Afghanistan: Debating the Mission

When UCC Old Boy, Captain Ray Wiss spoke at an Upper School assembly earlier this month, he ended his talk with a challenge: “ We will win because our ideas are the right ideas. Don’t just support our troops. Support our mission. If you disagree with the mission, please speak up.”

At our most recent assembly, four students did just that as they debated whether or not we should continue to fight in Afghanistan.

Those opposed to the war focused on:

Its futility: “Drug lords can go on indefinitely; we cannot.”

The belief that the war is causing a humanitarian crisis: “It’s too scary for NGOs to help.”

The benefits of leaving. “The USA spends $250 million per day and that should go to other causes.”

The Afghan government is corrupt. “They are an unsavory bunch, and if you buy the argument that they need our support, we’ll be forced to prop up that group forever.”

Political solutions imposed by foreigners will never be accepted by the people there.  Real solutions need to be organic.

Those in favour of continued military invention stressed:

“Doing what is right is not the same as doing what is easy.”

“We are making progress. The Afghan police and military are better than ever, and they have a growing sense of democracy.”

Think of what would happen if NATO withdraws. There will be more poverty, less education and more abuse of women.

Don’t buy into the false dichotomy that we have to have either the Taliban or a Western style democracy. Let’s give the people there the chance to develop their own form of self-government.

At this point, we have an obligation to the people, not to the government.

The debate concluded with questions from the audience. One wise IB2 scholar reminded the crowd, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” (Spiderman would have been proud.”)

As I left Laidlaw Hall, I remembered Captain Wiss also pointing out:

“What separates us from our enemies is our ability to openly disagree.”


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