What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of the provinces of Québec and Kandahar

A side-glance by MStFB in the direction of Kandahar
Another area of Afghanistan I'm going to pay more attention to in the future, maybe in the form of more blogposts, maybe not, is... Québec. Wait, did I just say an "area of Afghanistan"? Sorry, I don't want to mislead anyone. Québec is only a part of Afghanistan's political space nowadays, so to say, and that's what I meant (or is Afghanistan a part of Québec's political space? I'm getting confused here...). Anyway, Québec is the province of Canada where, contrary to, say, Alberta, public support is clearly very low for Canada's mission in Afghanistan. So low, that the Bloc Québécois is nowadays firmly set on getting a statement from Canada's current conservative government on that troops will be pulled out from Afghanistan (while the Harper government for its part ties an extension of the current mandate, lasting till the February of 2009, to a domestic political consensus, so that there be no free-riding on the waves of public opinion, as is always preferrable for a government taking risky decisions).
Not coincidentally, the mood of resistance in Québec is gaining strength after a Québec-based Canadian Forces unit, the Royal 22nd Regiment (les vingt-deuxièmes - hence their oft-mentioned informal name: "Van Doos") has taken charge of Canada's operations in Kandahar province (since August 1). The Van Doos already have two KIAs - Simon Longtin died on August 19, and Mario Mercier died on August 22 (read about this here, but bear in mind that the cited source gets it wrong when it mistakenly claims about another soldier that he also belonged to the Van Doos; you can also watch a video here).
The deployment of these troops (the members of this 2000+ contingent are actually not the first of the Van Doos to make it to Kandahar; some others of the Van Doos have already been there since last December) was preceded by major anti-war "indirect action" - those opposing the deployment sent out thousands of letters, aimed at the soldiers based at the Canadian Forces base in Valcartier, Québec (home of the Van Doos), suggesting to them that they not show up for duty; read about this here. (Just to get this straight: these letters were thus aimed at soldiers who go to Kandahar as volunteers - it would be interesting to know if a majority of the anti-war activists actually realise that basic fact.)
You may read an in-depth analysis of public opinion polls on Canadians' sentiments (and the methodological problems facing someone willing to find out about them) here.
Hat tip to The Torch for pointing to the latter article. The Torch by the way is a blog I'm going to turn to more often in the upcoming period. They have firm views, but not to the detriment of the coverage of events. (And you know what, when I see stuff like this cartoon that I saw the other day on You Tube, uploaded there by someone with a statedly activist mindset, showing a Québécois Canadian soldier with a UN blue helmet on (!), in Afghanistan, disemboweled by an IED, calling for help in vain from an evil/lazy (?) American officer on the radio, with all this meant to be fun (!), stealing from South Park's visual style (that rip-off also made me very angry), well... I can understand some of the hard feelings these guys over at The Torch get and openly talk of at times, even if I'm an outsider, untouched by the currents of domestic Canadian politics, and subsequently not sharing these guys' stance in the turmoil of the latter battlefield. (I'm not going to link to the You Tube video mentioned here, I just brought it up as illustration.)
The big question regarding the Canadian deployment is whether the Québec issue may make Canadian operations more risk-averse in Kandahar? Well, so far there's no sign of that. Mario Mercier (along with another Canadian soldier) died "on the offensive", so to say. Killed by an IED, yes, but during an offensive operation, in the area of Gundy Ghar (where insurgents have taken over ANP police outposts earlier on). Canadian officers also openly claimed prior to this that the arrival of the Van Doos will mean no change in the overall strategy, and they even pointed to the fact that while the handing over of command is taking place, one may even regard it as though there would be a 'surge' of Canadian Forces in Kandahar. The word surge is part of the popular vocabulary nowadays, true, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't take this seriously, as I pointed out above.
Anyway, what for now was only a single side-glance at this issue by me, so to say, may in the future be repeated.


Canadian xxxx said...

You've discovered "The Torch"

You say "They have firm views". That's one way to put it. My impression is that they are a bunch of jingoistic tub-thumpers. Their interest is in seeing the military in action. Don't be surprised if, during a future visit, you are completely bowled over by some pure babbling rubbish. There is quite a bit of info there, but when they give opinion...

Have you been to espritdecorps.ca?
There are good articles there, by people with military experience, who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan, about the Canadian military and the mission in Afghanistan.

Péter MARTON said...

Well, I'll definitely check out Esprit de corps, thanks for the recommendation. (In fact I've already checked it out, and it looks great indeed!)
Just do take into account that I haven't endorsed The Torch for all it represents. It's a site that aims to be a news aggregator (which I can appreciate much), as much as a site to express political views (which leave me neutral normally). And those latter views are not mine of course.