Monday, March 13, 2006

Harper In Kandahar

Some call it an American-style photo op. Some call it an act of political heroism.

But perhaps the best thing to call it is a signal that the Armed Forces is actually respected for what it does by this government, instead of being treated like an embarrassment to its self-image:

Stephen Harper made a top-secret military landing in southern Afghanistan Sunday, pledging to boost support for soldiers trying to rebuild the country but facing the heightened prospect of terrorist attacks.

The Prime Minister was whisked quietly out of Ottawa early Saturday morning and landed at the fortified military camp in this southern city in late afternoon after an undisclosed flight federal officials said had been planned almost since the day Mr. Harper took office.

The trip is Mr. Harper's first foreign visit since the Jan. 23 election and its aim is to bolster troops who have come under recent attacks and boost domestic support for the mission.


The Prime Minister is expected to address the troops Monday and officially tour the base where he stayed Sunday night. Mr. Harper planned to share lunch with Forces personnel Monday. Canada has 2,200 soldiers here.

The Prime Minister had pictures taken Sunday with about 30 soldiers who had assembled on the tarmac of the airport. He later observed a Canadian-made inukshuk which stands as a memorial to those killed in the conflict here since 2002.

The Prime Minister enters a zone where Canadian soldiers are clearly being targeted. Earlier this year, senior diplomat Glyn Berry was killed in a bombing, while three other soldiers were severely wounded. Most recently, two soldiers were killed in a vehicle collision, while yet another soldier was critically injured in an axe attack. Still others have been subjects of suicide attacks.

Critics may dismiss Harper's visit as mere symbolism, as though he were expected to don fatigues, pick up a rifle and fire a few rounds at the enemy to prove his leadership and manhood.

But symbolism matters if it's backed by substance.

Making this his first foreign visit as Prime Minister is an indication that Canada's foreign and military policy direction is changing to reflect reality.

Had he gone to the United Nations, as most of his critics would have preferred, it would have been a symbol of the continuation of the status quo.

And had he gone to Washington, those same critics would have been screaming about his truckling subservience to the Americans.

What better way to signal a new direction?

Source: Globe and Mail

1 comment:

Luke said...

Well said, and you're exactly right. He's backing Afghanistan in no uncertain terms, showing the press and a certain left wing political party that he will not back down in his commitment to our troops. Well done Mr. Harper.