Queen's University

Kemp article raises some interesting questions

Oshawa, ON, reader John R. Sproule, Law '70, wonders if Scott Kemp's idea of the value of a liberal arts education is a corect one.

Re: "The real lessons of Afghanistan", Issue #3-2010, p.


Cover of Issue #3 - 2010Scott Kemp’s article, and the tribute to the late Dean Soberman of the Faculty of Law in the same issue of the Review (p. 42), bring to mind an interesting comparison. The first article claimed widespread societal support for the war in Afghanistan, when it first advocated "becoming a soldier to fight evil", and "I wasn't in a mood to question; I was in a mood to fight."

When this approach proved to be unsuccessful, the tactic changed to understanding our enemy so they will stop fighting us. Aren't we, after all, just trying to improve their lives?

I was at Queen's law school at the height of the Vietnam War. Dean Soberman opposed that war. Most of us understood then, that if you invaded another country it would fight back. We didn't presume that we had the right to impose our values on other parts of the world by force.

Dean Soberman was a reflective man. He was in the mood to question before he was in the mood to fight. I don't believe he would have counselled entering into an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, any more than he would have, in Vietnam. As the tribute indicates, he was a man of integrity and civility. I believe he would have been troubled by the way the U.S. and Canada rushed into combat without trying to find some middle ground. He would have known that the enormous cost to all parties to this conflict, demanded a serious effort at compromise.

There are many of us who don't see an attack on Afghanistan as a necessity to save western civilization, any more than an attack on Vietnam was. We believe Osama Bin Laden, when he said 9-11 would hurt and humiliate his enemies, but their reaction to the September attack would hurt them many times over.
We believe NATO had no clear plan and no exit strategy. They repeated the same mistakes as the Soviet Union had made. If it was really influence they wanted to exert, they'd be better to look at the approach being put into place around the world by the current government of China. The term "military intelligence", in the Afghanistan context, is truly an oxymoron.

So, what should a Queen's Liberal Arts education teach us about Afghanistan? In my view, it should be that those who engage in terrorist acts, don't do so in a vacuum. They are usually reacting to perceived wrongs done to them. A little more respect, tolerance and restraint would make for a happier planet. Bombing and killing, by either side to a conflict, doesn't usually instill democratic values.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #1Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #1
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