Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan past the end of next summer will not receive hardline opposition from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, who says Canada must play a vital role in promoting democracy abroad.

The Liberal foreign affairs critic says Canada must continue to support the Afghan military in a training role, in order to improve the country's chaotic state.

"We can't just leave," Bob Rae told this week. "That doesn't necessarily mean we should stay in a combat role, but it means staying in some role seems to make a lot of sense to me. It doesn't make sense just to walk away."

In his latest book, "Exporting Democracy: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea," Rae outlines democracy's long march from western concept to international ideal.

The work could be viewed as a 250-page application letter for the position of foreign affairs minister, should the Liberal party form a government in the future. When asked in the past about his political ambition, Rae has said he would love to put his stamp on the position.

"The world is in us, and we are in the world. We have to stop thinking of the world as something that is out there, that is somehow separate from us," Rae said.

Rae, the Member of Parliament for the Toronto-Centre riding, discussed the necessity to remain in Afghanistan during a wide-ranging interview from his office in Ottawa, during which he explained why introducing democracy and human rights is a difficult but vital task.

"You can't export democracy like it is a refrigerator or something else. You cannot impose it by force. If you do that it frequently backfires. I think that is a lot of what we have been seeing," he said.

"We are in a tough situation – the world is in a tough situation in Afghanistan. These things are never easy. It is 30 years of civil war; it is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has become a narco-economy.

"The world is a complicated place and there are conflicts in that part of the world that predate any of us alive. They are not quickly resolved and not quickly ended."

Exporting Democracy

Rae is effusive whenever the concept of democracy – in Afghanistan or elsewhere – is raised in conversation.

The long-time politician, former university professor and son of a foreign diplomat, launches into the subject like others might when speaking about a favourite sports team: at times passionate and optimistic, at others frustrated and realistic.

"Exporting Democracy" broaches Canada's role in democracy's spread – a role he says is at the core of our identity – and the pitfalls that appear while introducing it to the world's darker corners.

"You can't look for quick fixes. You have to realize that these things require extraordinary time and effort. That is just the reality. You can't lose patience and you can't lose hope," Rae said.

"The world cannot afford to have little hidden corners that are festering with violence and conflict that go unmonitored or unassessed."

Afghanistan, sadly, is just one of countless countries searching for its balance. Other faraway places such as Iraq, Sri Lanka and Burma struggle to embrace blue sky concepts like open democracy and human rights.

"There are a lot of countries that don't live up to the standard. They don't live up to the mark. There are clearly abuses in a lot of parts of the world. The question becomes what we do about it. That becomes the challenge of our foreign policy."

Rae first entered politics as a federal Member of Parliament in 1978, before moving to provincial politics four years later. In 1990, Rae was elected premier of Ontario.

He stepped out of politics after losing the 1996 election and was elected as a Liberal MP 12 years later, eventually taking his current role as foreign affairs critic after a failed leadership bid.

In his time out of the public spotlight, Rae taught international politics at the University of Toronto and chaired the Forum of Federations, an organization he helped launch to help oversee constitutional discussions around the world.

It was here that Rae entered a tense standoff in Sri Lanka between the government and the Tamil Tigers, which claimed to be the military response to persecution against Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

In 2009, Sri Lanka's military score a major victory over the Tigers, labelled a terrorist organization in Canada. Rae flew to Sri Lanka after it was suggested the military had killed civilians in its strike.

The army claimed Rae was a Tamil Tiger sympathizer and denied him entry to the country, deporting him to London, England in the middle of the night.

He has ruminated since then, saying while it was a frustrating experience at the time, it was also a troubling indication of the government's fear of transparency. It has only strengthened his fight for democratic rights.

"We have to accept the fact that for us to be consistent advocates of democracy and human rights, sometimes leads to conflict," Rae said. "There are countries that will say they don't like it when you say that, and attack you personally for saying that. It can't be a reason for backing off."