Montreal, September 10, 2006 • No 192




Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          Canada honoured the lives of five more fallen soldiers by the end of the first week of September 2006. As they were honoured and as military families continued to voice support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan, the leader of one of Canada's political parties called upon the federal government "to bring the troops home." This call reflects sentiments that are being voiced by a growing number of Canadians. The issue of Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan could eventually divide the nation.


History does repeat itself

          Afghanistan has periodically been invaded and occupied over the course of its history. Invaders and conquerors have historically been repelled out of the mountainous nation. The German high command studied the history of Afghan invasions when they examined the feasibility of invading Switzerland during WW2. They decided against invading Switzerland. It was a mountainous country with difficult terrain and armed men who had received military training living in almost every home. The high command could not justify the expected loss of German soldiers in a Swiss quagmire.

          The German high command could justify invading France though where loss of soldiers was expected to be minimal. They seized gun registries from all police stations after the German invasion of France during WW2 and quickly discovered the addresses of armed citizens subsequently requiring them to surrender their weapons. The Soviet army disregarded military history when they invaded Afghanistan in 1980. They did not know who was armed, to what extent, their capabilities or where they lived.

          They subsequently encountered the kind of quagmire that the German high command had predicted had Germany invaded Switzerland during WW2. The army of the former Soviet Union encountered an even bigger quagmire after Osama Bin Laden (with unknown covert American assistance) funneled weapons through Pakistan to assist Afghan freedom fighters in their resistance to the Soviet occupation. Several of the people who successfully fought the Soviet army are still alive today.

Disarm first

          History has shown that the only time a foreign power can install a head-of-state in another nation is after the population at large has been disarmed and after it has acquired the allegiance of the army. Germany did so in France during WW2 and the Soviet Union did so in Hungary in 1956. The foreign supported despots who governed Central and Latin American countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina applied the same formula.

          The American occupation of Iraq defied history in that a foreign army invaded a nation of armed citizens, and did so without official records to indicate to what extent they were armed. A few British politicians, along with at least two American generals, have recently expressed the fear that civil war could erupt in Iraq. The occupation of Afghanistan by foreign UN troops also defies historical precedent in that a foreign army has invaded a nation of armed citizens, again without official records to indicate to what extent they are armed.

"History has shown that the only time a foreign power can install a head-of-state in another nation is after the population at large has been disarmed and after it has acquired the allegiance of the army."

          The foreign armies in Afghanistan face resistance from a group that has known connections to religious leaders who preach the glory of martyrdom. There is historical record to suggest that military leaders have sacrificed small numbers of troops to assess the capabilities of an opposing army. Lord Louis Mountbatten gave this explanation to justify the loss of Canadian lives at Dieppe during WW2. A Zulu chief in what later became South Africa used a similar tactic against a British garrison in the course of battle during the
19th century to assess their strategy and capability.

Historical precedents

          Military history indicates that the skirmishes that have so far involved Canadian troops (and other UN forces) in Afghanistan may be a tactic aimed at assessing their strategy and capability. The UN Commander may have recognized that the skirmishes may be serving such a purpose and has called upon allied nations to send more troops as a way to reduce the duration of the conflict. The historical precedent in Afghanistan has been that the foreign supported national leader was deposed as the foreign (Soviet) army was forced to retreat after a quagmire that lasted almost a decade.

          History is likely to repeat itself in Afghanistan in regard to its political leader and the foreign army. The history of UN forces in Rwanda and in Bosnia is also likely to repeat itself in Afghanistan. One group of Afghans is very heavily armed whereas the group that is subject to foreign protection has few or no arms. The fact that both groups adhere to the same religious persuasion may have little relevance. The mosques of the more moderate members of the Islamic faith have been attacked by adherents to other factions within the same faith in Sudan and in Iraq.

          The horrendous events that occurred in Rwanda and in Bosnia could again be repeated in Afghanistan. During the 1960's and 1970's America tried to protect South Vietnam from being invaded by North Vietnam. There may be a limit to the duration for which foreign troops can protect one segment of the Afghan population from the more extremist group. There may also be a limit to what citizens of various nations are willing to tolerate as a result of having their nations' troops occupy Afghanistan to support its government and protect a segment of its population.

          A litany of historical precedents suggests that foreign troops could become mired in a quagmire in Afghanistan for several years. The Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan lasted a decade, as did American involvement in Vietnam. Political leaders of neither superpower achieved their objectives in these conflicts. Foreign leaders may eventually withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in a manner similar to the Soviet government’s withdrawal of their war-weary troops. The alternative is that their troops make the kind of exit that American troops made from Vietnam. Such will be the result for political leaders who ignored historical precedent.