Now that John Ridsdel, a Canadian from Calgary, has been murdered and his body further desecrated, it will be, should be “normal” for Canadians to demand that the government “do something.” It is, after all, what I have done, twice.
But do what and against whom?
There is a good article in the Ottawa Citizen, telling us a bit more about Abu Sayyaf and, indirectly, the “structure” of modern, post al Qaeda, terrorists. It may be recalled that our Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, was commended for bringing some new insights (derived from his experience as a detective in Vancouver investigating criminal gangs?) about the nature and structure of terrorist groups in Afghanistan and likening them to urban gangs at war with society and each other. (I am out of my “comfort zone” here because I have almost zero experience with either street gangs or modern terrorists.)
First: it is my belief, based on a whole host of reports and a few facts and rumours, but no “inside” knowledge, that Official Ottawa, at nearly the highest levels, was involved in trying to secure Mr Ridsdel’s release and that negotiations were underway to pay (at least part of) the ransom … remember the 2008 kidnapping, in Africa, of Robert Fowler and Louis Guay?
Second: what we can “do” about Abu Sayyaf, in particular, depends in very large measure on what the Government of the Philippines, which is already advised by the US military, might ask us to do.
Perhaps a good place to start would be to understand the “structure” of modern, early 21st century, terrorism: lone wolves and “independent” groups, which are often, it seems, little more than gangs, and Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS and the remnants of the al Qaeda and the Taliban, themselves. There are proper roles and tasks, I believe, for our national intelligence services and for the Canadian Armed Forces in the fight against Abu Sayyaf and similar groups, including those operating in Canada. I think we need to start by understanding that they are not part of some monolithic, organized, entity: some are religiously driven imperialists, while some others are little more than neighbourhood street gangs. Cutting off one “head” does little to defeat the others. We must never expect to “see” or understand all the “heads” of this particular Hydra, but that does not mean that we cannot chop off the ones we can see, or, at least, help others to chop off the ones they can see.