Canada’s Case for War on IS: <br>The Northern Front Steps Up
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and Foreign Minister John Baird are certainly correct to support Canada’s traditional allies in attacking the Islamic State. It is such an unspeakably odious organization that it is beyond normal political discourse and as many as possible of its active adherents should be killed or otherwise eliminated as quickly as possible. Further, anything that seems to reactivate the Western Alliance, the most successful in world history, is a good thing. It has recently fallen to a somnolent condition even less fearsome than the former “coalition of the willing,” i.e. we’ll do it if we’re threatened ourselves but otherwise we’ll just be happy with a U.S guaranty of our national security.
There cannot be any debate that the Islamic State is a sociopathic, genocidal, barbarous outrage to any concept of civilization, and should be physically exterminated. Some effort should be made to reorient surviving prisoners rather than simply executing them, but it is the duty and in the self-interest of all countries to apply the most ruthless and expeditious force available to eliminate this unmitigated evil. It is to the credit of the Green party that its member of parliament, Bruce Hyer, voted with the government, whose motives were perfectly sensibly explained by Messrs. Harper and Baird.
Disappointing, but not surprising, was the position of Thomas Mulcair, leader of the official opposition, that bombing merely created more volunteers to the Islamic State so the effort was counter-productive. This was the same person who advised us to repeal the Clarity Act and agree to the independence of Quebec if 50% plus one voted for a vague separatist question, while also promising to ban English from federal government workplaces in Quebec to convince French Quebec that it didn’t have to secede to survive culturally, and that this policy was the true way forward for federalism.
At least Mr. Mulcair is consistent: We must appease anyone who threatens us and preen our feathers for humanitarian broad-mindedness as we do so. As recent Quebec elections have demonstrated, appeasing Quebec’s separatists assures their success and confronting them fairly with the facts and consequences of enactment of their plans secures their democratic defeat. And to assert that bombing the IS will cause more volunteers to join it is like saying the more Nazi soldiers and airmen we killed in Second World War, the more we faced. That is not how war works, Mr. Mulcair. When dealing with a mortal enemy, you can count all those susceptible to join his ranks as enemies from the start and the more you kill, the fewer remain.
Not even these Muslim terrorist mutants can multiply faster than modern military technology can dispose of them, and air attack, while not the whole solution, is so precise, it can severely interdict and constrain terrorist insurgencies lacking broad popular support. Whatever the unimaginable attractions of the Islamic State, it still has only about 20,000 known adherents and has run out of much of its steam already; the appeasement of such a group would be the ultimate degradation and shame of the West. There would be no need to behead individual Western captives; as a society, civilization, and epoch in world history, we would have thoughtfully decapitated ourselves. This is the prescription of the leader of the official opposition.
Not as outrageous but also vacuous is the position of the Liberal party, which is that we should side-step the military effort and by unspecified means distribute humanitarian aid to refugees “tucked up” at the Syrian-Turkish border, as discontent in this unfortunate group will be a greater threat to the West and international security than the IS. This isn’t a zero-sum game and since you don’t need warplanes and sophisticated ordnance to assist homeless refugees, both can be done simultaneously and this is the course being followed by the Western Alliance, including Canada. Listening to Liberal spokesman Gen. Andrew Leslie (a descendant of the artillery commander at Vimy and commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe from 1940 to 1943, General A.G.L. McNaughton, and of post-war defence minister Brooke Claxton), stumble through this flummery on television was a distressing experience.
This response to IS is not a responsible position and is only explicable by the perceived need to pander to Quebec isolationism. Quebec has been cool to every war that was not necessitated by the defense of Canada, i.e. all since 1815, except the Korean War, where the anti-communist fervor of the time, in the piping days of Pius XII, caused Quebecois to be even more militant about hammering North Korea and “Red China” than English Canadians. The Liberals under their current leader’s father and others have led the successful fight on the federalist side in Quebec, and the Liberals should now reintroduce that province to the concept of the pan-Canadian interest and not try to out-pander Mr. Mulcair in flattering Quebec’s ancient penchant for parochial insularity.
What Canada does in the Middle East, no matter how well targeted, is a small piece of the puzzle. All the Canadian party leaders, and other national leaders in allied countries, are correct that this isn’t a question for the large-scale insertion of our combat troops. Boots on the ground has become an anathematic catchword, because the United States has become war-wary after being mired for four of their five wars since 1945 (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the Gulf War), in prolonged conflicts with no exit strategy. Korea was at least somewhat successful, as South Korea was protected and has become a great political and economic success story, though North Korea continues to bedevil the world to this day.
The take-away message from these disappointments should not be an irrational abhorrence of using ground forces, much less a Mulcairian fear of raising a hand in anger of any kind against anyone, lest their numbers multiply in resentment, but to define the alliance interest in terms where the practical meet the essential, and get all allies or even cordial non-allied states to sign onto it, and hold that line.
That was essentially the basis of the successful containment strategy in the Cold War. In the Middle East, we are paying a heavy price for dismantling the Ottoman Empire along artificial lines; for the British promise of what in 1917 was called Palestine to the Jews and to the Arabs simultaneously; for the failure to act on the impulse of U.S. President Nixon and Soviet President Brezhnev in 1973 to agree and impose a settlement on Arab-Israeli claims when the super powers still could; for President Carter’s encouragement of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran; and for Europe’s repeated rejections of Turkish efforts to achieve a closer association with the European Union.
We are where we are. The best that can be done now is to set up an action group of several of the major Western or pro-Western powers and try to explore what would be necessary to secure Chinese and Russian co-operation, both countries with internal terrorist problems, to stop playing footsie with the nuclear-fixated Iranian ayatollahs. We could then jointly put all the negative and positive pressure appropriate on Iran to suspend seriously its nuclear program, and then encourage a division of the Middle East into spheres of influence for Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Israel, Jordan (a Palestinian majority governed by Bedouins) and Lebanon (a Christian-Muslim divided country) should be carved out as special cases, Middle Eastern Switzerlands.
Eventually, there will have to be some boots on the ground to make any sense out of Iraq and Syria in particular, but they should be Islamic boots. The West can’t occupy these countries, and they can’t be too choosy about how they are governed. The Turks, Egyptians, and Persians have, in their past (and in the case of Turkey, not just in the mists of antiquity) some vocation to rule that area. We should try to unite the European Union, Russia, China, Japan and the North Americans to encourage them and the Saudis to rediscover that vocation. In the meantime, the West should supply the cutting edge to subduing Islamic State; on this, the government deserves our support.
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