10.06.2014 06:56 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: war – what is it good for?

War, what is it good for?

Remember that lyric? For Edwin Starr, war – and the song “War” – was good enough to represent a number one hit in the spring of 1970. Released at Vietnam’s nadir, “War” was the biggest hit of Starr’s career, and held the top spot on the Billboard charts for weeks. In the intervening years, it has been covered by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

In the intervening years, too, the sentiment at the centre of “War” has been mooted plenty of times in legislatures and parliaments. War, what is it good for? Anything?

As Canada hovers on the brink in Iraq and Syria, it’s a question that will be debated ad infinitum. Is war good for anyone, politically?

For the prime minister, it is obvious that participation in the international coalition against ISIS is a matter of great principle. Only a cynic would characterize Harper’s position as a total fraud.

Only a fool, however, would believe that politics has not entered into Harper’s calculations. As he prepares for an election next year, the Conservative leader is well aware – as Jimmy Carter learned – that unsuccessful military escapades in foreign lands can have unhelpful electoral consequences back home.

Conversely, ISIS’ defeat could provide Harper’s Conservatives with what they most desire: re-election. To understand why, one need only review the respective positions of Messrs. Mulcair and Trudeau.

For the NDP leader, it is parliamentary business as usual. In respect of virtually every military conflict in which this nation has rightly involved itself in recent decades – Afghanistan, Kosovo – the CCF/NDP have always said “no.”

Their military policy is not to have one. Forever sitting on the sidelines, making chirpy speeches about humanitarian measures, doing little — that is the NDP.

It hasn’t hurt them, arguably, in places like Quebec (although the province’s new premier favours military intervention). But, when one considers ISIS’ campaign of murder and torture and enslavement – when one considers that ISIS’ barbarism has even been condemned by al-Qaida as too extreme – is not the NDP’s indifference to genocide tantamount to complicity?

Mulcair will argue, and has, that Canada is better equipped to deliver humanitarian aid, not military support. But that is sophistry: humanitarian and military efforts are not mutually exclusive. Canada can do, and has done, both.

So, we know where Harper and Mulcair stand – one is for war, one against. But what of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals?

In recent days, Lloyd Axworthy has stated his unequivocal support for action against ISIS. “[ISIS] have to be whacked, and whacked good,” says Axworthy, who is on the party’s progressive left, and who is still regarded by Grits as its most effective foreign affairs minister in modern times.

Former Liberal leader Bob Rae, similarly no hawk, has taken a similar view. In an op-ed dismissing comparisons to George W. Bush’s misadventure in Iraq, he wrote: “Islamic State represents a clear and present danger to the people over whom it rules, to any minorities around the area, to the region and potentially to the world.”

Revered former lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire said likewise: “I don’t see how it’s possible to contain ISIS without having boots on the ground.”

For now, however, Trudeau has disregarded the advice of the likes of Axworthy, Rae and Dallaire. For now, he has aped the NDP’s position. It hasn’t hurt him.

Says Trudeau: “The Liberal Party of Canada cannot and will not support this prime minister’s motion to go to war in Iraq.”

Understood. But Trudeau would do well to occasionally heed the wisdom of the likes of Axworthy, Rae and Dallaire.

And to recall that “War,” in the end, was just a song.


  1. MississaugaPeter says:

    I fear nothing more than an issue like this, where the majority of the country is on Harper’s side, being his excuse to call a quick election.

    Giving JT another year to prepare for the leader’s debates may be just a little too long for Harper.

    Yes, this is hypocrisy: I agree with JT/Muclair, but believe JT should have followed the advise of the elder Liberals. It would have not given Harper a wedge issue. This is politics folks. You must compromise. Even Chretien didn’t eliminate the GST when I am sure he expected to during the election.

    I am a Pearson Liberal. I feel the $B’s spent in Afghanistan would have been better used building 10,000’s of school classrooms. I am definitely part of the minority.

