Adapting in the Dust: Lessons Learned from Canada's War in Afghanistan

Adapting in the Dust: Lessons Learned from Canada's War in Afghanistan

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By Stephen M. Saideman
UTP Insights
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
184 Pages
ISBN 9781442614734
Published Jan 2016
Online discount: 35%
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ISBN 9781442646957
Published Jan 2016
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442666917
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Online discount: 36%
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Canada’s six-year military mission in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province was one of the most intense and challenging moments in Canadian foreign affairs since the Korean War. A complex war fought in an inhospitable environment, the Afghanistan mission tested the mettle not just of Canada’s soldiers but also of its politicians, public servants, and policy makers. In Adapting in the Dust, Stephen M. Saideman considers how well the Canadian government, media, and public managed the challenge.

Building on interviews with military officers, civilian officials, and politicians, Saideman shows how key actors in Canada’s political system, including the prime minister, the political parties, and parliament, responded to the demands of a costly and controversial mission. Some adapted well; others adapted poorly or – worse yet – in ways that protected careers but harmed the mission itself.

Adapting in the Dust is a vital evaluation of how well Canada’s institutions, parties, and policy makers responded to the need to oversee and sustain a military intervention overseas, and an important guide to what will have to change in order to do better next time.

Stephen M. Saideman is the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Alone in Kandahar? Canada in Comparative Perspective

Chapter 3: Considering the Kandahar Conundrum

Chapter 4: The Power of Minority Government: Manipulating the Confused and Those Who Cannot Coalesce

Chapter 5: The Problematic Parliament: Detainees, Information Asymmetries, and a Misplaced Focus

Chapter 6: Whole of Government or Holes in Government?

Chapter 7: The Canadian Forces: Winners?

 Chapter 8: Where Are the Canadians? The Public and the Media

Chapter 9: Learning Lessons and Drawing Conclusions

Adapting in the Dust uses the Afghan war as a prism to understand Canadian policymaking, public opinion, and the limitations of Parliament. While it is common to ask what lessons the government or armed forces can learn about future military deployments after Afghanistan, Saideman is the first to ask what lessons can be learned about how Canada governs itself.”

Philippe Lagasse, Graduate School of Public and International Affiars, University of Ottawa

“In Adapting in the Dust, Stephen M. Saideman combines scholarly rigour and hard-hitting political analysis to make an important contribution to the accounting of Canada’s Afghanistan experience. He is fair-minded and sympathetic to the reality that Canada did some things well in Afghanistan, but that we inevitably also made mistakes. His assessment of our system of decision-making, of the role and impact of personalities, and of the complex interplay between Canadian diplomatic, development, and military actors will serve Canada well as we face new calls to action in a volatile twenty-first-century world.”

Ron Hoffmann, former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan and Director General of Strategic Policy, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development

“By holding up Canada’s mission in Afghanistan as a mirror for Canadian politics and governance, Stephen M. Saideman has performed a great public service. Readers will come away from this short book impressed with Canada’s soldiers, public servants, and media; depressed by Canada’s political leaders and Parliament; but, above all, profoundly enlightened about Canada, Afghanistan, and Canada’s key international relationships. Hard-headed, clear-eyed, appropriately circumspect, and refreshingly even-handed, it is now the go-to source for anyone who wishes to learn from this dramatic chapter in Canada’s foreign engagement.”

David A. Welch, CIGI Chair of Global Security, Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Professor of Political Science, University of Waterloo

“Adapting In The Dust is a pointed addition to the first wave of literature that examines whether we should have been in Afghanistan at all.”

Tom Korski, Blacklock's Reporter, Saturday, February 27, 2016