Globe bigfoot Jeffrey Simpson has a smart, concise column on the miserable status of the Afghan mission. I suspect that Simpson would like Canada to stay there until the job is done. I'd like us out now, because the mission is ill-defined and has been from the beginning. I can't bear Canadians dying in service of a muddled cause.
We do agree that Harper's pander this week in guaranteeing an Afghan withdrawal by 2011 serves chiefly to demoralize our men and women in the line of fire.
I suspect Simpson and I also agree Harper should at least have held off until Nov. 4 to find out whether our U.S. allies in Kandahar will be led by John McCain or Barack Obama. And to monitor the reaction to the U.S. election results by other NATO heads of state.
Few nations, historically, have been more hostile to outsiders than Afghanistan, as the Soviets learned beginning in 1979 and other invaders experienced over previous centuries. The humbling of Soviet forces, seen above withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988, helped trigger the collapse of the Soviet empire three years later, and with good reason often is described as "the Soviets' Vietnam."
Being there is folly unless you have sufficient boots on the ground; the unwavering support of the tribal warlords who actually run the country (Karzai's de facto writ doesn't run beyond the outskirts of Kabul); can build a sustainable national government, local army and trustworthy police force; have a realistic plan for replacing poppies as the nation's economic mainstay; can find a way of eradicating the Taliban without killing the civilians the Taliban uses as human shields, and stop the Taliban from shaking down poppy farmers for the cash that pays for its munitions; and can build and protect an infrastructure of schools, courts, hospitals and other social institutions.
A miracle could happen, with the NATO countries agreeing on such a holistic plan and committing the blood and treasure to carry it out in a mission of a decade's duration. Only a believer in miracles would bet even one more Canadian life on this tragic country.