  2. Arnold Murphy says:

    “A clear and present danger” I don’t think so, militarily the strength of ISIS is questionable, politically they are extremists who have limited shelf life. In reviewing Robert McNamara’s “FOG OF WAR” we find indications of a rush to war and they are absolutely characteristic of another movie “WAG THE DOG”. If we are going to talk clear and present danger, let’s start with military metrics and compare apples with oranges. ISIS (Apples) has limited capacity in North America, maybe some terrorist capacities but nothing that could be classified as first of all dangerous enough to harm the economy, transport grid, power grid, production capacities, health and welfare systems in place. Meanwhile, White Supremacists the other terrorists (Oranages) are in large numbers, spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, embedded in police, military and government and have not only active campaigns militarily including ongoing terror operation, psy ops and military recruitment, training and retention capacities but have media capacities that reach globally. The oranges clearly have a strategic advantage over the apples, they have also some alliances we could call collaborators and even the tools to conduct large scale operations. We look at ISIS it may even be a creation of the U.S. as there is evidence to suggest if not conclude this, but they are clearly not established the way the Oranges are. We can say that ISIS has threatened the West, has targeted the West, but this does not legitimize them as a present threat because they don’t have the necessary forces or intelligence or strategic capacities of the Oranges. So we arrive at a point where we have to say that at the very least the Apples and the Oranges are two separate terrorist or extremist groups, the Oranges are the superior threat by several metrics, resources, strategic placement, capacities, funding, wherewithal and force distribution. We can also look at the FBI in the U.S. which has identified the Oranges as a clear and present danger, have placed the Oranges as a far more dangerous threat to North America. But why are we not pursuing them with the same zeal, animosity and fervor?> It’s also part of the threat, we cannot because they represent an element of society that is a minority (white supremacists) but they also represent a majority (whites) and as we cannot lump all Muslims into the category of extremists, we cannot lump all whites into the category as well. The (apples) are embedded in our society, something those cursing the Middle East as a breeding ground for terror should consider. We in the West have an affinity for pointing the finger, usually not at ourselves and usually wrongly. What we have to consider is that as much as we want to rid ourselves of the Oranges, we have not succeeded, nor have we succeeded in eliminating their fundamentalist and extreme belief systems, in fact on some levels we have fueled the fire, many would look at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and other events in the U.S. as adding fuel to the fire. So conveniently we ignore the facts, that the Oranges are a clear and present danger, that ISIS is neither, it is half way around the world making threats it has little capacity to carry out. Yet what do we do about the real threat? What can we do? Would it not send an example that would also show other countries we are serious about such extremism if we engaged in a war on white supremacy? I would like to think that it would be harder to recruit a Apple if the recruiting base knew that the West was actually dealing with some of the root causes of extremism in it’s own backyard. But, that will not happen because in the U.S. and Canada, they are embedded in politics and the media, so we are led to believe that fighting Oranges does not count towards the war on terrorism, until they do something as Tim McVeigh did. I should however give credit to the FBI because they have been fighting the Oranges, have put them at the top of their list of real threats and have engaged them. Its maybe time we took care of our own backyard, before we poke our head over the neighbors fence and demand that he take care of his, because if we do not, the threat will only become worse and it will spread as it already has.

    • Scotian says:

      You write an interesting comment here, but as one writer of lengthy comments to another, I would suggest you format such with paragraph breaks, that one needed at least three or maybe four. It makes it easier to read through without fighting to hold lines.

      As to your substantive point, you managed to raise this issue without being inflammatory or sounding like a conspiracy kook, not an easy task. Well done. There is much validity to the point that we ignore our own extremist fringes (and not so fringes in some respects as you and the FBI have noted) while being told to be afraid of those a half a world away, despite the fact that our own has also committed terrorist acts, McVeigh being the most prominent but far from the only one, and even here in Canada we have had a little of it, although not to that degree. Now, whether we were more proactive in dealing with them would impact the Arab/Muslim world to police their own better, that is an argument I am less sold on, but I can see how removing the apparent hypocrisy in treatment could have the effect you describe, and to my mind is worth considering doing if only because I inherently distrust extremists and supremacists whatever their flavour, and see them as a threat to open democratic society, since whatever their focus tends to not be in sync with such.

      So thanks for leaving an interesting comment, although you did not really tie it into the thread topic as well as it could have been, it was more by implication than by explication, but still, an interesting POV none the less. Since you clearly had worked hard on it, and did raise an interesting and not so frequently considered point I felt it worth being given a response, yet I suspect I may be one of the only ones willing/able to read that solid a block of text. Formatting is alas important when you have a lot to say if you want it read.

  3. patrick says:

    Well, if Trudeau would just state the obvious, that a war against a small group of insane radicals will serve nothing but create an environment for more insane radicals to fester, so Harper’s war is pointless, ineffective and counter productive and therefore not one a Liberal party can support, I think it would serve him well and put Harper in a place where he would have to answer for his actions, especially when the civilian bodies add up and terror cells seem to be spreading like a cancer through the region.
    I’d also like some one to ask, “when was the last time bombing the shit out of a country has produced a nation of happy sun shiny faces cheering the rising death tolls of their families and not damaged, raging people bent on revenge?”
    I’m sure there’s a long list.

    • Steve T says:

      You are missing the point. The purpose of bombing ISIS is not to convert anyone, or make them “like” us. It is to stop the rape and murder of innocent people.

      • patrick says:

        Really? Well that’s different. That will just work brilliantly. Hopefully slaughtering innocents will stop them playing cricket too.

  4. davie says:

    That we are sending some war planes to join the bombing and strafing of infrastructure (which will hurt the people, a lot, as in Iraq during the 1990’s) seems to me to belie the claims of atrocities and the long term threat of Islamic State made by proponents of making war. If these guys are so bad, so threatening, why are we doing so little?

    Many people are comparing this to this’n’that in history, even back to the late 1930’s (hey…as big a threat as Napolean?). I will cherry pick a bit, too. This reminds me of the destruction of a Libyan regime that threatened to finance an all African currency for trade of African commodities, and a step in freeing Africa from Western financial domination. The West dreamed up a ‘right to protect’ rationale to attack and destroy the Libyan regime…and, especially, the African currency idea.
    This threat from Islamic State looks to me like something the West, and autocracies in the region who are our allies in this, are really nervous about. The idea of an Islamic caliphate is in the maps published recently on several web sites showing where Islamic State plans to be in 5 years. The map looks like a map from 700 years ago of the then caliphate. I am sure that this is an idea that appeals greatly to people in all those areas the map covers who feel they have been too much controlled and manipulated by the West.

    By the way, some recent reports say that the bombing thus far has killed and maimed some civilians, but has boosted IS recruitment greatly, not just in IS controlled areas, but in all areas that the caliphate pans to control in 5 years time. Will our bombing add to much, except destroying infrastructure just before winter, thus hurting all the people over there…the way that US/UK bombing hurt Iraqis in the 1990’s?

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Even with ground troops it would be virtually impossible to destroy ISIL. It will morph into something different when threatened. It’s like the Viet Cong only more adept and flexible.

