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It seems clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to his view that Canada should remain (for all practical purposes) indefinitely in Afghanistan reluctantly. In this he has shown himself to be a more thoughtful analyst of this war than many of his supporters here in Canada.

What would have made our Prime Minister such a reluctant supporter of the Afghan war, in addition to the fact that a Liberal government committed Canada to it in the first place? Perhaps Mr. Harper has reflected that while Canadians do have a humanitarian, democratic and social obligation the people of Afghanistan, that it is not an infinitely open-ended one.

We are called on to be good and generous friends of democracy and development. But are we called on to enforce that obligation through overwhelming military force on unwilling citizens of other countries, who view us as foreign occupiers? If so, where would that obligation end? And why is Afghanistan the only country in the world where it must be applied indefinitely? Why not, say, Sudan? Or Belarus? And if these are our principles, why then do they not apply to, say, China?

Democracy and social market economies have been successfully imposed on unwilling countries. Germany, Italy and Japan come to mind. But considering the cost in blood and treasure, is that a reasonable goal to be pursuing in most of the world? I would bet that Mr. Harper is not this kind of hyper-Wilsonian democrat.

Perhaps Mr. Harper has also reflected that while Afghanistan represents a real security threat to Canada and to other Western countries, its indefinite conquest and occupation by NATO represents an impossibly over-ambitious response. If it were true that state support for terrorist organizations must be met by conquest and permanent occupation, then NATO has much to do. Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Lebanon and Venezuela await us. And when we are done conquering and occupying them, we're only getting started.

Dealers in murder and madness must be fought and must be defeated - no doubt about that. But the effective tools to fight terrorist organizations and their state sponsors are diplomacy; economic and political pressure; integrated international police work; integrated international intelligence work; and (as a last resort) targeted and proportionate force. What we are doing in Afghanistan cannot be the answer to the latest forms of the terrorist threat to the democratic West. Did Ireland need to be occupied and destroyed by NATO to defeat the IRA? Do the Basque provinces need to be leveled to defeat ETA? Must Mexico be occupied and destroyed by the Western alliance to root out the drug lords, who pose a far more direct and immediate terrorist threat to our friend south of the border than the Taliban on the other side of the world?

While he was thinking about this, perhaps Mr. Harper was also considering that an indefinite deployment of Canadian troops to an open-ended occupation and conquest of an unwilling country only erodes support in Canada for the real struggle, while diverting resources from it.

The numbers don't lie, and what the numbers say is that the overwhelming majority of Canadians share our Prime Minister's ambivalence about this war; don't believe the interests of our country are proportionately engaged there; and do believe Canada should fully withdraw after having devoted a decade to that fight - longer than our commitment to First and Second World Wars combined. In other words, our commitment to the cause of defeating terrorism, expressed by participating in the conquest and occupation of Afghanistan, has and will continue to undermine support in Canada for that cause.

And finally, while he was thinking about all of this, perhaps Mr. Harper was considering that a higher tempo of violence in Afghanistan is only calling into being a higher tempo of resistance. Our ally, President Hamid Karzai, made precisely this point last week. NATO's campaign in Afghanistan is mobilizing its population against us and is driving support and recruitment for our Taliban enemy, who have a safe haven in which to regenerate in Pakistan.

Spokespeople for the NATO campaign recently reported excellent progress in killing the Taliban's leadership and in limiting its activities in the field. This may be true. But not even the most optimistic supporter of this war suggests that NATO has a better grip now on the Pashtun lands than it did when this war started nine years ago. And as many other conflicts demonstrate (for example, in Palestine, in Vietnam, in Ireland, in many other long and tragic multi-generational wars and civil wars) another generation of combatants will always rise to replace the last, given enough time.

A misplaced Wilsonian war. A diversion from the real fight. A conflict that drains support in Canada and throughout the Western alliance. A conflict that, at its current tempo, works to increase resistance in Afghanistan.

Small wonder Prime Minister Harper is ambivalent. And yet last week he announced - grossly inappropriately, at a news conference in Korea - that Canada is recommitting to this conflict.

Why? Mr. Harper has chosen not to answer that question clearly. But it seems reasonable to surmise that he made that decision because the President of the United States insistently asked him to.

In other words, it would seem we have recommitted to this conflict, despite our Prime Minister's obvious ambivalence about it, for the purely pragmatic purpose of placating and defending our relationship with our principal ally and trading partner.

Further, it seems clear that Mr. Harper has obtained the support of Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party for this policy, in return for an arrangement under which the Liberals would not be called on to express their support in Parliament. The Liberals can therefore continue the war policy they initiated in Afghanistan, while reserving the right to feign a different policy. This contemptible arrangement is an example of Mr. Ignatieff's - how shall we say this? - transparent inability to reconcile his real views with his party's short-term political interests. Canadians smell this in him, which is why they are looking elsewhere on the opposition bench for an alternative to Mr. Harper.

So what is to be done? The Prime Minister owes Canadians a clear, coherent and honest statement about these issues.

If the truth is that Canada is recommitting to the Afghan war - despite fundamental misgivings - in service of our relationship with the United States, then let this be said, clearly and without weasel words, so that Canadians can think about its implications.

If the government has negotiated an arrangement with Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party, then (to use some familiar words from our conservative friends) let it be done in the light of day for Canadians to judge - so that both the Conservatives and Mr. Ignatieff and his team can be held accountable.

The proper place for Mr. Harper to speak seriously and in detail about his war policy is in Parliament. The proper means for the Conservative government and its apparent Liberal partner to make this decision is by a vote in the House of Commons. I therefore couldn't agree more with my learned friend Norman Spector, who writes about these issues here.

The Prime Minister owes the people of Canada a detailed explanation that speaks to the real issues; a clear policy for the future; and a vote in their Parliament. We are governed by our Parliament, not by a king.

In the coming election, the people of Canada will then be able to pass their own judgment on Mr. Harper and his policy, on Mr. Ignatieff and his many conflicting policies, and on the real alternative.