Sjolander, Claire Turenne
June 2009
Canadian Foreign Policy (CFP);2009, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p78
Academic Journal
The tension between the portrayal of Canadian troops as a combat military, exercising international leadership and fighting a defensive war, and Canadian troops as peacekeepers, assisting the efforts of the Afghan people to rebuild their lives and their societies, has been pervasive virtually since the first days of Canada's military intervention in Afghanistan. These two articulations of Canada's role in Afghanistan may reflect the complexity of the Canadian mission, but they also reflect divergent understandings of Canadian internationalism, as Munton has detailed: an active internationalism, supporting the general principle of global involvement and rejecting isolationism, and a more "liberal" internationalism favouring humanitarian causes such as "development assistance, a reduction in poverty and inequality, and the protection of human rights." This paper argues that the tension between the combat and peacekeeping portrayal (and practice) of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan has been an inherent by-product not only of public opinion reflected inside the political realm, but of international constraints and opportunities, framed within the competing, and potentially contradictory, understandings of the meanings associated with Canadian internationalism. Further, the oftentimes partisan rhetoric deployed by the Harper government at first served only to exaggerate these tensions, while the "fading" of the Afghan mission from public debate since 2008 points to an attempt to bury, rather than resolve, these potential contradictions.


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