I don’t really want to start commentary about the US Presidential race, since so many other people are already saying so much. But I do want to mention one thing that struck me, as a resident of Canada.

In last Friday’s debate (Sept 26, 2008) between John McCain and Barack Obama, they talked about the outlook for the war in Afghanistan. They both described it in purely US terms, as if the US was fighting that war alone.

Here in Canada, it’s pretty clear that Canadian forces are in the Afghanistan war with both feet, and nearly 100 Canadian soldiers killed to date. (Don’t let’s get distracted by the fact that the US has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008 alone, and six time more over the whole war, or that the UK has lost more than Canada; I’m not saying Canada is fighting the Afghanistan war alone, I’m just saying the US has help.)

The US invasion of Iraq was really unpopular with many US allies at the time, including Canada. So the “coalition” forces turned out to be mostly US, a significant but smaller UK force, and token participation from some others.  Part of what makes the Iraq war so hard for the US is that so many of its allies act as if to say, “you broke it, you clean it up”. The US has to carry the load pretty much alone.

The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan ought to present a nice contrast. Most (all?) US allies agreed that the war was justified. NATO participates as an alliance, meaning Canada, and the UK, and a number of European countries are fighting the war in substantial ways. It ought to be a relief for US leaders to be able to say that at least in Afghanistan, the US has help.

But neither McCain nor Obama mentioned that on Sept 26th. I wonder if they didn’t think of it. Maybe they know that US voters react badly to a mention of some other country in this connection. I don’t know.  I do know that the omission was glaringly apparent to me as I watched, and it saddened me.