21 February 2016

Is our policy on ISIS predestined?

No one wants to say unpleasant things about their friends. But what do you do if your friends are engaged in serial misbehaviour and you are getting dragged into it? Do you end your friendships, do you tell your friends to behave themselves, or do you just allow yourself to be dragged in?

This is the dilemma our government faces in the Middle East. The major troubles of that region have been caused in large part by the imperialist practices of three of our best friends: France, Britain and the United States.

The imperial powers have been making mischief in the region before and since the end of WWI when the British and the French carved up the old Ottoman Empire under the Sykes–Picot Agreement. (One of the stated goals of ISIS is to reverse the effects of that agreement). The last great binge of Western imperialism in the Middle East was the invasion of Iraq in 2003, one of the products of which was ISIS, and we, despite wisely opting out of the invasion, have now been dragged into dealing with it.

We cannot end our friendships with these powers. We are tied to them by generations of history and, of no small importance, we depend on the U.S. for 75 per cent of our exports. We need them a lot more than they need us. We have on occasion refused to be dragged into their messes while tactfully suggesting they are misbehaving, but it's too late in the game for that in dealing with ISIS. We are already in and to walk away now would require the government to explain itself publicly, and therein lies the problem.

That would require pointing a finger at the culprits, something political incorrectness simply does not allow us to do. It does not allow the very honest and open discussion and debate this issue demands.

Our previous government faced no such problem. It simply wouldn't accept that our friends were capable of sin. Israel could do whatever it wanted to the Palestinians and the US. could do whatever it wanted to just about anybody, and our job was to support our friends unreservedly. This is not a healthy friendship—one of the best things a good friend can do is tell you when your doing wrong—but it was part of Stephen Harper's black and white view of the world.

Trudeau is much more likely to understand issues in depth and recognize causes as well as effects. When he suggested it was important to understand the root causes of terrorism he was mocked by the Conservatives with comments about "committing sociology," but it indicated that he was at least thinking about Muslim extremism in more depth than the government of the day.

So this is his challenge. How can he withdraw from imperialist entanglements when he is unable to explain to Canadians, or anyone else, why we are withdrawing? Perhaps I misjudge Trudeau and he is as eager to be onside as Harper was, but it doesn't really matter. He is boxed in. And so are we. The terrorists have scripted war with the infidel and are masterfully sucking us all in.


  1. C'mon, Bill. When it comes to our national government, they're all Likudniks. That goes for Mulcair to boot. The only voice who can speak reasonably about Israel is my party's leader, Ms. May.

    As for ISIS, I think we're about to do something sensible - shift our efforts out of the Middle East and focus on purging North Africa of the Islamist scourge. Neither Libya nor Tunisia are natural hotbeds of radical Islam. Indeed the Tunisian people have turned out in massive demonstrations against that religious subversion. The people of Libya are still shackled by violent factionalism, a blurred mix of insurgency and civil war. Yet I suspect the Libyan people could be more like Tunisians given the chance.

    For all of that, our efforts hinge on our credibility and, with our off-balanced support of Israel, we're easily depicted as just another bunch of lousy Crusaders. Odd, isn't it, that we think one doesn't impact the other?

  2. The withdrawal of the CF-18s seems the correct thing to do but the proposal to intensify the training of local forces to fight ISIL seems very poorly thought out, despite Trudeau's penchant for looking at root causes. Even Obama had now publicly admitted that the U.S. had inadvertently caused the rise of ISIL through its military actions in both Iraq and Libya. Seems we are committing ourselves to fighting an evil that had been created by our good fried to the south.

    Coming back to the current situation, the U.S. had publicly admitted failure, after having spent US$500M, in its mission to train the moderate Islamist forces in Syria to fight against ISIL: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/world/middleeast/pentagon-program-islamic-state-syria.html?_r=0 Seems these people were more interested in fighting Assad than ISIL, so it is unclear how Canada could succeed when the U.S. had failed so spectacularly. Also, Russia is now bombing the rebel forces, which leads to the question as to what happens when Russia kills some of our Canadian military who are on the front lines training these forces. Do we then confront Russia militarily (with our half dozen CF-18s, Lol) or do we grin and bear it despite all our tough talk against Putin?

    Then there is also the question of intensifying the training of the Kurds in Syria/Iraq to fight ISIL. Turkey, our NATO ally, is now bombing and shelling the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq because it regards them as terrorists. Again, when our Canadian military on the front line training these Kurds get killed by Turkish shells/bombs, do we then confront Turkey militarily? To add to the mess, Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally and buyer of Canadian arms and LAVs, has gone on public record threatening to team up with Turkey to invade Syria. The latter would almost for sure be illegal according to international laws.

    And then there was the matter of the U.S. and France blocking the Security Council resolution proposed by Russia last week to require Turkey to stop its shelling of Syrian territories (where the Kurds are).

    Thus coming back to your point, do we follow our friends and allies into the mess they had created? To be fair, we too own some of the mess in the last 9 years under the Harper government. Trudeau had given the impression he was going to walk away from the militaristic Harper foreign policies, but unfortunately it now increasingly looks like Trudeau is even more hawkish at least where fighting ISIL is concerned.