    As for an unexpected election, that depends on CPC numbers in Ontario. If Justin still leads there, forget it. I don’t know about Mackenzie King but Borden got in each time thanks to a solid military vote. Doubt that will work for Harper now that his government has killed the lifetime pension.

  6. Ty says:

    Policy: You’re right.

    Column: As a reader I find it really disorienting. Random Pop culture reference -PM Awesome (cynics suck)- PM strategic (idealists suck)- helps reelection! (point raised) – NDP – NDP complicit (?!) – Liberal veterans say X – Trudeau says Y- Return to pop culture reference (point not returned to).

    I know you have time pressures and I’m a random schmuck, etc., just trying to help.

  7. Steve T says:

    Great article. This issue (ISIS) may be far more of a defining moment for the Liberals than they currently believe. Once they realize that, it may be too late.

    Canadians of all political stripes are tired of “opposition for the sake of opposition”. Griping about the party-in-power, with form over substance, is one thing when discussing benign domestic matters. It’s something else entirely when you are, in essence, advocating that Canada sit on its hands when some of the worst atrocities in modern history are being committed.

    The milquetoast approach of the NDP is bad, but so is the fence-sitting free-rider approach of the Liberals. It’s wonderful that they (and the NDP) want to only commit humanitarian aid – willing to let other countries like the U.S., UK, and France do the dirty work. I have a picture in my head of a bully beating up a small child, with the NDP and Liberals tending to the child’s wounds and giving the child a lollipop, while not doing anything to stop the bully’s actions.

    Some of the West’s recent war excursions were follies. This one is not. Let’s not allow our past mistakes taint our perspective on ISIS. They are one of the purest forms of evil the world has seen in a long, long time.

  8. Student501 says:

    Doesn’t matter what we think, PMSH has the wheel and a majority until October 2015.

    GLTA until October 2015.

  9. Pipes says:

    With respect to ISIL and Canada’s role, it seems to me that a real leader would simply do the right thing first and think about the political implications last. “Is war good for anyone, politically?” I’m too stupid or ignorant I guess to answer that and in this shitty world, I guess a politician will always put themselves first.

  10. ottlib says:

    “Conversely, ISIS’ defeat could provide Harper’s Conservatives with what they most desire: re-election”

    What does the defeat of ISIS look like? If this was a fight against someone like Hussein, Assad, Gaddafi or even bin Laden maybe their death or capture could be sold as a victory.

    Unfortunately no single bogey man has turned up. ISIS has learned from the fates of the men listed above and made their organization the focus of Western governments instead of a single individual and that organization will not be taken out by airpower. It is going to take boots on the ground and every politician in the West will run away from any suggestion of sending Western ground forces into the fray.

    The boots will have to come from the locals and unfortunately only one of those groups (The Kurds in Iraq) are capable of defeating ISIS but only on a local level. The rest are useless and it will take more than a year to make them capable enough roll back ISIS.

    If ISIS is not defeated by this time next year things could get sticky for the Conservatives. Although, if they are lucky ISIS will reach the limits before then. They can only expand so far before reaching countries or forces that would be able to stop them easily so maybe Stephen Harper will point to that and try to sell it as a victory leading to the next election..

  11. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Worth noting how so many unfailingly refer to this as “Harper’s war”.

    Also worth noting how so many here, for all the posts and paragraphs about this, have gone out of their way to never mention “Obama”.

    That would be the same “Obama”, poster child for all things progressive in pretty much the entire universe, whom Liberals and Dippers have been pretty much ga ga over for most of the last decade.

    The same “Obama” who gave PM Harper a tap on the shoulder to get involved in a military way in this action he is heading up against ISIS.

    No, he didn’t call Harper to ask his council or permission on what to do next, because Obama…oddly enough…does not think of this as “Harper’s war”. Indeed, I’m pretty sure he’d find that characterization fairly amusing.

    Oh, the irony!

    Must be galling as all hell, I thinking.

  12. Ridiculosity says:

    “It has too often been too easy for rulers and governments to incite man to war.” – Lester B Pearson

  13. P. Thompson says:

    Passive Aggressives

    “Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’” – Orwell

    Justin Trudeau continues as the Russell Brand of Canadian politics e.g. “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are!” Bizarre, Freudian gutter-rants in the context of the Islamic State are in poorest of taste – the IS continues in its Satanic orgy of gang rapes en masse – alongside murder, mayhem, beheadings, crucifixions, genocide. Bob Rae lambasted the Prime Minister for, “the appalling way he manages Parliament and attempts to manufacture consent” – obviously alluding to Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

    Chomsky is militantly against nation states and any policy to sustain them. His notion that, “Like many borders around the world, it is artificially imposed and, like those many other borders imposed by external powers, it bears no relationship to the interests or the concerns of the people of the country,” harmonizes with the erasure by the Islamic State of the border between Syria and Iraq. For the Internationalist, North America, Arabia, Europe, the whole geopolitical world in its present form must be destroyed via regime change, open borders and insurrection to return the world to some pre-European-American utopia. This goal trumps everything including staunching the Islamic State.

    Thomas Mulcair mirrors other socialists. Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff of Britain’s largest trade union Unite, illustrates the general passivity: “When Stop the War was founded, there were demands from parts of the left that we should balance our criticisms of the post-9/11 war drive by the US and Britain with equivalent attacks on religious (Islamic, of course) fundamentalism. One of the foundations of the initial mobilizing success of Stop the War was its rejection of such counsel and a rigorous focus on opposing the main enemy on a world scale, which is also in our case the enemy at home” (note the KGB-speak.) In essence, the message of the “progressive” left is focus on the Great Satan the West and the Islamists will take care of themselves.

