It requires tremendous contortions of logic, reality and morality to oppose Canada’s involvement in the international military campaign aimed at bringing diabolical Islamic State expansionism to heel.
Unsurprisingly, the chronic isolationists manage it.
Theirs is a weird alliance of political contrivance, hardcore passive ideology, selective interventionism — if Iraq, why not Syria, to which I would say indeed why not? — inside-out racist naifs of staggering ignorance — the accusation that America bombs brown-skinned Muslims willy-nilly, when Iraqis and Syrians come in all shades and all faiths — and those who demand clear-cut assurances of how war will be tactically waged, as if combat can ever be pre-formatted.
In the last week, Islamic militants — ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State as variously known — have suffered both territorial losses, resulting directly from air strikes by the U.S., Britain and France — and alarming gains. On Sunday, jihadists engaged in their heaviest battle so far with Kurdish forces in a raging fight over Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish town on the Syrian border.
It is the Kurds — the peshmerga battalions — doing most of the heavy fighting on the ground, in tandem with reconstituted Iraqi troops under more professional command than the six army divisions, 52,000 men, that collapsed, turned tail and fled when huge swaths of the country were overrun in the summer. Those are the Kurdish troops that Iraq’s then-prime minister disastrously snubbed when they first offered — pleaded — to give assistance, to at least secure disputed areas of Iraq before ISIS filled the vacuum, when there was a good chance the invaders could have been repelled. But Nuri al-Maliki was more fixated on denying the Kurds any toehold outside the autonomous region of Kurdistan, any further solidifying of their independence aspirations. He gambled on Kirkuk until June 10, when a message was finally relayed to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani — as revealed recently by journalist Dexter Filkins in a comprehensive article for The New Yorker: “It would be a good thing if you moved in.”
It’s taken far too long for the international community, in particular U.S. President Barack Obama, to move in, taking Americans into another war in Iraq, after staking his presidency on the vow, realized, of taking the U.S. out of Iraq. A commander-in-chief who loathes war — only maniacs love it — belatedly saw what was so manifestly evident: The monumental threat posed to the region by ISIS, the colossal horrors inflicted on civilians, and the broadening theatre of operations — with its oil wealth, the looted banks, the Mosul dam that could be unleashed to flood Baghdad if under jihadist control and the hundreds of thousands rendered internally displaced refugees huddling for sanctuary on mountain tops.
The beheading of Western hostages may have been little more than a grisly detail, propaganda fodder for ISIS in its global recruitment agenda, but those revolting crimes transfixed the world’s attention.
So here’s your war, which the West is waging effectively from the air — a war that won’t be won in a matter of months but in a matter of years, many long years, during which public support for the undertaking could wane. Yet even that use of coalition might has been condemned by the hidebound neutralists as a disproportionate military bigfoot, killing from the skies, disengaged, because Western leaders lack the nerve to fight fair, seeing the whites of the enemy’s eyes. Though they would lose their nut if ground troops were deployed.
Stay out. Stay away. Do nothing.
On Monday Canada will do something. Not a great deal — half-a-dozen CF-18 fighter jets, two Aurora surveillance aircraft, an air-to-air-refueling CC-150 Polaris — part of a 700-strong deployment that includes military advisers dispatched earlier, a mission with a six-month limit, though it could be extended. The parliamentary vote is a formality because Prime Minister Stephen Harper wields a majority. But it would be ethical, principled, for the opposition in at least some numbers to approve this mission.
It won’t end the current conflict, of course not, as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has warned. But the left is onboard in other countries that have sent assets for the effort. British Labour leader Ed Miliband — who a year ago forced Prime Minister David Cameron to abandon his plea for air strikes against Syria — said the U.K. couldn’t “simply stand by.” France, which like Canada wanted no part of the Iraq war a decade ago — announced last week it will boost its military contribution, having already allotted six fighter jets and 18,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition; Australia is in with eight fighter jets.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, when not delivering sophomoric and puerile statements about Harper wanting to swing testosterone (those CF-18s a ridiculous metaphor for phalli), bangs the humanitarian drum. Well, of course Canada can and should do more on the humanitarian front. But forgoing combat while providing airlifts and medical support is a meagre, exploitatively righteous alternative, for a Liberal party that has gerrymandered — diluted — peacekeeping as originally envisioned by prime minister Lester Pearson.
If so intransigently opposed to limited action against ISIS, then when and where and why?
Trudeau covets the easy option, the humanitarian assistance that would burnish Canada’s halo — for a domestic audience, because internationally such a surrogate for military engagement would be seen for what it plainly is: A self-aggrandizing substitute.
Let others do the heavy lifting. Other nations, other pilots, other militaries. We are exceptional. Exceptionally virtuous. Except there is no virtue in brushing off or severing from ISIS reality on the ground last week’s report by the UN Human Rights office, detailing gross human rights violations: Mass execution, jihadi slave markets, child soldiers and systematic war crimes.
Let others fight, says Trudeau. We’ll bring the blankets.