By: Jonah Goldberg
Imagine living as a teenager in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Your sister wouldn’t be able to go to school, she would never be able to vote, and she wouldn’t be in control of her future. Suicide bombers and radicals would be everywhere. Your brother may go to school one day, but you wouldn’t know if he would make it back home that night. The entire country would be in total chaos. Is this a life that you want to live, or a life that you want for your family? Canada has been fighting in Afghanistan for nine years now, and we are making a difference. If we were to leave Afghanistan, the lives of the 152 soldiers that Canada has lost would have been taken in vain. Put yourself in their parents’ shoes; would you want your child’s life to have been sacrificed for no reason? The worst option before us is to leave Afghanistan. Canada should in fact extend its mission there, because we are helping to transform the country into a functioning democracy, a place where women have rights, and a place that terrorists can no longer use as a safe haven. As human beings, Afghanis deserve these rights just as much as we do.
Most Canadians cannot imagine what life would be like without democracy. We would not be able to elect our leaders, or have a say in what happens in our country. Sure, many of us complain about our politicians, but compared to others, like Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, they’re pretty good. Former American President Dwight Eisenhower led the American troops in World War Two, and experienced firsthand what life was like for people without democracy. In his retirement address, Eisenhower declared that “the conscience of [democracies] can never be clear until the freedom of choice is extended to everyone, everywhere.” General Eisenhower was right; we all deserve the basic freedom of electing our leaders. If the Afghani population had had the choice, they would never have allowed the Taliban to control their country. Today, Afghanistan has a democratically-elected government one chosen by the people, to serve the people. Sure, it’s not perfect, but no government is. If Canada and the other alliance nations hadn’t stepped up to the plate, this governmental transformation would not have been possible. Furthermore, the government in Afghanistan is fragile, and still needs foreign support. Besides, if we were to abandon Afghanistan, we would also be abandoning democracy.
In Canada, gender equality is considered a basic human right. Sadly, many Canadians don’t even realize that there are still millions of women throughout the world without the freedom that Canadian women have. Ten years ago, not a single little girl went to school in Afghanistan. Woman there could not learn to read or write, or own property. They were essentially owned by their fathers, and later by their husbands. Today, two million girls go to school in Afghanistan. Women can vote, and own land. Although they still struggle to be recognized as equals, Afghani women don’t belong to anyone anymore. When I was in elementary school, a young Afghani girl transferred into my class. Her family had recently become Canadian citizens. She told us that just weeks before, her mother had voted for the first time in her life. To her, this was a miracle. However, it should be a right for everyone. In Afghanistan, Canadians are fighting for others to continue to have that right.
We can never allow terrorists to have as much power as they did nine years ago, and that means dealing with the problems in Afghanistan. On September 11, 2001, hundreds of people were killed, and thousands of lives were destroyed. Terrorists from Afghanistan had precipitated an attack on American soil, and by doing so declared war on democracy. Soon after, the UN authorized the mission in Afghanistan, with international support. There has yet to be another major terrorist attack in North America. In Canada, our participation in Afghanistan has always had bipartisan support, and still does. If the mission is extended, only about of a quarter of our troops will remain there, but they will still be making a contribution. Many have argued that Canada has done more than its fair share. This is true, but true heroes always do. A fellow NT student, Chris Stogios, told me that he thought that “If we’ve been fighting for this for nine years, why would we give up now?” He’s right. Besides, the primary role of any government is to protect its citizens. Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is doing that by helping to prevent terrorism.
The mission in Afghanistan has been far from perfect. Like every fight, it has had its good days, and its bad ones. Canada has sacrificed a lot in our fight for democracy and women’s rights, and our fight against terrorism. As responsible citizens of the world community, we owe it to the Afghan people, to give them the basic rights that everyone deserves: the rights to choice and freedom. Canada’s motto is, after all, peace, order, and good government. Doesn’t everyone deserve that?