Canada’s next military adventure

Government of Canada sent an advance party of reconnaissance specialists to Iraq even before the House of Commons

Government of Canada sent an advance party of reconnaissance specialists to Iraq even before the House of Commons voted on whether to involve Canada’s armed forces in the fight against ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, which keeps expanding the territory under its control despite ongoing air strikes by the US and regional countries joining in the effort.

Pollsters say almost two thirds of Canadians support Canada’s involvement in the fight against ISIS, but even a larger majority appears to believe that it is going to be a protracted conflict and Canada’s mission will not likely be limited to the six-month term foreseen for the initial involvement.

That much has already been said by senior Pentagon staff and by the commander-in-chief of the US, President Barack Obama. The US public and international community has been prepared for some time for a long-haul military operation in the Middle East, again.

Because of the atrocities committed by the zealots of the Islamic State, there is broad agreement that something has to be done about this so-called “threat”. (This week’s article by the regular international affairs columnist Gwen Dyer on page  XX has an eye-opening approach to the issue.)

So one is perfectly justified to ask the question: “Shouldn’t Canada be part of an international coalition of forces trying to defeat religious terrorists?”

But asking this question is the same as inquiring whether a single tree in a forest infested with killer insects should be saved by immediate action.

Let’s remember that it has been a quarter of a century since the former Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, a country whose name was completely forgotten by the “civilized world” until 9/11 struck in 2001. A period of 12 years elapsed between the two events, and had the US and its allies not left that country to be taken over by the Taliban, the swamp, as it were, would have been drained and mosquitoes would not have found space to thrive.

Let’s also remember that the West, led by the US and NATO have been waging military campaigns against Islamic forces, be it Taliban guerrillas or regular Iraqi army in 1999 and in 2003 or the current ISIS fighters, for more than 15 years. Has any one of those military operations brought any concrete solution to any of the problems that they were meant to address? Afghanistan and Pakistan are still at the throes of an insurgency by Taliban and the remnants of Al Qaeda; Iraq is on the verge of a complete breakdown, possibly to be divided into three parts with each part most likely to become a proxy for another regional or international power in pursuit of oil interests, while other regional countries, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are all looking into possibilities of preying on the disintegrating regional order.

So here is a better question to ask: What will the military mission that will include Canada’s aging F-18 fighter jets accomplish?

Political pundits agree that if 2015 were not an election year, this military adventure might not have been on the agenda of the country. Apparently, Mr. Harper would like to enhance its chances of reelection by assuming a stature of internationally recognized statesmen by involving Canada in this mission.

One picture speaks a thousand words, they say. Just take a look, if you care, at how Mr. Harper’s speech at last month’s UN General Assembly was received: