Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor of international relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, and a former national security analyst, has written a very useful article in the Globe and Mail, about what we need to do to defeat Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS.
She notes that while it “might be tempting for the new federal government to present its strategy as a “whole of government” approach, … treating Islamic State as a puzzle that can be addressed in a comprehensive way is problematic, “because Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS “is a complex, dynamic and multifaceted organization that has managed to defy efforts to eliminate it and transformed itself into arguably the most sophisticated counterterrorism challenge faced by the West.“
“It is vital,” Professor Carvin writes, “that policy-makers recognize that, for Canada, this manifests in four distinct threats:
- First, Islamic State is a source of instability in the Middle East that threatens our allies. Although IS might not be the primary source of refugees and the current humanitarian crisis, it has contributed to the suffering of millions of civilians. This is the threat that the new military strategy and training mission aim to counter.
- The second threat is posed by foreign fighters. The primary risk for Canada comes from its own citizens travelling abroad to join IS. It might seem strange to want to stop extremists from leaving Canada, but there are important security reasons to do so. While overseas, these individuals are likely to be further radicalized and help to further the aims of an extremist organization. They also gain access to military-style training, which they use in the fight against our allies and to intimidate civilian populations. There is also a risk that these trained individuals (or others using their Western passports) will be sent to another country, particularly in Europe, or back home to Canada where they will conduct an attack.
- Third, as a mass movement, IS seeks to spread its propaganda, radicalizing individuals in Canada and the West. There is no known model of radicalization, but individuals might be drawn to IS through wannabe authority figures who draw upon its message; through networks of friends who polarize together; and through IS recruiters who seek out and target vulnerable people who may have expressed sympathy or support through social media. The IS message sows mistrust, dividing and hurting families and community institutions.
- Finally, and arguably the most important for Canada’s national security, is the risk of domestic terrorist activity – an attack by individuals directed, approved or inspired by IS within Canada.“
As Professor Carvin says, these four threats are linked and our government needs to have four coherent responses, one to each:
- We had a very good response to the first threat but, for purely partisan, domestic, political reasons, Prime Minister Trudeau withdrew our CF-18s and has, instead, committed Canadian soldiers to a task that has, potentially, greater operational risks (to the lives of the Canadian soldiers over there) and greater strategic risks, too:
- We have to keep the pressure (of sanctions ~ prisons and even deportation) on young people in Canada who want to go to the Middle East to fight for Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS. We need to counter the recruiting propaganda and stop them from leaving, kill those who do join Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS (if we can) when they are fighting over there, and detain them when they come back. Sometimes, killing is the right answer;
- We need to run our own, powerful, propaganda campaign to explain why and how Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS is wrong on moral, intellectual, religious and political grounds and why we will destroy it and jail or kill its fighters, wherever we find them; and
- We must remain vigilant against the very real threats of domestic terrorism and we must not deprive ourselves of any tools needed to combat domestic terrorists. That includes tools for CSIS the RCMP and other police forces, officialdom and the courts … including deporting convicted terrorists as soon as they have completed, long, harsh jail sentences.
Somehow, sadly, I believe that the Trudeau government is going to fail this test.