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A must-read resource for anti-war activists


May 29, 2013

Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan
Edited by Jerome Klassen and Greg Albo
 
Reviewed by James Clark
 
Anyone trying to make sense of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan should welcome the publication of Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan. Edited by Jerome Klassen and Greg Albo, Empire’s Ally is a major contribution to contemporary debates about Canada’s participation in a war that has completely transformed Canadian foreign policy and the role of Canada’s military. In years to come, this collection will surely become a foundational text for all subsequent criticism about Canadian economic interests abroad and their relationship to US imperialism.
 
As its editors explain in its preface, Empire’s Ally “addresses a critical gap in the social science literature on Canadian foreign policy and Canadian political economy – namely, the absence to date of a systematic study of Canada’s role in Afghanistan over the past decade.” But this text is not just another academic contribution; rather, it is a compelling intervention that connects scholarly debates to popular anti-war sentiment and that equips both scholars and activists alike with a broader understanding of the social and political processes that lead to war in the first place.
 
Over the course of 14 chapters, Empire’s Ally makes two basic arguments: first, that the war can only be understood in relation to dramatic changes in the world economy and the nation-state system in the post-Cold War era – mainly the rise of the “Dollar-Wall Street regime” and the global expansion of US military power; and second, that the broader interests of US imperialism have shaped Canada’s role in Afghanistan, leading the Canadian state to entrench its “second-power” status in the NATO alliance, to deepen its relationship with Washington, and to transform Canadian foreign policy and defence to advance global neoliberal economics.
 
A total of 15 contributors – all of them with roots in the anti-war movement – provide original and engaged analysis about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, and share an approach framed by critical international relations theory and Marxist political economy. Perhaps the greatest strength of their method is its refusal to isolate the mission in Afghanistan from Canada’s long-term economic interests at home and abroad, and from the historical and political processes that have shaped Afghanistan over decades. In this respect, Empire’s Ally breaks the consensus of mainstream foreign policy and international relations experts who rely on either a positivist “realist” or a liberal idealist understanding of the war. As it gains a wider readership, this text could dramatically change (for the better) the terms of debate about Canada’s role in Afghanistan and its relationship to the US-led “war on terror.”
 
Another strength of this text is its orientation to anti-war struggle; indeed, Empire’s Ally is dedicated to peace activists in Afghanistan and Canada, and includes contributions from key anti-war organizers in Quebec and English Canada. Its editors make clear that their text represents the beginning of a much longer process of engagement and debate about Canada’s role in Afghanistan that will be enriched by emerging scholars and activists. Without a doubt, Empire’s Ally is a must-read resource for anti-war activists – not only in Canada, but also in all NATO countries – who seek the kind of analysis that goes beyond the limited criticism of the current mission, and that clearly establishes the link between global capitalism and the drive to war.
 
If you like this article, come to Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a conference this weekend of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "Libya, Mali and Canadian imperialism", "Quebec, First Nations and Canadian imperialism" and "Palestine, BDS and the Arab Spring."

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