    While the Marxist-liberal spectrum is pacifist in Arabia, they are hawkish in Eastern Europe. The same Andrew Murray launched a group supporting pro-Russian separatist cadres in Ukraine: Solidarity With The Antifascist Resistance In Ukraine (SARU). Introduced as representing the Communist Party of Britain, it branded the Kiev government “fascist.” Unite has given £28.9 million to Labour. Analysts observe that in return for its funding, Unite exerts an increasingly tight hold over Labour; some describe Murray as the single most powerful man in British unions. This mentalite is not new. Pierre Trudeau’s defense of Russia was broad. On the persecution of Ukrainians by the Soviet State: “My position in the Soviet Union or Canada is that anyone who breaks the law in order to assert his nationalism doesn’t get much sympathy from me” – “law” being Soviet show trials, endless fabricated charges, disappearances, and one-way trips to the Gulag. Rounding out the political landscape, in Quebec, sovereigntist Karl Péladeau, “has become almost a Marxist-Leninist” (NP).

    As Russia along with her Axis partners position the “western backed coup in Ukraine,” (Voice of Russia) as “the glorification of Nazism,” the end game is Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States attacked by proxies composed of Islamists, criminal gangs, mercenaries and Bolshi sympathizers supporting neo-Leninist cadres. The Islamic State meets Ukraine meets the London Riots meets 9/11. This is the common dream of Marxists, Islamists, and their useful idiot liberals and democratic socialists. Like the Stalinist and Maoist misadventures, no means or tactics, however barbaric or genocidal, will awaken the conscience of the Internationalist as the “religion of peace” strips Arabia of every last trace of civilization on the road to sacred socialism. Note, China is near-silent and passive to the Islamic State, no doubt salivating over a potential exclusive oil deal with the IS – the Darfur genocide redux – the genocidal utility of Trudeau’s much-admired basic dictatorship.

    While the Canadian Nation turns its attention to Iraq, it would do well to also “degrade” the Internationalist cabal within its own borders which allows a significant base of support for the Islamic State. As in Britain, more Canadian citizens are actively fighting with the Islamic State than are fighting against it. Donetsk, Mosul, Hong Kong today. Vancouver, Toronto tomorrow. Time to wake up. Time for action.

    • davie says:

      I heard JT’s F – 18 comment as being directed at the Conservatives and their re election strategy.

      People I absolutely despise are those who choose to use our people in uniform to advance their partisan politics.

    • Elisabeth Lindsay says:

      Best line so far….”Trudeau as the Russell Brand of Canadian politics.” It seems he just cannot help himself.

      I`m thinking that is the reason why the Liberal Party benched him yesterdayl

  14. JH says:

    The NDP is at least consistent and while the Liberals seem to have forgotten that Chretien sent troops to Afghanistan without even consulting parliament, Canadians know it full well and are daily reminded of it.
    Most of all though, I have a hard time with Trudeau’s position in view of that of Dallaire, Axworthy and Rae coupled with the fact that P&P’s Grenier said tonight about two-thirds of the country support the Conservatives on this.
    All of this only reminds folks of the charge that Trudeau is soft on terrorism. Not good.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      I can’t possibly be the only one who can speculate what will happen to the 64% that support air strikes. Air strikes will not do the job and as the mission takes on an endless configuration, support will go south — and quickly. At that point, western governments will want Turkey and other Muslim nations to deploy ground troops. That will never happen. End result, western troops on the ground in Iraq with the bottom falling out completely for support of the mission. Take it as a promise because it will happen. Then, prepare again for another quagmire on the ground.

    • Ryan Wollatt says:

      Just speculating, but what if there is a violent unspeakable atrocity by ISIS supporters in Toronto…. what will be the NDP position then? What will Trudeau say?… “…it’s Harper’s fault!”?

      Will Canadians want to cut and run from Iraq, or will they follow PM Harper and the Conservative war hawks? Just asking….

  15. S Stuart says:

    I’d be very supportive of an air campaign to say, safeguard havens for refugees in Kurdish controlled territory – if that’s what Harper has in mind and he’s just not saying it to avoid pissing off the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi governments, then it pains me to say it but good on him.

    However, I don’t think we should be supporting a broader air campaign until we have a clearer idea who on the ground is in a position to take what territory from ISIS. The Iraqi and Syrian armies don’t have good records on civilian casualty in taking urban areas. Worse, they seem to be becoming more and more reliant on Shiite militias – ISIS isn’t the only group capable of sectarian slaughter. Obama talks up the moderate Syrian opposition, but I’m not convinced they’re up to the task in Syria to say nothing of the Iraq situation. Combine with the risk of civilian casualties and while I can appreciate the intentions behind western intervention from the air, I don’t feel I can support it at present. The risk of blowback seems immense.

    Harper move strikes me as foolish and possibly not politically astute – I think the US’s experience in Iraq means a lot of Canadians are reluctant to see us get involved, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ISIS’s resilience ends up embarrassing the western powers who oppose it (put another way, I doubt ISIS’s current position in Iraq and Syria is built on a clay foundation). But I feel Trudeau left an even worse impression on me – the “we should send humanitarian aid instead” stuff struck me as a dodge and made him look highly unprincipled.

