Editorial: In the critical fight against Islamic State, it’s worth getting our hands dirty

Editorial: In the fight against ISIS, it’s worth getting our hands dirty

In joining the coalition, Canada is properly fulfilling its global obligations to promote peace and security in a difficult part of the world

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“No plan of battle survives first contact with the enemy,” observed 19th-century Prussian strategist Helmuth von Moltke. Risk, loss and uncertainty are fundamental to every military endeavour. Canada’s six-month mission against Islamic State, as approved by Parliament this week, will be no exception.

In sending six CF-18 fighters, two surveillance aircraft and a refuelling tanker to participate in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, it is possible Canada’s contingent of pilots, advisers and support crew will suffer casualties. There will be an obvious financial cost to be borne as well, although the exact size cannot be known with certainty. Participating in such a direct fashion may also make our country a target in the future for other radical Islamic terrorists.

There are many other important, but equally unanswerable questions, about Canada’s mission to the Middle East. Will Islamic State prove as difficult to dislodge from Syria and Iraq as the Taliban were in Afghanistan? Will it be possible to replace its putative caliphate with stable and coherent governments? How many civilians will die as a result of Islamic State targets being bombed? Is airpower sufficient to eliminate the threat of radical Islam? Will the mission need to be extended six months hence? The proper response to all such queries: We simply don’t know.

But does this lack of certainty mean we should disengage from the battle against radical Islamic terrorism and leave our CF-18s at home? On this score the answer is clear: absolutely not.

In this week’s parliamentary debate on the Harper government’s motion to authorize Canadian airstrikes in Iraq, and possibly Syria, both opposition parties chose to dwell at great length on the many uncertainties of the plan. The six-month mission could turn into a “quagmire,” warned NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Despite the fact he supports supplying arms to factions fighting Islamic State on the ground, Mulcair fretted about the possibility of civilian casualties caused by coalition airstrikes. “Canada’s first contribution should be to use every diplomatic, humanitarian and financial resource at our disposal,” he concluded. All safe strategies, to be sure. And utterly useless at this point in the Islamic State conflagration.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau demonstrated his own foreign policy naïveté by claiming Canada enjoys a comparative advantage over its allies in airlift capacity and that we should to stick to moving things around for others. “We think there is a role for Canada to be involved in the fight,” he told the House of Commons. But only in a “non-combat” way. Anything else would be too risky and unpleasant.

While readily accepting the loathsomeness of Islamic State, which has engaged in public beheadings, rape, slavery, mass murder and numerous other repugnancies, the opposition leaders argued strongly against a Canadian combat mission. They’d rather someone else got their hands dirty. But shirking isn’t strategy. In joining the coalition that includes familiar allies such as the U.S., Britain, Australia, Denmark and France, as well as Arab states such as Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Canada is properly fulfilling its global obligations to promote peace and security in a difficult part of the world. That said, the strongest claim on risking Canadian lives and resources against Islamic State rests entirely on self-interest.

The main lesson to be gleaned from 9/11 is the broad threat posed by power vacuums in volatile parts of the world. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan after the fall of the Russian-backed government in the 1990s, it offered its terrorist partners a sympathetic home base from which to operate. From this distant location, they were able to deliver destruction direct to North America. A cross-border caliphate in the Middle East presents an even greater danger to world stability. Not only is it located much closer to travel routes and major population centres, but it seeks a violent theological war with its Islamic neighbours in addition to Western nations. The potential flashpoints are far more numerous this time around. Canada’s first interest in this fight is to keep its own citizens safe.

Of course our experience in Afghanistan, not to mention more recently in Libya where Canada participated in the 2011 bombing campaign that ousted strongman Moammar Gadhafi, also emphasizes that more than just airstrikes are required to achieve long-lasting success. With Libya now riven by tribal violence and Afghanistan still painfully underdeveloped, Canada and the rest of the nations participating in the fight against Islamic State must think carefully about what they want to leave behind once the mission is over. Real stability is difficult to achieve. What Iraq or Syria will look like in a year’s time is still uncertain.

The only thing we can know for sure: the world will be better off without Islamic State.


Editorial: In the fight against ISIS, it’s worth getting our hands dirty

  1. The west has been bombing Iraq for 23 years. And invading.

    Much of the country [the birthplace of civilization] is rubble.

    And what do we have to show for it?


    And a wider war.

    ISIL has no planes and no ships, and no troops as such. Just a bunch of untrained yahoos created in the last attack.

