Today, as we do every year, we stop to remember those who died in conflicts, predominantly the two world wars but also the Korean war and Afghanistan.
This is the day where the grim reality of warfare is placed in the eyes of every person. Not just a tool for Kings to increase their wealth any longer, war is a state of anarchy where your brother, sister, mother or father can and likely will die.
Remembrance day has been an interesting ride for me. It was what lead me to my rather negative view of government and large overpowering institutions in general. It has provided an excellent opportunity for me to shoot my mouth off and get put in my place over the years. But most importantly it provides the context of what being a warrior is-and-isn't about.
Between watching Bush II joyride the american people into Iraq and seeing our own military's function in Afghanistan change with the shift from Paul Martin to Stephen Harper, I came to the conclusion the government was not the best thing to be deciding who I kill and when I die. The government is far too cumbersome and under far too many varied influences for me to obey its will without question. I choose instead to make my survival my own responsibility.
Whether you agree with me or not, one cannot stress enough the importance of today to question the purpose and use of these institutions of ours.
For example, have the 133 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan achieved a purpose?
With a mission that began with holding Kandahar under Martin and then moved to battling insurgents under Harper, the power of spilled blood has struck new vigor into a military that was beginning to show danger signs of redundancy. Anybody with half a clue about how combat works will tell you that no amount of training is sufficient substitute for the real thing. From a purely training standpoint, the war was good to "wake up" the army suffering from humiliating scandals such as Somalia.
But is Afghanistan, with a recent re-election of Karzai that made Bush II's re-election look almost legitimate, any better off today than after the initial invasion that toppled the Taliban government?
Or, perhaps more fundamentally, are we even there for the Afghan people at all? Many of the soldiers themselves are, but the military as an entity itself may be quite a different manner.
There are some important strategic facts to consider here that most world leaders won't mention - because it would wreck their strategies. Afghanistan is right between nuclear armed Pakistan and nuclear wannabes Iran. The region that NATO forces have been fighting in is the northern tip of a triple border between the three countries.
Afghanistan is also close to China, particularly China's western side, which being far less populated would serve as an ideal place for Chinese covert training and research. Undoubtedly it has crossed the minds of NATO leaders that a military presence in Afghanistan makes it far easier to keep an eye on China.
Having a military presence in Afghanistan also gives NATO powers an excuse to have a navy presence (ie: ships carrying ballistic missiles and fighter planes) in the Indian ocean.
This is all the results of post-cold war politics. Whereas in the Cold war most nations fell in line with the positions of either Russia or the USA, in the post cold war era many nations have been free to determine their own destinies.
With nations such as India, Japan, South Korea and China balancing the geopolitical table, the ability of NATO to control the world stage has become far more difficult.
No longer under threat of communist invasion, many nations saw less reason for NATO presences. Other nations that previously served as bases for NATO forces, such as Japan and Germany, became to come of age by contributing forces to peacekeeping efforts and eventually military efforts.
NATO has all but lost control in South America, where the post-cold war era has shown a complete redundancy for the organization and the fact that it propped up brutal dictatorships all throughout the continent has resulted in outright hostility to the alliance.
As preventing any more nations, including Iran, from getting "the bomb" is a keystone to all NATO policies, it only makes sense to have a nearby military presence to deter any usage of "the bomb." With NATO forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran will have to be very creative to produce and test any nuclear weapons they might want to make without being detected.
NATO props up an utterly corrupt, but somewhat western friendly, quasi-democracy in Pakistan because it has nukes. Invading a country with nuclear weapons is an obvious no-no since it stands to reason that any government facing absolute defeat that had nukes would undoubtedly use them to survive. On the flip side, allowing a nuclear-regime to fall risks allowing those nukes to pass into unknown hands, which usually leads to further proliferation.
At the same time, troops right next door in Afghanistan ensure the leaders in Pakistan stay NATO-friendly.
If you aren't yet convinced how much nuclear weapons still play into everyday life around the planet, look at North Korea. They are armed, they've clearly demonstrated it. Yet despite posturing publicly to save face to their own people, most leaders quietly give into Kim Jong Il's demands because of "the bomb." Again, it's a case of "better the devil you know" logic in that it's safer to placate Jong Il's regime than to topple it and risk the use and/or loss of the nukes.
Suggestions that that these wars are predominantly to ensure energy supplies in the future have some weight, but the fact is the trans-afghanistan pipeline, which was originally begun in 1995 between Turkmenistan and Pakistan, with the Taliban government signing on later on, has been effectively stalled since the NATO invasion. While Iraqi oil most likely played into White house ambitions during the Bush II years, the venture does not seem to have been an economic success. The entire NATO handling of the area between Jordan and China since Pakistan and India went nuclear has been one of trying to regain control in the middle-east; control it once held quite effectively but has lost in the wake of collapse of the iron curtain.
As these nations have matured industrially and began to awaken into the atomic age, the western dominance of the world has begun to dwindle.
So there you have it. Canadian soldiers have been battling the Taliban to help ensure NATO control of the middle east. Canadians grieving the loss of our 133 soldiers can take pride that our sons and daughters are helping prevent the spread of the most destructive weapons of history, because the laws of probability dictate that the more of these things there are lying around, and the more people that have them, the more likely some asshole is going to use one.