The Geopolitical Ecology of Empire’s Ally

Interview with Greg Albo GA and Jerome Klassen JK, published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 923, by Jordy Cummings JC, January 3, 2014.

… JC: In terms of Canada’s and others’ efforts to “rebuild” the Afghan state, what hurdles have been faced, and how has Canada failed to manage and/or transcended such hurdles? If it is indeed possible to help Afghanistan, what can be done, not merely by the Canadian state, but by international assistance?  

  • JK: Canada’s approach to state building in Afghanistan has been characterized by two key features. First, it largely followed the U.S.-led process of working with President Hamid Karzai and various warlords, commanders, and sectarian leaders, who filled the power vacuum in 2001. As part of this, the U.S. and the international financial institutions dictated a neoliberal development program for Afghanistan, one that was geared toward the privatization of state industries and the liberalization of trade and investment flows. International NGOs played a key role in this project, in particular, by providing services and building infrastructure in towns and villages.
  • The result has been a highly contingent and unaccountable form of state building and development, one in which popular needs are not addressed or fulfilled by state institutions. In this context, there is some concern that the Afghan state may disintegrate if a civil war resumes after U.S./NATO forces withdrawal over the next year. The U.S.-led mission has done nothing for reconciliation and transitional justice after decades of civil war, authoritarian rule, and outside intervention. For example, at the present moment, the U.S. is trying to sign a Status of Forces Agreement for a long-term military presence in Afghanistan, one in which its troops will be given legal immunity from Afghan jurisdiction and sovereignty. This is a further example of how outside intervention has continued to limit or undermine efforts at sovereign state building in that country.
  • It is important to recognize that Canada has enabled the U.S.-led project in Afghanistan through several contributions. In fact, it has tried to develop specialized props for the state-building effort. In our book, Anthony Fenton and Jon Elmer show how Canada’s efforts at ‘democracy promotion’ were in fact based on an elitist model of institutionalizing popular sovereignty. Likewise, Angela Joya and Justin Podur show how Canada’s development projects were linked to a militarized, neoliberal model of pacification. In these ways, the authors demonstrate the particular methods of Canadian imperialism in the Afghan theatre.
  • What alternatives exist? As several authors in our book argue, Canada should withdrawal its remaining military forces and support active and transparent forms of conflict resolution involving the UN, the key regional powers, and the full spectrum of Afghan political forces. After this, Canada should provide aid and reconstruction funding to a future Afghan government, which must be allowed to set its own priorities for economic growth and social development. The Canadian state must also investigate any Canadian military, diplomatic, or security personnel who participated in potential war crimes, including the transfer of prisoners to torture.

JC: While Empire’s Ally touches upon this, I’m wondering if you can say a bit more about the ecological dimension of Canadian foreign policy, such as the Canadian state’s support and encouragement of ecologically destructive mining industries: … //

… (full long interview text).


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