Friday, October 23, 2015

Trudeau to end Canadian support of "IMPACT"

The Canadian military has been involved in combating ISIL through the use of its air assets Operation IMPACT the western air campaign against ISIL

However, this is apparently slated to end under the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Taking the position that humanitarian aid will better serve in this matter for his country rather than the use of force, he  has indicated that his country's military will be withdrawn.  In something that comes across as a bit surreal, the Canadian forces continue to post their daily activities against ISIL and likely will right up until they leave, which we have to wonder is intended as a bit of a message of their view. 

Trudeau hearkens back to Canadian recollections of an era when they occupied a position in the world, not that long ago, that was somewhat like that of Ireland.  Never getting involved in armed conflicts and viewing its role as a humanitarian peacemaker, a role which it imagines, with some justification, brought it respect and a unique position in the family of nations.  That can't really be denied, but then there is something to looking at the actual nature of the contests and the context of the times as well. Certainly up until Pierre Trudeau Canada had not been too shy about getting involved in earlier conflicts when it saw a just cause involved in them, and it contributed significant forces the Allied cause in World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War.  And once you get in a war, getting back out by declaration might not send the message its intended to.

Indeed, treating something clearly evil as simply having a difference of views with your own, or as a mere humanitarian disaster, is another thing entirely than being a peacemaker between two contesting sides, which is what makes this particular retreat from involvement perhaps questionable.  There's a fundamental difference from taking a stand apart position, as Canada did during the Vietnam War, when the defining lines are less clear, as opposed perhaps to something like World War Two, when they were quite clear.  This isn't the Second World War, of course, but ISIL is one of the most violent and extreme forces to arrive upon the scene for many years.  It's hard to see how any nation can act as an honest broker with it, when it sees itself as having a Divine mission to establish an Islamic theocracy and can tolerate nothing other.  And not only an Islamic theocracy, but an extreme Sunni one that doesn't even tolerate much of other Islamic habits.

I certainly do not think, of course, that every nation must involve itself in every war the United States enters, and the US did not enter the fray in Syria, and I didn't think it should have, until quite late.  Not by any means. Every nation must decide such things for itself.  But with ISIL in Syria and Iraq we see a uniquely horrible entity that would kill everyone who didn't convert to its extreme Islamic views.  Trudeau's government will soon be taking in refugees from that conflict, as every nation that can should be. That makes the withdrawal in this context at least some what problematic.  Do we leave ISIL in place in Iraq, and must every nation with the means to contest it do so?  Would taking in Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany have allowed a nation not to fight the Nazis if called upon to do so?  And if the answer to that is no, and presumably it is, who must participate?  Ireland didn't participate directly in World War Two (although it certainly did indirectly) and has suffered in public opinion for that ever since.  But they were a small nation, should they have done so, or did merely contributing manpower voluntarily, as well as some naval spotting suffice?  Sweden likewise has suffered for its failure to enter the war in public opinion, although it frankly could have done little in reality. Public opinion is always clear in hindsight, but these retrospective condemnations perhaps tells us something.

Questions like this are always tricky in the end. When  the US started extending Lend Lease aid to the United Kingdom during World War Two, there were many in Congress who opposed it, just as the Liberals apparently do here, and the majority of the American public might very well have opposed it, just as the majority of Canadians might disfavor their being involved militarily in the Middle East.  Franklin Roosevelt justified his action at that time by arguing that you couldn't deny the neighbor the use of the garden hose if his house was on fire. We have to at least ask if an analogy like that is applicable here. 

Of course, every nation must decide such matters on their own.  But each should be careful in getting in and getting out.  I felt, and still do, that the mess in Syria was being entirely misread, and that in large part contributed to the situation we have now with ISIL being such a power there.  But now that ISIL is such a power, does any Western nation dare not to contest it?

And of course we've had to reappraise our withdrawal from Afghanistan, a tacit reminder that we withdrew prematurely from Iraq.

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