20031023.1517 (Captain's log): Tynan writes, from Canada:
Aside from my government's opposition to the war in the first place, there is another reason why we're not even really considering sending troops to Iraq. That is that all of our troops are already busy in Afghanistan, where Canada is making a significant contribution (or at least as significant as our underfunded and mismanaged military can support). There's really no debate about sending troops to Iraq after the fact (even if the government disagreed with the war I think some would call for us to help reconstruction if the soldiers were sitting around twiddling their thumbs, but alas, they're not).
Even if I am disappointed by Liberals' stand on the war, at least I'm gald that we're contributing to the reconstruction effort in the region. After all, those canadians in afghanistan would have to be replaced by US troops had they stayed home, and those US troops would have to come from somewhere.
Actually, they wouldn't. We don't have any major strategic interest in long term rebuilding in Afghanistan. We don't have any interest in preventing it, either; in terms of pure strategic evaluation, it's pretty much neutral. So we're helping with troops and with money, but not really very much.
We attacked Afghanistan to reduce al Qaeda's ability to operate for at least a few years, so as to give us breathing room to do other things that would matter more in the long run. If no one else had been willing to deploy troops in Afghanistan, we would not have drastically increased our commitment of forces there.
Even with help from other nations, there aren't remotely enough foreign troops there for any kind of credible rebuilding effort. Those troops which are present are mostly deployed in the region of Kabul, though they might go other places some of the time. Most of the nation is being directly ruled by local warlords, as has been the case there for centuries. Afghanistan is not now a "nation" in any meaningful sense of the term, and isn't likely to be during our lifetimes.
Karzai's doing the best he can, but all he really controls is the Kabul area. A real dedication to rebuilding and nationifying Afghanistan would have involved an effort as great as what's happening now in Iraq. But we aren't doing that partly because we can't, and partly because it wouldn't gain us anything. We're doing it in Iraq because it will gain us a lot if it succeeds.
And that's the reason both the Canadians and Germans are willing to serve in Afghanistan. It is precisely because doing so does not not contribute in any way to what they view as America's war. They're not relieving our troops and thus freeing them for use elsewhere, and they're not doing anything which helps us further our strategic goals. That's why it's OK for them to be in Afghanistan, but not to be in Iraq.