The enemy of my enemy is … my enemy, too

I don’t think I have ever agreed with Gerald Caplan but he seems to be trying to make some sense in a column he wrote, yesterday, in the Globe and Mail. Mr Caplan begins by saying:

caplan-headshotIf there’s been a less edifying debate than the one in Parliament last week on Canada’s role in the fight against Islamic State, I can’t remember it. All three parties presented arguments that made little sense, merely reiterating for the thousandth time the same unpersuasive spin lines. Yet I have some sympathy for them. I think what’s behind the unconvincing positions is their difficulty figuring out exactly what’s going on in the region and what outsiders can or should do about it.

Or maybe I’m just projecting. Because I’m certainly having that problem, and in fact my befuddlement just increases as the situation there gets increasingly complex. I try to read widely – although it’s impossible to keep up with the flood of reportage, commentary and fat books – and the more I read the more I learn and the more I learn the more baffled I become.

How true, I’ve been saying for some time that the Middle East situation is hideously complex as the “grids of grievance” show …

… it goes well beyond the “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” which is, more often than not, not true in the Middle East where, most likely, “then enemy of my enemy hates me, too, but for different reasons.” The “friend of my friend” cannot, usually, be our friend because we don’t really have more than one or two “friends’ to begin with and they have nothing but enemies throughout the region.

Mr Caplan bemoans the sheer number of non-state actors now involved in the many and sundry rebellions, revolutions, civil wars and internecine wars in the Middle East and he notes, correctly, in my opinion, that, “Canada is now in the strange position, under the new Liberal policy for the Middle East, to be helping the Kurds become strong enough to break away from Iraq, which will help fracture that fragile entity, with more destabilizing consequences, while alienating our Turkish ally. Does this make sense? Do the Liberals recognize these potential consequences? I believe that the Harper government never understood the messy realities of the Middle East or the ramifications of their meddling. Now it’s growing harder to believe that the Liberal government does either.” I’ve believed, for some time, that this new, Liberal cCTc2xvgovernment’s self described “holistic approach” to fighting Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS is little or nothing more than unfocused campaign rhetoric, quite devoid of any strategic thought. But that doesn’t surprise me, Team Trudeau is, in fact, just a campaign organization masquerading as a government and it will throw the military, the entire national security and defence programme, and sundry ministers under the campaign bus if that’s what it takes to score political points.

In fact, as I just said, what we should, even could be doing in the Middle East, assuming we actually need to do something, which is not a given, seems pretty clear:

  1. Helping Jordan (and Lebanon) to survive and remain independent (and, concomitantly, supporting Israel);
  2. Helping to defeat the Assad regime; and
  3. Helping to destroy Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS.

But Gerald Caplan asks the right questions: “So what exactly is the goal and how can it be achieved? How will we judge when the coalition has succeeded?” And he concludes, with 100% accuracy, that, “No one knows.

Let me quite firmly assert, without fear of contradiction, that President Obama doesn’t know, nor does President Putin, likewise Prime Minister Cameron doesn’t know and it’s ditto for Bundeskanzlerin Merkel; and you can bet your house and car and your first born, too, that if they don’t know then Justin Trudeau doesn’t know either.

What don’t they know?

Hell’s bells, they don’t even know who is on whose side. I’m serious: there is a very good chance that our overt support for the Kurds will turn out to be a major strategic blunder when they, in their turn, decide to play the “empire building” game at the expense of their neighbours.

There is no chance at all of pulling out of the whole region, isolating it (Israel can look after itself quite well enough) and allowing the locals to sort things out in their own ways and in their own good time. For one thing too much of the world needs Middle Eastern oil too much. For another we are, for good or ill, now McLuhan’s global village and we all have interests and connections everywhere. We’re “in,” like it or not.

Since we’re “in” we might as well be in for a pound as just for a penny.

But, quite evidently, that’s not how Justin Trudeau sees it.

I believe he is wrong and I think most Canadians will agree and I hope it will (help) cost him the next election. In fact, I think Justin Trudeau is his own enemy.

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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