I think it is safe to say that even Stephen Harper would recognize the folly of supporting the United States in an attack on Iran. However, what he might not realize is that were the United States to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran then Canada would, by default be participating in an “occupation” stretching from Kabul through Tehran and onto Baghdad and likely (eventually) Damascus.
In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, I was saddened by the invasion of Afghanistan. It was, and continues to be, a source of great loss of life, mainly to Afghans, who you of course hear very little about, compared with the very public (and justified) despair for each, soldier we lose… that said, on principle, the attacks were justified. Unlike Iraq, there was very credible evidence that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were residing in and using Afghanistan as their base of operations. Thus, under common rules of self-defense, the US and NATO reacted.
But now… 5 years later, the reasons for NATO intervention in Afghanistan have become very muddied. Yes, I would like us to “finish the job” and leave Afghanistan as a secure and viable state. However, outside factors may ultimately decide when it is appropriate for Canada to end it’s involvement in this conflict, and it may have to attempt a “coup” of it’s own. Let me explain.
What NATO is effectively trying to do in Afghanistan is the same as it did, relatively successfully, in Kosovo. And given 10 or 20 years to make it work… I’d support a Canadian role to bring about this sort of permanent stability.
However, if the United States expands it’s Global War on Terror to include Iran. Well, we must leave. By continuing our presence in Afghanistan, we would be implicitly supporting the United States and it’s doctrine of preemption over fact. Yes, it could be argued that we are already doing that now in Afghanistan, especially as the NATO force has moved into the outer provinces of Afghanistan to take on a more “offensive” role, no doubt due to unprecedented pressure put on the US Armed Forces as they fumble in Iraq. But there must be limits to all things.
Luckily, I actually think Stephen Harper is not a madman… and as such, I think he would recognize both the political and practical suicide of having Canadian soldiers so close to what could only be called a neo-colonial occupation of most of SE-Asia West of Pakistan (this would include Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE)
It is fine for Canada to flex it’s military muscle every once in a while, as long as the cause is just. But as time drags, and events accumulate, Canada must also be willing to flex it’s moral muscle. We did it once under Jean Chretien when we refused to support the United States in Iraq and we will have to do it again with the US and Iran. But we will have to go one step further and also withdraw our support from Afghanistan. Perhaps then, with other countries following suit, our “allies” to the South would realise that the consequences of attacking Iran would simply be too much to bear alone. There would be no “coalition of the wiling”. Tony Blair would not be able to slime a war through Parliament… not even Prime Minister Howard of Australia would be able to foist another Iraqi debacle upon the Aussies.
By attacking Iran, the United States would be completely isolating itself from the International Community. Canada, ie. Stephen Harper, must be a strong voice pointing this out to President Bush and other senior US Administration officials. As much as he is complicit in the previous crime, I expect Tony Blair to be making this clear to President Bush as well. He’s not an idiot.
Unfortunately, if the US Administration choses not to listen… well, we’re all FUBAR.