A Canadian Military Mission in Libya

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told CBC News that “Canada could soon join a military coalition to take on ISIS in Libya, a country beset by a civil war and mounting Islamic terrorism.

Could? As in might, Minister? And, that would (could? might?) involve what, Minister? Boots on the ground? Canadian soldiers in combat?



Or perhaps we could send our frigate back and forth and back and forth, first sailing with the NATO force patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas then joining another one that is patrolling the North African coast …


… that’s a nice, low cost, option that would allow your government to be seen to be “doing something” even as it cuts the military.

Or, wait … what about CF-18s? After all, they’ll be pulled out of combat against Da’esh/ISIL/ISI in another week, maybe we could put them back in combat, against Da’esh/ISIL/ISI in Libya.


Of course, as we’ve all now come to expect, Minister Sajjan was notably cautious in his comments …

“Before we can actually say ‘Yes we’re interested,’ ‘Yes we can do this,’ we’re doing what all responsible coalition partners should do [asses the political and security situation] and then decide if we have the right capabilities to assist in this mission … [but] we will be part of that conversation,“”

 … is what Minister Sajjan is reported to have said. That’s about the same as saying that “I heard about this possible mission and, maybe, I’ll try to talk to someone here in NATO, about something … if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lets me.

Of some interest was the fact that, according to the CBC news report, “Italy has said it wants a leadership role in stabilizing Libya — one of its former colonial possessions.” Italy, is another G7 country, but, unlike Canada, it was included in this meeting:

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

But even so, it appears to me that the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, wants his country to be considered to be more important and involved than, say, Australia and the Netherlands, he wants to be in the big leagues …

… but our PM, Justin Trudeau, has different priorities.

I am very reliably informed that Canada does have a “seat at the table”at the Libya International Assistance Mission (LIAM) planning group and that Canada was invited to the most recent C-ISIL meeting in Brussels last week, and that’s all to the good and BZ to our diplomats and officials who, undoubtedly, have worked hard to get us back at the “grownups’ table.” But the problem is perception, which matters in politics and diplomacy, and the perception seems to be that Prime Minister Trudeau is weak on Canada doing a full and fair share of the combat missions.

The perception matters most right here in Canada. If we perceive ourselves to be small and weak, unworthy of our status in the G7, for example, and only accidentally and inexplicably in the the top 10% of the world’s countries ~ where we are by pretty much any and every sensible measure ~ then we will, gradually but inexorably become weak and small and we will start looking for the “easy way out” and for the equivalent of a “free lunch” and global “welfare.” Sadly, some Canadians would be content with that.

As the people with the plummy English accents used to say in the Red Rose tea commercial: Pity.

7 thoughts on “A Canadian Military Mission in Libya”

  1. “Sic transit gloria mundi,” applies there, too, I’m afraid, Mr Hueglin. Lieutenant General “Charlie” Bouchard, whose roots were as a tactical (army) helicopter pilot, was “in the right place at the right time,” in one of those (too many) plum NATO posts that rotate between countries. (Charlie, by the way, is now head of Lockheed-Martin in Canada ~ he’s the F35 guy.) More to the point: WHY do we need to go to Libya? It is fairly clear that the US and Italy want to “do something” in Libya ~http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/23/world/africa/us-and-allies-said-to-plan-military-action-on-isis-in-libya.html?_r=0 ~ it’s not clear that there is, yet, anything like a coherent government in Libya that might ask for help ~http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-politics-idUSKCN0VN11H ~ although that may be changing. Here in Canada: I remain convinced that Team Trudeau sees all this as “tactical” (campaign/media) issue, not as a ‘strategic” (foreign policy) one. That means that Butts~Trudeau~Telford are casting about for something that will get a skeptical media off their backs before too many Canadians take notice of the fact that the emperor has no clothes.

  2. Re: “That’s about the same as saying that “I heard about this possible mission and, maybe, I’ll try to talk to someone here in NATO, about something … if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lets me.“ ” To be entirely fair, it could also be, “hey, we’re still working out the details, here – more, as it firms up.” I didn’t hear a lot of people complaining from the conservative end of the spectrum when PM Harper was very vague about extending missions in Afghanistan – and if OPSEC was an issue then, it can also be an issue now, no?

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