At the end of March, I went to Colonel Jamie Cade's presentation on the Canadian Contribution to Khandahar, Afghanistan, which was sponsored by the Center for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary. The Gauntlet has a good article, "Optimism in Afghanistan", which summarizes a few key points that Jamie Cade addressed. Col. Cade described the multifacetted role the Canadian Military plays in Khandahar, from reconstruction, health care, government support, military and police training, to battle groups. His stories from "in theatre" helped me to better understand how Canadian men and women are making inroads in helping Afghans to restore their government, rebuild and staff schools, access healthcare, pave roads and to secure gainful and lawful employment. A comment that stuck with me was, "We [the Canadian Troops] are where the people are because this is about the people". It was a privilege to shake Col. Cade's hand. I am sincerely proud of the Canadian Military and the heroic role Canadian troops are playing in Afghanistan. There was another talk presented by Col. Cade in April - I wish I had known in time to attend.
Read this blog post today about a War Artist in Afghanistan, which excerpts an article "Lasting Impressions", on CBC. A key quote by Sharon Mackay: 'I'm shocked at how good our army really is. I think I was under the impression that we are peacekeepers, we're gentler people. We're as tough as they come.' Again, it stirred deeply held feelings of pride in our Canadian Military.
Finally, On Sheep Dogs and Wolves, and those soft and gooey sheep... Found this comment and interpretation posted by Fred in response to Kate Macmillan's "She stops in a diamond".
By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing."
"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident. Most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep. I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
"Then there are the wolves and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy. Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."
Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The moral for Canadians? Instead of the sheep criticizing the sheepdog, let's support their efforts to eradicate the wolves.