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Will A/Stan yet prove to be North America’s Vietnam?

May 18, 2009

Today, CBC’s report on Defence Minister Peter McKay – he is to discuss security concerns with Pakistani officials – reminds us to read outside the narrow scope of Canadian media’s cash strapped and increasingly limited Afghanistan/Pakistan coverage.

Mackay states that even after our 2011 combat role ends, “Canada will have lots to do.”  As the U.S.  adopts the “Canadian approach” to this intervention – enhanced humanitarian aid, school building, advocacy for women’s rights, and now, talk of “enabling micro-finance credit,” Canadians need to be aware about the dark side of these ventures.

The New Yorker. “In Search of Success” Steve Coll. “Obama’s strategy seeks to alter the daily experiences and thus the political outlook of Afghan military deployments. Yet to an overwhelming extent the American presence in the region is located in its Afghan military deployments.”

Truthout. “Kabul’s New Elite live high on West’s largesse” Patrick Cockburn. “Gilded cage lifestyle reveals the ugly truth about foreign aid in Afghanistan – vast sums of money are being lavished by Western aid agencies on their own officials in Afghanistan at a time when extreme poverty is driving young Afghans to fight for the Taliban.”

The Nation. “Understanding the Long War.” Tom Hayden. “ Kaplan … quotes one US officer … that ‘you want to whack bad guys quietly and cover your tracks with humanitarian aid projects.”

Politico. “Pentagon preps for years in Afghanistan” David. S. Cloud. “… the Afghanistan war … a secondary concern for the Pentagon, which has tended to view it as a short term mission … a back seat to…Iraq…this is about finding an alternative scheme that allows us to provide continuity [for US troops in deployment]…without burning people out.”

New York Times. “Taliban Exploit Class Rifts to Gain Ground in Pakistan” Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah. “Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass.”

Currently, the New York Times features video diaries and photographic essays that evoke images of another “long war”: Vietnam. Of particular note: C.J.Chivers article “Korangal Valley Memo” – which carries with it a stunningly filmed video.

On the ground reporting about “our war” in Afghanistan rarely reaches Canadians, unless we count C. Blatchford’s dispatches from 2006. Those soldiers/advisors/aid workers we send “over there” are real people. Is the Harper/Obama strategy the right one?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. marakardasnelson permalink*
    May 25, 2009 6:52 am

    I think that this is a great post. Although “foreign aid” is soft on the ears, it does not necessarily mean that it does not ring of imperialism as much as a more overt physical warfare. I think that comparisons to Vietnam are hauntingly correct.

  2. Adrian permalink
    May 18, 2009 1:24 pm

    Thanks for presenting some alternative views on where we are going in Afghanistan. “Micro finance credit” is a good thing to promote but since when did our governments truly support it anywhere.

    Still looks like a deployment in search of a strategy. The price for this in human terms is very high.

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