  16. debs says:

    we cant afford this move fiscally, the end.
    why is it canada is trying to keep up with the big boys when we have enough of our own issues to deal with, starving kids, dwindling healthcare, crumbling education, and well tonnes more issues, that PMSH always says there is no money for.

  17. Ron says:

    That war was good for absolutely nothin’. It was all a lie.

    But ISIL goes back to the 7th and 8th century, beyond medieval. Their goal
    is a new caliphate. That’s worth stopping if it can be stopped.

    • davie says:

      I am not sure why a caliphate, in itself, is bad or good or what. Bush43 certainly used the word as a pejorative.
      But, if it is the main idea of the Islamic State ideology, I suspect that various aspects of it have a great attraction in the areas they plan to include in the caliphate. Pan Arabism has been around a long time, and has been opposed by local autocrats and the West. A secular pan Arabism in Ba’ath, with its socialist bent, has had a long ride in the Middle East. In this opposition to Islamic State, notice that the 5 main autocracies in the Middle East are our allies. The caliphate idea might have some cachet with people who figure that for too long they have been under control of the West and have had to suffer local rulers who run fairly exclusive regimes/
      Over time, we in the West have aided local rulers to crush completely any leftie secular movements in their bailiwicks, and so, some dissent has gone into faith based directions. Thus we have a caliphate idea, a pan Arab, or pan Sunni caliphate based on Sharia.

      This idea might be tough to bomb out of existence.

  18. EB says:

    War isn’t what it used to be, where for the most part, troops in uniforms launched pitched battles at each other and they only ended by attrition. War today seems to be our side wears uniforms and the other side are wisps in the night, hiding amongst civilians.

    In actual fact, there is enough firepower aligned against ISIL to annihilate them in a week, if the US and others chose to do so. This is true whether Canada takes part or not. However, in the 21st century, our side has chosen a ‘surgical’ approach to warfare. We have an enemy that is quite prepared to use civilian targets as human shields, and we elect to allow that.

    Perhaps, if we were prepared to acknowledge that in war that there will be collateral damage, if we went in with the intent to destroy ISIL, there would ultimately be less collateral damage in the long run.

    Given that we (collectively as the ‘Western World’) choose not to annihilate the enemy, I have to consider that the primary concern of the Harper Government is the optics and potential political gain that they think they can garner. The shame of it is, that while the destruction of ISIL is a noble goal, it may very well be secondary in the Harper Government’s thinking…

  19. Scotian says:

    First off, I want to say this, while I am not either a hawk or dove by nature, I am more than willing to embrace military force when I see legitimate need/use for it. This, though, I am less than convinced is one of those times. One of my main reasons for being so hesitant? The blatantly obvious fact that ISIS/ISIL clearly is inviting it by making and releasing those youtube beheading videos. This is a group that has at its core been trained by western forces during the insurgency fight in Iraq 2006-09, and recruited from disaffected western Muslims in NA and elsewhere. You really think they do not understand EXACTLY how those videos would be received of their beheading western journalists and aid-workers of all western people they could get their hands on? Really? One of the oldest military axioms I know of is that when your enemy wants you to do something you avoid doing it if at all possible. Yet I have seen little to no consideration of this rather important and significant point by those wanting to use force here.

    Then we come to this idea of the imminent/actual threat they pose to use at home. I have yet to hear any of the voices (and to suit Al from Cranbrook this includes Obama on down) offer serious credible assessment to support that concept. Do or could/would they want to hit us, oh yes, that I can well believe. Do they have the ability to do so in small numbers? Yes, but then so do most terrorist groups willing to pay the price, ISIS/ISIL is far from alone there, and is hardly the only group with such interests with resources to do so either, so nothing new there. Have though they beyond words shown ANY actual intent/actions to do so though? That I have heard and seen NOTHING credible to support, and that is a very important component to the question of the level of real security threat they pose to use here in Canada.

    Now, I am not saying we should have no involvement on the military side, there are logistical and other aspects we can do, but to be honest I think the best “bang for our buck” to use an oft popular expression in times like this, is not to spend most of our money available for this effort on the combat side but in dealing with the refugee situations in Turkey and Jourdan and Lebanon, since their infrastructures are clearly being overwhelmed by it. Why is that important beyond the humanitarian basis though? Glad you asked, because it actually has serious strategic reasons as well. These are the few countries in that region not only friendly to the West but also have elements of open society principles within them, unlike so many of the other nations in that region, including other Western allies (Saudi Arabia being one shining example of that). It is in our long term political interests to support their survivability.

    It is also in our long term military/security interests to support them as well, and their populations are going to have a hard time supporting their leadership if they see us only interested in spending the big bucks to kill off their fellow Muslims/Arabs and nowhere near enough to help dealing with the MILLIONS of Arab/Muslim refugees already OUTSIDE the zone of combat in these countries. That has a potential destabilizing impact on these nations that we want to keep on our side, not just for the political social aspects but also for future possible military basing use, which will go away if their governments fall and ones more antagonistic spring up because we didn’t do enough to help with the massive refugee problem.

    Then there is the need to help police that refugee problem, the raping and selling into slavery going on within it is also something that women need protection, not just those in the zone of combat, and this is one that is far more achievable if we actually start pouring resources into it. That is no small consideration in its own right.

