Despite rhetoric to the contrary by two of the country’s last three prime ministers, Liberal Jean Chretien and Tory Stephen Harper, aimed at domestic audiences and for votes in parliamentary elections, about the nation’s supposed proud tradition of independence, if there has ever been a nation that never truly possessed a foreign policy of its own – particularly in respect to military conflicts – that country is Canada.
From supplying its former colonial master Britain with a disproportionate amount of troops in both world wars to following the lead of Britain and the United States in wars from Korea in 1950 to Yugoslavia in 1999 to Afghanistan at present, Canada has rarely balked at demands for political acquiescence and military complicity from its Anglo-Saxon big brothers and the NATO alliance of which it is a founding member.
If in early 2003 Ottawa refused to supply troops for the invasion of Iraq it aided that effort in other ways beforehand, including supporting NATO’s deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey on the eve of the war, and afterward by assigning personnel to the NATO Training Mission – Iraq.
Many suspect that then prime minister Jean Chretien’s government avoided potential fallout on the home front by reaching a quid pro quo with Washington whereby Canada would avoid the Iraqi quagmire by stepping into the Afghan crevice. It took over the International Security Assistance Force (which had been officially turned over to NATO) mission in the capital of Kabul in 2003 and two years later deployed over 2,000 troops to the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s main battlefield from that time onward. The initial 1,950 troops Canada assigned to ISAF was the largest single contingent at the time.
Canada signed both a Faustian pact and a fool’s bargain. Most all non-American troops have been pulled out of Iraq or will be soon, with the majority of the contributing nations focused on increasing deployments to Afghanistan for an expanding South Asian war, while Canadian forces have been bogged down in Afghanistan for almost seven and a half years and notwithstanding claims by Ottawa officials to have them withdrawn by 2011 may well be there indefinitely read article