    It’s a tribal uprising fergawdsake…..against the western world.

    So the west is scared into doing silly things like dropping more bombs.

    Give up the testosterone and start using your brains.

    PS….and if YOU are so bloody keen to fight….go join the ‘boots on the ground.’

    • EMily noted: (incorrectly)
      “ISIL has no planes and no ships, and no troops as such. Just a bunch of untrained yahoos created in the last attack.”

      Apparently, you don’t need planes or ships to murder thousands of innocent people.

      Apparently you don’t need planes or ships to force Christian parents to dig holes and bury their own children alive.

      Apparently, you don’t need planes or ships to enslave thousands of young girls and force them to provide sexual services to terrorists.

      Apparently, you don’t need planes or ships to lop the heads off thousands of people and impale them upon poles to be used as decoration in towns now held by ISIS.

      Apparently, you don’t need planes or ships to murder hospital patients too sick to get out of the hospital before the invading hoardes arrive.

      Apparently, Emily doesn’t give a rats ass about the things ISIS is doing, as long as it doesn’t affect her personally.

      Yep….about what we’ve come to expect from her.

      • Do you ever think before you post something…..or is it in a memo from HQ?

      • I realize that lying is a sort of reflexive tick for you, but there’s no need to fabricate the IS’s crimes. The truth is bad enough.

        • Emily, Lenny….

          If the two of you were actually paying attention to the news, or bothered to do some research prior to putting up your two cents worth here……..you wouldn’t look so stupid.

          Much of the list I have above was discussed in parliament while they were getting ready to vote on military action. In fact, many of the atrocities mentioned above were also included in the arguments of the opposition. The difference of course, is that the Conservatives actually want to stop this from continuing, whereas the opposition parties’ and yourselves…….don’t really care.

          What wasn’t mentioned in parliament is readily available on YouTube. If you decide to check it out……make sure you haven’t eaten yet.

          There is something seriously wrong with both of you.

          • Ah, no. You’re lying.

            There are no videos of ‘parents burying their kids alive’ or ‘thousands of impaled heads’.

      • I’m glad you said “appartenly” for that’s thee sort of hallucination we’re being sold. Have you seen actual video of a ‘beheadment’? I can’t find one that doesn’t look like a Hollywood production?

  2. Humanitarian aid, airlift only, etc. All of these are nice sound bites, but ineffective if you cannot get near the people who need it most. Pretending that Canada doesn’t have a strategic need to protect its own security by addressing threats off-shore is naïve and-or delusional. Pretending that ISIS-ISIL doesn’t pose a real threat to Canadians at home is even worse. Partisan game-playing for national audiences (from all sides) does all Canadians a disservice.

    • Please remember HOW we got to this moment in time.
      The western ‘democracies’ shocked and awed Sadam Hussein’s country into the stone age before they hung him in the early 2000’s. Hundreds of thousands died, some people and corporations got immensely RICH.
      NOW they have no brutal dictator to keep factions in check, no democracy, no infrastructure and no economy and the western ‘democracies’ are planning to bomb ISIS who stepped into the void the west created in the region not to protect the people but to protect corporate assets from ISIS.
      Who will they be bombing in 10 years time once they vanquish ISIS?
      Go back and look at the pictures of the who’s who of western democracies and corporate CEO’s shaking Sadam Hussein’s hand.
      WHO is really to blame for this horrible mess?

      • Dianne,

        Thanks again for the display of your moral ignorance. You write:
        “WHO is really to blame for this horrible mess?”

        While it’s clear you want to blame the USA and George Bush…Democracy, or corporate CEO’s, you fail to realize some very important points.

        1. It is not the USA or Geoge bush cutting off peoples heads and putting them on poles, or raping women and girls or selling them into slavery. It is the islamic fantics of ISIS doing this.
        2. It is not democracy cutting off peoples heads and putting them on poles, or raping women and girls or selling them into slavery. It is the islamic fantics of ISIS doing this.
        3. it is not corporate CEO’s cutting off peoples heads and putting them on poles, or raping women and girls or selling them into slavery. It is the islamic fantics of ISIS doing this.

        Dianne, it is all very well and good (and entirely predictable) that a screeching Harpie Leftist like yourself feels that every atrocity committed is due to democratic, capitalist societies…..but the reality of what is happening should reach far beyond your simplistic socialist opinions.

        tell you what…..go over to Iraq and speak to the people who have not yet been beheaded, sold, or raped what they think we should do. If they prefer your approach….let us know.