    Then we need to consider the overall resources Canada has available in terms of finances, in terms of military capacity. We know our military has been overstretched over the past decade. We know that even our much vaunted air force has issues (when they have to go to a museum piece to get the tech they need to keep a plane flying, that speaks volumes to the real state of affairs I would suggest, as opposed to all the cheery confidence those in uniform have to give and politicians/governments like to give). It is also obvious that six fighters even the top of the line ones (which ours are not, capable yes, but top of the line, hardly) are only going to have a very limited impact compared to the resources of the other nations like the US and UK. So where then does it seem we get the most value of our resource dollar spent? That is the question that needs asking and answering, and not this ugly swagger I’ve been seeing out of those supporting the combat role as if it were the same moral imperative as fighting the Nazis (which btw was never the reason that war was fought, that was fought to contain Nazi aggression into other nations, not out of some moral noble purpose, indeed most people had no clue how bad the Nazis were until the end of the war when they found things like concentration camps).

    I have deliberately written this without endorsing anyone’s approach because I think it is important that the points, questions, and issues I’ve discussed be considered even before one looks at any political calculations on any side of this. Some issues need to be looked at before political calculation, and this is one of them, and sadly I do not think there have been much of that either on all sides. We are a middle power who has massively strained our own military thanks to the way the US abandoned the Afghanistan war to we NATO allies and went off into that idiotic excursion into Iraq in 2003, which is is no small part the main reason we have this current mess in front of us. We also have a lot of expertise in dealing with the various issues humanitarian crises create, and not only can we be a valuable component in delivering our own, we can also aid the resources other nations devote to this while they fight the combat side. This is not a minor or small role in this, and every serious person has said over and over that it will take more than military ends to defeat ISIS/ISIL. So working on that side is a serious credible and important role/contribution.

    This is a conflict that not only has quagmire potentials but also massive blowback potentials. It behooves us all to take that into consideration when we discuss these issues and to give them the respect they deserve. It really bothers me that I am not seeing that from those wanting to go to the combat role so quickly, and yes Al from Cranbrook, that includes Obama. Just because he isn’t a Republican President doesn’t mean he is always going to have it right, on this one I don’t think he is, and for the record I was never one of his fans.

    So War, what is it good for?Not absolutely nothing, but it is a “good” one needs to consider carefully and there are many ways of fighting a war against something beyond just the obvious combat role. This is one of those places where I think Canada’s interests and abilities are better used in such a role than in the use of combat planes. This has nothing about being cowardly or such, this is everything about what is in our best strategic interests and security interests AND where we can have the largest impact with the resources/abilities we have to bring to this mess.

    The more one treats war like a game of swagger the more one dishonours those that fight in them, and the more one demonstrates a real lack of understanding of the realities of war itself. Even when it is necessary it is an ugly nasty reality, no matter how much you try to be precise, it is the very nature of warfare, and anyone that embraces it without understanding that regardless of their political persuasion is someone I cannot and will not respect.

    • davie says:

      Thnx for adding this to the thread.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Interesting post.

      Historically: The west turned its back on Stalin’s pillaging of the Ukraine, and millions of Ukranians starved to death. The west tried to turn its back on Hitler, first when he annexed Austria, then when invaded the Czechs. Joseph Kennedy, ambassador to Britain, essentially told anyone who would listen that Hitler was the man and the Brits shouldn’t waste time and resources resisting. (Roosevelt finally recalled Kennedy to Washington and chewed him a new ass.) The US, isolationist, sat back until it landed in their own laps at Pearl Harbor, and 50,000,000 people ended up dead before it all got sorted out. There were all kinds of warnings about Al Qaida’s intentions, most of them ignored, in large part due to overhanging Cold War mentality, and then 9/11.

      Lessons to be gleaned from history:

      We give evil bastards too much credit for being sympathetic human beings, while with wishful thinking we ignore what they’re saying/doing.

      We over think the obvious.

      Too often it takes sustaining some form of massive kick to our collective groin before everyone wakes up and finally starts believing what our senses have been trying to tell us.

      The most frightening, and thus formidable, enemy is one whom is ideologically/religiously motivated. We learned that the hard way from the Japanese, and in Viet Nam.

      Religiously/ideologically motivated enemies do not think rationally in any sense that predominately western minds of the last two centuries could ever comprehend. Point being: Everyone over here is trying to impose western (Christian/Judeo) thinking over top of fundamentalist Islamism to understand what their intentions. Go online and watch the videos. LISTEN to what THEY are SAYING. Look at their demeanor as they say it. Listen carefully as they coach/inspire/praise their children to kill all infidels. Read their eyes, windows to the soul. They mean exactly what they say, no ifs, ands, nor buts. This is not a mystery to them. They are ideologically/religiously motivated and inspired to the EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE! They can line up 100 men, women and children, and gun them down without so much as blinking. And then do it again. No remorse. No second thoughts.

      Go find it, and watch it! This isn’t merely some gory press campaign meant to intimidate. These are clear cut statements about who they are, what they represent, and what are their intentions. Period, end of story. And they sneer at the stupidity of those who try to make more or less out of it than just that.

      Make no mistake, they understand us a hell of a lot better than we even dare to try to understand them…which they will exploit every bloody step of the way.

      • Scotian says:

        What I found most interesting in your reply to me was that only two words actually replied to what I wrote, “Interesting post”. The rest of your “reply” (and I use the quotes because that was not what one traditionally considers a reply given its lack of actually addressing what was said in the original comment) had nothing to do with what I said. I never said there should be no military action against ISIS/ISIL, I said there was a better use of CANADIAN resources in this conflict than combat, given our current military and financial resources. Not the same thing at all. I also pointed out that there are many ways to fight/wage war, and that we could provide a very important element of it beyond the sexy combat flash, you know the actual serious hard work beyond the initial striking with force.

