Monday, November 23, 2009

There are no absolutes out there

I tend to think of any nation siding with the Axis in World War 2 to have been fundamentally on the wrong side. But there was one democracy that choose to ally with Germany in World War 2 - Finland.

Finland had much more to fear from the Soviet Union than from Germany. The Soviet Union started a war against Finland on November 30th 1939. The same sort of brutal attack they made against Poland only a few months earlier was now directed against Finland. In 1941 Finland saw their chance to liberate the occupied parts of their country.

December 8th 1941 saw Canada declare war on Finland. The only case I know of where Canada has gone to war with a fully functioning democracy (The attacks by Canada on Serbia are not quite the same as Serbia was not really an open functioning democracy).

I need to let that sink in - Canada chose to declare war on a European democracy that was trying to stave off being conquered by a totalitarian power. The UK, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa all declared war in Finland as well. Only the US stood apart and did not declare war on a fellow democratic country.

World War 2 is likely the best example of a justifiable war, but it is the cooperation with the Soviet Union by the western Allies that tarnishes the nobility of the cause. 1945 was not really the end of the war because Stalin was allowed to continue occupying nations it had scooped up in 1939/40. The Soviet Union was allowed to rule numerous other countries through puppet leaders.

It took till 1991 for most of the Soviet occupations to end. Even though the Soviet occupation is over Finland, Latvia, Poland, Estonia, and Germany have been forced to accept that Russia will be allowed to keep parts of their countries.

War is at best an imperfect tool and it is very hard to ever have a war that does not have some very negative aspects to it. Could World War 2 been won without the Soviet Union? Could the Soviet Union have been defeated in the 1940s as part of World War 2? It is hard to know, but given that the majority of people and weapons used in World War 2 were in the battle between Germany and the Soviet Union, it is hard to see how the western Allies could have done anything different.

In a round about way this leads me to Afghanistan. Canada is in a war that has some allies on the ground that are less than perfect. Should NATO not take part in Afghanistan because parts of the Afghan government is corrupt? Is it realistic to expect peace and civil society to develop in Afghanistan without NATO being in the country?

I know many people in the west are willing to see NATO leave Afghanistan. They know that NATO leaving removes the only forces in the country that are incorruptible and neutral. If you remove the forces that are the model of civil behaviour, is there any hope for meaningful change in the country? Should we never work with people that are less than perfect - ok with people that are pretty damn close to evil? At the end of the day, Hamid Karzai is no Stalin, he is not even as evil as Brezhnev.
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