August 29, 2008

It's recognized that I have a funny sense of fun

Well, in case anyone comes back here wondering why it's been so quiet, I suppose it's time I let them in on what it is I've been up to.

Sometime in the next few weeks I'll be leaving to take up a position with the Canadian Forces mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. There I'll be working with the Afghan national security forces upon which so much of any hope for that country now rests.

I've been with the team training for this job since February. I'm sure no military personnel ever feel fully ready for anything, but it's fair to say we've grown into a cohesive unit under excellent leadership, and I really believe we're going to be able to further the progress that previous teams have already made in the military mentoring realm.

Without going into specifics, my job is not wholly different from that of the late Maj. Andrew Olmsted's in Iraq, whose writing I enjoyed and respected right up to his untimely death earlier this year. With a little bit of luck I'll enjoy the return home that he never could. But that's the thing about our commitments to Afghanistan, and the U.S.'s to Iraq: there's enough work for everybody to get a turn. Frequently more than once. And were I not to take this posting, someone whose already had their trial by fire would likely be going back for another round, while I sat it out. Pass.

I have no deep-seated love for the Afghan people, although I'm sure I'm at risk of developing one, given enough exposure. I am also mindful of the criticism that a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan frees up an American to go to a war in Iraq that my country and I cannot support. But I do believe that honor demands that Canada live up to the commitments our leaders have made to the world, through such devices as the Afghanistan Compact, just as honor demands that I live up to the commitments I made to the Crown when I took an officer's commission.

But even if honor were not in play, collective self-preservation would be, and a return of Afghanistan to its pre-2001 state would be the surest path to another 2001-style attack. I knew that day in September that sooner or later my deployment somewhere would be the inevitable consequence... it's only a surprise to me it's taken this long. But like I said, everybody gets a turn this time.

I also believe Afghanistan is the latest in the long line of displays of that strange Canadian altruistic militarism that continues to win us the respect of our allies and enemies. Years from now, when hopefully I'm bouncing grandkids on worn-out knees, I believe the Afghan War will have only reinforced the three basic truths about the Canadian military that every schoolchild should have learned: that man for man, Canadians are as good as any soldiers in the world; that we have never fought on the losing side, and that we have never fought on the wrong side, either. No other country in the world can claim that tradition. That's what makes us peacekeepers to be respected, as well as warriors.

It has taken a small army of civilian friends and supporters to get me here, many of whom I love very dearly. I know that in at least some cases their support has been more out of respect for my own personal desires and needs, rather than support for our government's position. I thank them for that. It is only my deep respect for their own privacy that, as always, prevents me from listing them here. I do hope they know who they are, and how much I love each of them.

I will write if and when I can... need to see the lay of the ground first... either here or through comments on the blogs of friends, or emails. With luck in a little over half a year my team and I will all return, a little wiser perhaps, a little dustier definitely, and all other things being equal maybe I will have something more interesting and valuable to say in this space, about Afghanistan and other things. Until then, hasta la vista, companeros. Y vayan con Dios.

Posted by BruceR at 12:11 PM