        I also have shown zero ignorance as to what ISIS/ISIL are like, but for you to equate their current threat potential to use directly to Hitler and AQ is more than a little dishonest (btw, it was the Clinton White House that when it was transitioning power to GWB’s that warned in the strongest possible terms them to take this man and his group seriously, but Cheney et al claimed no stateless actor could ever be a serious threat, that it was rogue states that were the problem, I know this because unlike most people I was following this issue for years BEFORE the 9/11/01 attack, and in the first hour of that attack was telling my family and soon to be wife that it was clearly the work of bin Laden and AQ). They have a long way to go before they represent that kind of direct security threat to our homelands. Note I am specifying threat to homelands, I am NOT saying no threat at all, but then there are a LOT of threats out there in the world, its that kind of reality we live in.

        I also said nothing about ISIS/ISIL having sympathetic human beings in it, that was a total disconnect from anything I’ve ever said. I am also well aware of the dangers of the fundamentalist/extremist mindset, especially those driven by ideological and/or religious dogma. HOWEVER, I would point out that such danger is also true from those in our own society in their imposition of religious dogma rooted in Christianity as anything else, sure, they aren’t using guns in our streets but they certainly feel no hesitation about trying to get the power of the State to enforce their views on the rest of us, not exactly a force free circumstance, but yet we hear little to no concern for those kinds of extremists. Leaving that aside though, exactly where have I written anything that would make you able to conclude/assume I do not recognize the reality of the message coming from Islamic extremists including (but far from limited to) those that run ISI/ISIL? Kindly do not insult my intelligence, it is rude, and that point of yours in your “reply” to me came off that way.

        My POINT about the beheading videos was that it was obvious that they were using them as part of a sophisticated media campaign, nothing says being violently oriented means you cannot also use sophisticated media messaging, to think otherwise is more allowing your prejudices to blind you than anything I’ve done despite your comments in your “reply”. My concern is given that why and what is their actual intention in doing so, and from everything I’ve seen it was that they WANTED western military action. So one needs to ask why, and whether in doing so we are actually giving aid to the enemy instead of degrading them, and that question was not seriously considered by those advocating combat from what I saw. As I said before, one of the oldest pieces of military wisdom is not to do what your enemy wants unless you have truly no other choice!

        Try also not to presume that I do not understand what kind of mentality and threat these extremists represent and what they believe. I am quite familiar thank you very much. I also think you do a disservice when you assume that someone arguing for non-combat for Canada in this case clearly doesn’t understand their threat, which is what you appeared to have done here.

        Bottom line Al from Cranbrook, your “”reply” illustrated in many respects the very disturbing mindset I was talking about from those who are advocating the combat role as an absolute imperative for Canada to take. It was fear-mongering, it was inflammatory, and it was deflecting from all the very serious and substantive points I made in my comment. That in fact you acted in the same way as the Harper government has whenever anyone has dared challenge its POV on this mission, and by doing so you have illustrated yet again my concern about there being no serious substantive discussions going on, just heated rhetoric and fear mongering. That is NOT the traditional Canadian way we discuss these issue regardless of ones political philosophy, and I find this devolution to this approach a fundamental disservice to those in uniform who wear these decisions the most, and a dishonour to those who died in that uniform in the past.

        In case it is not clear enough Al from Cranbrook, I found your “reply” far from interesting and rather offensive and repulsive. Moral outrage sounds good, but is not what most rational people consider substance. Do not presume that you and those who share your views are the only ones who understand the threat these groups represent, indeed, I would argue one allows ones “moral clarity” to narrow ones vision to the point that you fail to see the reality and instead allow your emotional fears to rule instead of cold hard rational assessment.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:

          In using the “reply” mode, I was acknowledging your post. I then gave my own views, regardless.

          One of my interests over several decades has been history, particularly related to war and espionage. I only touched on a very little bit of it. I stand by my conclusions, and don’t particularly fret whom it offends. Indeed, a considerable number of people could stand to get a damn sight more offended over this subject.

          Let’s be clear: Canada is not leading this charge, it has been asked to participate. The US is leading it. Obama, it can be reasonably assumed, made his case for the mission, and how it would be conducted to PM Harper. We’re going along with it, if only because we have to do at least something relatively substantive.

          Personally, I have zero faith in anything Obama has to say or wants to direct. IMHO, he’s the singularly most useless president the US has had in the last century…and considering the likes of Carter, that’s saying a lot. He couldn’t make up his mind on time if his ass was on fire!

          In my estimation, we should be heading over there with at least 12 CF-18s, and about 300 of our special ops…albeit I wouldn’t advertise the latter. This should be in conjunction with Seals, Delta, SAS, and similarly proficient teams from other allied nations. And then let them do what they do best…feel free to use your imagination.

          What’s going on right now is half-assed. ISIL in and around Kobani should be getting their sorry asses handed to them on platters as all hell drops on top of them.

          I deeply suspect the reason this is not happening thus far stems from the White House.

          And I also deeply suspect that one day, post Obama, we shall hear/read all the pathetic details thereof.

          Again, I don’t think Harper trusts Obama as far as he can throw the SOB. But he also realizes that at some level this is beside the point, given the circumstances.

          • davie says:

            I have been suspicious of organizations like Joint Task II ever since they were formed. I realize a whole whack of countries have these groups. All the attempts at glamourous hush-hush – do-what-they-do stuff means justification and cover up of crimes to me. In our case, it is an attempt to hide any more Somalia things and the embarrassments of the airborne.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            So, you think taking out Bin Laden was a crime?

