A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Canadian Alamo

One hundred and eighty years ago, in what is now Texas, a small group of 186 men held off an army of over 5,000 for nearly two weeks.
If that army had surrounded these men with about 1,000 soldiers, then marched its remaining battalions northeast, it would have easily conquered a flegling army of about 6 to 800 who were organizing to combat the larger army.
Instead, the larger force stopped for two weeks to fight the men at the Alamo in San Antonio. Meanwhile, Sam Houston, used the time to gather and train more recruits.
This all happened because the President of Mexico, Santa Anna, was too proud to let himself be defeated by such a small force. He was out to teach them a lesson, a lesson that wound up costing Mexico its future.
If Santa Anna had waited out the Alamo defenders, and marched on Houston, Mexico would be a superpower today. Its territory would include not only Texas, but New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California as well. All the oil in the gulf and in Texas would be Mexico’s. We’d be living in a different geopolitical world, and the USA would likely be bilingual, English and Spanish.
In the course of the two week battle at the Alamo, the defenders managed to totally embarass and make fools out of the Mexican commanders, going so far as to actually steal one of the Mexican’s larger cannon, and turn it on its owners in the end. By time the final day of the battle arrived, the Mexican troops were not only doubting their leaders, but were so psyched-out they went overboard, drawing, quartering and executing great indignities on the dead bodies of the defenders.
The day after the great battle ended, the Mexican troops woke up with a hangover and in total despair over their own savagery. They were so despondent it took Santa Anna weeks to mobilize them again, and when he did, they were demoralized.
Within a few months Santa Anna and his army were licked, and the President himself was captured by Houston’s army.

I tell this story to show what can happen when attacks are made on defenders who are willing to die for their cause.

Zoom forward to modern day Afghanistan. In the Kandahar Province a small group of Taliban have vowed to never be taken. Their fight is about two things, their way of life and the surrounding opium poppy fields.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan they set out to destroy the poppy fields, and were very proud when they succeeded in doing just that in Kandahar. Since the US-British invasion of Afghanistan, and the subsequent defeat of most of the Taliban forces, the poppy fields have once more gone into cultivation. Mostly because people need money and opium sells, and because the Taliban are no longer strong enough to prevent it.
The invaders have tried to stop this, but they’re outsiders, they don’t know the country and they are not trusted by the people. Just as the police in urban centers are unable to close every grow-op, so are the occupiers unable to totally prevent the opium harvest in Kandahar.
For a few years now the US and British have been fighting the holdout Taliban in Kanadahar. The Taliban have chosen this place to be their Alamo, partly because othe thier past success in the region, and the occupying forces have fallen into the trap of fighting them there. In recent times the invaders have taken to search and destroy missions against the Taliban, much the same way that Santa Anna searched out and destroyed the fighters at the Alamo.
Regardless of the outcome in Kandahar, whether the invading forces manage to snuff out the remaining Taliban or not, one thing is certain, an awful lot of people are going to get killed before the last bullets are fired.
This week Canada sent 2,000 troops to fight this battle, relieving the exhausted US and British Forces already there. Many of the troops being relieved have already gone home, in body bags. Now it is Canada’s turn, apparently.
Since Korea, Canada has not deployed this many soldiers anywhere, and since Korea Canada has remained, by and large, a peacekeeping nation. Our job has been to protect people and to make sure humanitarian relief goes to people who need it. It has not been our job to search and destroy or to attack an enemy.
Also, in those years since Korea, Canada has not funded or designed its armed forces for attack purposes. Our focus has been on self-defense, policing, relief and reconstruction. We have not built up or even modernized our weaponry, nor have we provided our armed forces with the infrastructure or the training to be an assault force.
Now we’re sending them in harm’s way, not just harm’s way, but into a situation where we know full well their are going to be casualties.
On top of that, properly outfitted or not, we are also sending them into an Alamo of their own.
President Santa Anna lost nearly one quarter of his fighting force at the Alamo, how many Canadians are going to die in this ill-conceived predicament?
I think before we allow this to go any further we need to take a step back and ask ourselves some hard questions.
First: Is there not some way we can wait these guys out?
Two: Is this really the best course of action?
Three: Are the Canadian people really ready to have thier sons and daughters coming home in body bags and wheelchairs?
Four: Is it fair to send them there when they are ill-equipped and not properly trained for this sort of endeavour?
Five: What are the long term ramifications of our participation in this action?
Six: Are we going to now have suicide bombers in Canada protesting our involvement, do we lose our international reputation as peacekeepers by getting involved in this?
Seven: What exactly is the benefit, and likelihood of success, in this mission?
Eight: Is this really what Canadians should be doing in the world?

I fear for the members of our armed forces, most of whom joined Canada’s forces out of desire to be helpful and give something back to Canadian society. They are families, mothers, daughters, brothers and sisters. They did not go there to become warriors, they went their to become peacemakers.
I fear dark, dark, days ahead for my country if we do not get ourselves out of this situation before it is too late.

All 186 men at the Alamo died but the Mexicans, who won the battle, lost the war.
One day, all the Taliban in Kandahar will be dead too, but will the army that defeats them win the war?

History is scattered with Alamos, most of the stories turn out the same, battle lost - war won. We need to think about that!


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