the members of the Canadian forces. In 1993 much funding was removed and numbers we cut. It has only been in the last couple of years that we have begun to reinvest in our military. A committment of 2000-3000 soldiers is a large number for a country that has a standing armed forces (army, navy, and air force) of approximately 60000-70000. In addition to Afganistant we have a large peacekeeping presence in Bosnia as well as in other places in the world. Keeping moral high amoung the troops has been difficult when they have been neglected for so long and now the high body count doesn't help.

The few in the Canadian Parliament that are opposed to the mission, are in general opposed because it is politically expedience for them to be. In a minority Parliament, Canada could be thrust into an election at any time, so opposition parties are always looking for an opportunity to look good in the eyes of their voting block. Much in the same way many American politicians are now against the United States presence in Iraq.

So to answer you question Father, yes Canada has plenty of honor as much as our good allies to the south, we will keep to our word and our committements.

Forgive the long political and historical commentary. I received a BA in History and Political Science before entering the seminary. I also have many ties to the United States, by father being a dual-citizen, so I am anything but anti-American.

UKBlogger said...

Actually your information is incorrect, Afghanistan did not attack the USA. Your information is based solely on US intelligence which can be in no sense relied upon when it is in US economic interests for that intelligence to be inaccurate.