        • smelter rat says:

          Clearly you would never make it at the University of Cranbrook.

      • doconnor says:

        One differance between ISIL and Hitler is that Hitler had the capabilities of a major industrial nation at his command. That made him much more of a threat.

        The people in ISIL may believe they will take over the world, but that doesn’t mean they can, however it is very possible they could pull off or inspire a major terrorist attack in the West.

  20. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Gary Doer onside…


    “Doer noting he supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan says he’s proud that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made the right call, one with which the Obama administration is very pleased.”

  21. ottlib says:

    I would say the the positions taken by the three leaders is all about politics and with that in mind it would appear the Mr. Trudeau’s opponents are underestimating him again, as well as, a fairly large proportion of Canadians.

    Both Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair are speaking to their bases. Not that this is a surprise as they both have been eating Mr. Trudeau’s dust for a year-and-a-half and we are now 6-12 months from an election.

    On the right a small portion of Canadian society has seen ISIS butcher non-Muslims, particularly Christians and western journalists as it advances. That is got their blood up and Mr. Harper must respond. You have to wonder if ISIS had only engaged in Muslim on Muslim action if the call for armed intervention would be as strong.

    On the left NDP supporters have traditionally been anti-war and they are not going to change their minds on that. If Mr. Mulcair wants any chance of maintaining his current seat count let alone growing it he is going to have to keep his base happy.

    That leaves the rest, which I would hazard a guess as saying if they are not the majority of Canadians they are a healthy plurality. These are Canadians who are deeply troubled by what they are seeing from ISIS and believe that the West, including Canada, needs to do something but they are completely sold on any one course of action.

    They are aware of what happened the last three times the West intervened militarily in the Middle East. Libya is descending into chaos after the death of its mad colonel, not becoming a beacon of democracy. Iraq is an absolute mess, with ISIS being the latest symptom of that mess, and these Canadians have an idea of how the mess was created. In Afghanistan the war there was sold as necessary to neutralize the Taliban as a threat and to create a stable democracy in that country. Instead the country is an failed narco-state and the Taliban is as strong as ever waiting for the right time to march into Kabul to overthrow an increasingly corrupt government.

    In addition the guy trying to sell this latest armed conflict in the Middle East is the some one who made those claims about the goals for Afghanistan, and he is even using the same damned rhetoric. (Almost word for word.) Canadians have heard it all before from this guy.

    Further these same Canadians are aware the Mr. Harper’s push for democracy and justice is selective. He praised the Egyptian Army’s coup against the elected Muslim Brotherhood government and the silence from him and his apologists on intervention to assist those trying to overthrow Assad has been and continues to be thunderous.

    Some Conservatives like to point to the one poll that indicates Canadians support the Air bombardment but that poll was missing any questions on alternatives to air strikes and it was missing any questions of whether the respondents had any faith in those air strikes actually achieving the goal that they are supposed to achieve. Yes the respondents agree with the current course of action but it is probable that they are not so committed to it as to ignore any alternative presented to them.

    Canadians are a thoughtful people and they expect their government to be thoughtful in dealing with international crises. While they generally agree with the current course of action they are not so rigid in their thinking that they will not listen to other alternatives and they may even like those alternatives.

  22. Ryan Wollatt says:

    Now we are hearing that Scotland Yard are detaining extremist Islamic suspects in England because they suspect an ISIS terrorist attack in London. ISIS is urging extremist muslims in England, France, US, Australia and Canada to inflict terror attacks in those countries. Let’s assume there is a violent atrocity in Toronto… what happens next?

    Will Trudeau still be opposed to the Canadian mission to Iraq; and will he say that the terrorist attack in Toronto was caused by PM Harper sending soldiers and fighter jets to Iraq? Will Trudeau blame Harper for the terrorist attack in Canada? How many Liberals will follow Justin and how many will reject his accusation? Interesting times.. eh?!

  23. Ryan Wollatt says:

    I agree; Canada’s contribution to the US-led campaign in Iraq is only a token force, but Obama needs every ounce of support he can get. If Obama’s crusade succeeds, Harper will be a big winner in 6 months and going into a federal election flush with victory. If the venture fails and Obama is forced to put US ‘boots on the ground’, Harper can hold off Canadian support unless Obama supports the KeystoneXL pipeline for a secure supply of Canadian oil sands crude. I think it’s called ‘quid pro quo’ in diplomatic terms. If Obama says ‘no’ to KeystoneXL, Harper will simply withhold supporting Obama’s call for boots on the ground, and still go into the election a winner. Of course there can be unexpected events that will undoubtedly happen.

  24. debs says:

    this mornings fb post of michael moore, and it sums up how the american media and the politicians whip up war frenzy and why.

    “Our health insurance companies have killed more Americans than ISIS will EVER dream of killing. When I made “Sicko” I asked people to send me their health care horror stories, the stories about friends and family who died because they couldn’t afford the help they needed. I received over 25,000 emails and it took my staff and I over a month to read every single one of them. By the end, we were simply crushed with sadness. It was like we were a witness to a mass murder, and the serial killers were the insurance companies, the corporate chain hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies and the health care lobby.

    Always remember — those in power are in a continual game of keeping us distracted with scary “terrorists” so that we never focus on the REAL terrorists who wear suits and wave the flag.”

    • Just Askin' says:

      Let’s not forget that Michael Moore is a sociopath who anonymously gave someone $10,000 just to make him into a punchline for that movie.

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