Final word

I think it is time to close the book on Prime Minister Trudeau’s “refocus” of our efforts in the war against Da’esh/ISIL/ISIL, and, in so doing, I hope that neither columnist Andrew Coyne nor the National Post will mind very much if I quote an entire piece by Mr Coyne, which I am reproducing here under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act to facilitate our free and open examination of current events:

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Andrew Coyne: Now a word from our prime minister on Canada’s new role in Iraq and Syria

 
“Good morning. I am here, 20 minutes late and with Members of Parliament out of town, to announce our new policy with regard to Canada’s involvement in the crisis in Iraq and Syria — one that will better reflect what Canada is all about.

I would first like to thank the brave and talented members of the Royal Canadian Air Force whose mission I am abruptly cancelling. In suggesting that what they have been doing the past 15 months is not “what Canada is all about,” I do not mean to imply there is anything unworthy or unCanadian about whipping out our CF-18s. Rather, I am suggesting, without quite saying, that it was a futile waste of time.

After all, airstrikes on their own do not achieve long-term stability. They may have proved useful for halting ISIL’s previously runaway expansion, they may have driven it from territory, denied it refuge, degraded its military capacity and destroyed more and more of the oil resources without which it cannot finance its activities, but they cannot, on their own, do something that no one has claimed they can. Maybe there are some who would prefer that we engage in airstrikes, on their own, and shut down all training, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the region, but this government rejects that ludicrous caricature of an alternative.

Still, in any mission, you need to make choices, even false ones. We can’t do everything. Rather, in the fight against ISIL we have chosen to do everything except the one thing our allies have asked us to do: fight ISIL. While Canadians have always been prepared to fight, we believe that in this campaign there are better ways we can contribute that build upon our uniquely Canadian expertise. Thus, rather than actually fly the planes ourselves, we will rely on our uniquely Canadian expertise in refuelling planes for others to fly.

Let me be clear. There is a role for bombing — just not by Canadian pilots. After all, combat is not what Canada is all about. Rather, what Canada is all about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf. Think of the consequences, if in the course of an airstrike aimed at ISIL one of our brave and talented Canadian pilots were to inadvertently kill a great number of innocent civilians. Whereas merely providing the fuel for the plane that does — along with aerial surveillance, and of course the essential work of identifying targets by our special forces, er, training advisers working on the ground — leaves us wholly uninvolved.

A word about those trainers. It is true that we are tripling their number, while increasing the total number of our military personnel in the region by a fifth. Here again I would caution people not to think this meant we were somehow engaged in combat. Yes, it is true that they will be installed near the front line, and yes, training will often involve taking Iraqi and Kurdish troops out on patrol, and yes, this will sometimes mean that our troops are fired upon, and yes, they will sometimes be obliged to fire back. But merely because our troops will be firing upon the enemy in a war zone or calling in airstrikes from above does not mean they will be in combat. I mean, it says right there in the platform: “We will end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq.”

Likewise, just because I am increasing the number of personnel on the ground while extending their deployment for at least two years does not mean I am, as I accused the previous government of doing in a speech in the House a year ago, “steadily drawing Canada deeper into a combat role.” I am simply performing the time-honoured role of Canadian prime ministers: to do just enough to avoid being publicly rebuked by our allies abroad without doing enough to be exposed to any political risk at home.

Last, let me just position this decision in light of our ongoing efforts to recreate a role for Canada as some kind of “honest broker” in the Middle East, in the grand tradition of Pearson in ’56 and, er, Pearson in ’56. Some have expressed alarm at a sequence of events that in recent weeks has seen us issue statements critical of Israel for its settlement policy while at the same time dropping sanctions against Iran, even talking of restoring diplomatic relations.

But this should not be taken as indicating any weakening in our enduring friendship with Israel. As we like to say in this government, sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend facing existential threats on all sides is to single it out for public criticism while cozying up to its mortal enemy. And besides, it’s not as if we’re not also selling arms to Saudi Arabia.”

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There are, also, I have read (in a source that is highly biased and very critical of the Trudeau government), some indications that the “thanks” supposedly proffered by Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr, Haidar al-Abadi may have been for bombing and fighting, not for “refocusing” on “non-combat” operations.

OK, so Andrew Coyne was being tongue in cheek and the CIJNews was being (typically) hyperbolic, but this whole thing is, and I know I’m repeating myself, just media spin, concocted by the prime minister’s campaign team, which now sits in the Langevin Block as the PMO, to “make right” a silly, downright juvenile quip by an immature young man who was not then and seems not now, even after conducting a brilliant campaign, to be “ready” to  sit at the grownups’ table …

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From L-R, defence ministers from Australia, Germany, France, the U.S., Britain, and the Netherlands pose for a photoat the Defense Ministry in Paris, France, Jan. 20, 2016. (Reuters)

… it is still a bit shocking to see such a group and to realize that Canada has been left out, again. I’m not especially worried that Harjit Sajjan cannot sit and debate strategy with Ash Carter, Marise Payne and  Jean-Yves Le Drian; I am more worried about how comfortably we will sit at the table with e.g. the USTR Michael Froman ~ are we going to be treated as a trusted and valued ally with whom the US has some trade issues or as just another of the 180 or so countries that are problems for the USA? The problem is that strategy embraces a lot more than just military issues and we should be using our military resources as a lever to help us to protect and promote all of our vital interests.

Prime Minister Trudeau has failed his first, major test, he is, really, “just not ready,” and that’s my final word.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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