Jack Granatstein takes pen in hand and bats .1000 on Jack layton in today's National Post:
The NDP always harks back to Canada's proud tradition of United Nations peacekeeping. Canadians love peacekeeping, which they associate with doing good, a military on the cheap, no casualties and a role that differentiates them from their superpower neighbour. For a half-century, we like to imagine, Canadians kept the peace in Cyprus, the Middle East, the Congo, and dozens of other troubled countries with their blue berets and white-painted vehicles, while the United States makes war everywhere.
Yet this popular belief bears scant connection with either history or the reality of modern UN operations. Unfortunately, neither the NDP nor the public seems to care.
In fact, the NDP would far prefer Canada's troops be deployed to Darfur in Sudan than to Kandahar. There, the UN would be in charge, or so Layton appears to believe.
There are, of course, a few practical problems with a Darfur operation. The Khartoum government refuses entry to UN troops and threatens a jihad against them if they dare to come. Moreover, Canada has no way to get troops to Darfur (even if it had the troops to send), no way to support them logistically in a barren area of the world, and no way to get them out in an emergency. Finally, the casualties in Darfur might be far higher than in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, because the U.S. is (relatively) uninvolved and because women and children are being brutalized, Darfur is the NDP's preferred operation.
The Afghanistan operation by contrast is portrayed as the work of a coalition of the willing -- the U.S., NATO, and a few other American satraps such as Australia. To Layton, Kandahar is just another part of George W. Bush's Great War on Terror. "It's time," he said on Sept. 26, "for a new approach. One that puts reconstruction, development and aid ahead of counter-insurgency."
What Layton refuses to acknowledge is that the Afghan operation has been sanctioned by repeated UN resolutions, and is yet another military operation sub-contracted by the UN to those who are willing to pick up the burden. The UN's undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, says bluntly that traditional UN peacekeepers can't do the job in Afghanistan where robust forces are needed to take on the Taliban insurgents. The world organization wants its political and humanitarian efforts -- and, not least, its efforts to assist women and children -- in Afghanistan to succeed, and Guehenno understands that without military action, the development and stabilization efforts could be stymied. The undersecretary-general last week even congratulated Canada for sending tanks to Kandahar.