Yesterday I commented on the notion (with which I agree, fully) that Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy is causing distress in the capitals of our traditional friends and allies, the other great, Western, liberal democracies, and “perverse delight in Beijing and Moscow.“
Today The Economist makes the case that Prime Minister Trudeau, amongst others with whom that newspaper finds greater fault, was wrong to reduce our efforts in Syria ~ although the PM and his ministers, Dion and Sajjan, would argue, with a small dose of merit, that we simply “refocused” our efforts and that we are, still, doing a “fair share” to defeat Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS and unseat Assad.
“JUST when it seems that the war in Syria cannot get any worse,” The Economist says, “it does. On September 19th Syrian and Russian planes struck a convoy about to deliver aid to besieged parts of Aleppo. The attack wrecked the ceasefire brokered by America and Russia, and was followed by the worst bombardment that the ancient city has yet seen. Reports speak of bunker-buster, incendiary and white phosphorus bombs raining down … [and] ... Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, is destroying his country to cling to power. And Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is exporting the scorched-earth methods that he once used to terrify the Chechen capital, Grozny, into submission. Such savagery will not halt jihadism, but stoke it. And American inaction makes it all worse.“
The Economist blasts President Obama for indecision and inaction, he (Obama) may have mused about Churchill and Eisenhower but, clearly, in the eyes of The Economist‘s writers, he’s not in that league … neither is Justin Trudeau.
“As America has pulled back,” The Economist goes on to explain, “others have stepped in—geopolitics abhors a vacuum. Islamic State (IS) has taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq. A new generation of jihadists has been inspired to fight in Syria or attack the West. Turkey, rocked by Kurdish and jihadist violence (and a failed coup), has joined the fight in Syria. Jordan and Lebanon, bursting with refugees, fear they will be sucked in. The exodus of Syrians strengthens Europe’s xenophobic populists and endangers the European Union. A belligerent Russia feels emboldened … [and] … By sending warplanes to Syria to prop up Mr Assad, Mr Putin has inflamed the struggle between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Mr Putin and Mr Assad now seem determined to take control of “useful Syria”—the line of cities from Damascus to Aleppo, and the territories to the west, forsaking the desert and the Euphrates valley—before a new American president takes office next year. Hence the ferocity of the assault on east Aleppo, the last major rebel-held urban area.” I have said, several times, that Vladimir Putin, like another dictator of 80 years ago, is an “opportunistic adventurer” who, when he “feels emboldened” is likely to take aggressive actions without giving too much though ~ although he has a low, peasant cunning ~ to the consequences.
“Any Western strategy,” The Economist explains, “must start from two realisations. First, the most important goal in the Middle East is to assuage Sunnis’ grievances enough to draw them away from the death-cult of jihadism and into more constructive politics. Second, Russia is not part of the solution, but of the problem.” And it goes on to say that “As a Dutch-led inquiry into the destruction of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 makes clear (see article), the challenge of Russia is not only, and not mainly, in Syria. The West must keep talking to Mr Putin, but resist his adventurism—starting with the maintenance of EU sanctions. Mr Putin is a bully, but not irrational. He will keep gambling for advantage for as long as he thinks the West is unwilling to act. But he will, surely, retreat as soon as he feels it is serious about standing up to him.“
But what is Canada doing?
Our pretentious Minister of Global Affairs says that Canada wants to make a “rational shift” in its relations with Russia. “Preventing scientists from these countries from talking to one another is irrational. Our government wishes to be rational,” Pam Goldsmith-Jones, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, is quoted (in the Globe and Mail) in a speech Thursday at Carleton University in Ottawa. No, it’s not irrational at all, it is just one of the many, many ways that we should be keeping pressure on Russia so that it will act responsibly, not opportunistically. Canada, led by Justin Trudeau and Stéphane Dion who are, in turn, supported by a soft headed foreign service, is unable to stand up to Putin’s Russia because we do not understand that Putin is acting, in Ukraine, in North Eastern Europe, in Syria and in the Arctic, in a manner that is entirely rational to Putin and Russians: it is playing the schoolyard bully in the hope that we will surrender.
We have pulled our venerable CF-18s out of the Syrian bombing campaign, which was doing some measurable “good” ~ we have sent more trainers and we kept our (very valuable) and useful CP-140 aircraft in theatre, despite the fact that they are older than the CF-18s and are also in urgent need of replacement. Our air to air refuelling aircraft are also doing yeoman service there, keeping other nations’ bombers in business. We’re still very much “in the bombing campaign,” we’re just not actually dropping any bombs: we’re enabling others with target acquisition and fuel support.
We’re also headed off to do some baby-blue beret style UN peacekeeping in hopes of earning a quite worthless, second class, temporary seat on the discredited United Nations Security Council … sending a few female, French speaking military police or RCMP officers to “protect girls and women” may please the Laurentian elites and the chattering classes but it will do nothing, not a damned thing for Canada’s position in the world.
“Hope,” an old friend reminds us in another forum, “is not a valid course of action” in military operations; nor is it in foreign policy. But we have elected a gang whose only course of action in foreign and defence policy is hope.
They hope the Russians will play nicely in Syria, in Europe and in the Arctic, they hope the Kurds will win without bloodshed, they hope Saudi Arabia will not use Canadian weapons to massacre civilians, they hope we can meet our defence commitments without spending any money … we have, pretty clearly, it seems to me, put Canada’s national security in the wrong hands.
Last year a solid plurality of us, Canadian voters, decided that we were tired of real leadership after nine years of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The voters are always right, of course … until they agree that they were wrong. Evan Solomon, writing in Maclean’s, explains that the fall and winter of 2016/17 are shaping up to be challenging for Prime Minister Trudeau and, he notes, “A few weeks ago some Conservatives were quietly admitting they expected eight years of Liberal rule. Not so much now. The fight is back.” I sense a very real weakness in the Liberals: they ran a masterful campaign in 2015 but they find governing to be hard, maybe too hard. I expect that, by 2019, Canadians will understand that we, as a country, are weaker because of Justin Trudeau and his government and we will be willing to look, again, at a solid, principled, Conservative party to lead us back to fiscal/economic, political and military strength. We will understand, in 2019, that, in 2015, we put all of Canada in the wrong hands.