        • You’re not actually capable of holding more than one reality in your head at any single moment are you? Not everything she said has to be correct for some of what she said to be factual.

  3. The only thing we can know for sure is that people who die from democratic legislation signed with a pen are just as dead as people who die from bombs, tanks and bullets. It is just not as messy.

    • Dianne…

      What about the people who die from having their heads sawed off by a 6 inch knife?
      what about the people who die from being shot because they are Christian?
      what about the people (children) who die of asphyxiation after being buried alive?
      What about the people who die after being shot because they refuse to convert to the religion of peace?

      Apparently folks….Dianne isn’t really concerned about what ISIS is actually doing. She saves her hatred for free nations that believe a company should actually be allowed to make a profit.

      Pretty much sums up the mindset of the LEFT perfectly.

      Democratic, capitalist societies = evil
      ISIS = downtrodden folks who do what they do because of the West.

      yep….Dianne once again stays true to form.

      • It’s not a war, it’s a street gang.

        It’s not Islam, a country or a different civilization

        You are not defending [from your armchair] either democracy or capitalism……they have nothing to do with ISIL.

        You’ve got your tights on backwards and they’re bunching up.

        • I’ve just watched a documentary called “The Hornet’s Nest’. If nothing else it points out that some soldiers (US 101st Airborne) aren’t fighting for much else than ‘their buddies’ (and the sake of fighting).

          To me that says ‘street gang’ – although there is usually some ‘profit motive’ in street gangs. Our soldiers aren’t ‘in it’ for personal ‘rewards’.

  4. Saying there’s been a “lack of certainty” is being incredibly charitable. We say six months, while allies say years. We say the goal is to “contain” while others say “degrade” and others say “destroy”. We say that ISIS is a global scourge and threat to global security that must be eradicated, but we won’t commit to any ground forces to accomplish this vital global objective. Our “coalition of the willing” (I hate that term, brings back Iraq 2003) is currently on the search to identify, locate, and coordinate moderate Syrian rebel groups to arm to take the place of the ground forces necessary for “victory” that we won’t send, after the last group of supported moderate Syrian rebels defected and joined ISIS last year.

    I don’t support this enterprise. I think that if we take the “moral responsibility to act” principle to its logical conclusion, we’d be in dozens of countries, and have ground forces in the Congo – there are atrocities being committed all over the world, over which we have no will or ability to influence. I think that in reality, involvement should (and usually does) depend on a dispassioned and clear-eyed analysis of what can realistically be accomplished in addition to morality. I think that since no one was suggesting sending the military and urging to “do something” for years as atrocities were knowingly going on over there until the people the terrorists were beheading were people from the West, and they were put on camera and broadcast to the world, the rush to “do something” militarily is an emotional response, rather than a rational one. And I think the terrorists are not stupid; they promoted those videos hoping to provoke exactly the reaction that they got, and reports indicate that their recruitment is going very well since bombing began.

    But if you do think that ISIS represents a critical global threat, and want them defeated, and you don’t think that a new major terrorist outfit will arise out of it like ISIS did once Al Qaeda was “degraded and destroyed”, and you think that planning something “over there” to strike us “here” (another of 2003’s greatest hits) depends upon their being geographically present in Iraq or Syria and constitutes a provable basis for self-defence that can be consistently applied, then you should be mad that the military response has ruled out the ground forces that have been pretty explicitly stated are needed, and that we’re going to try to find some ragtag rebel groups to arm to perform the vital duties for success that we won’t, and hope that these ones won’t defect. It would appear that “support” for this enterprise is a mile wide and an inch deep, since restricting involvement to aircraft conducting bombing runs from miles in the sky can hardly be said to be “getting our hands dirty”. “Would you sign yourself or your kid up to go fight for this?” would be a more accurate reflection of military “support” for a cause.

  5. The only thing we can know for sure: the world will be better off without Islamic State.~

    True, but they’re only the symptom, or ugly visible manifestation of a deeper malady. The west[meaning the US principally] has o find a way to get the father’s of this to the table – Iran and SA – the principle backers of this proxy war. The underlying cause surely is the schism between Shia and Sunni Islam. Tehy have to be convinced they are playing with something that might, if we are fated, set off an even larger regional conflagration – maybe even ww3; who knows really!
    That said the opposition mostly blew it, despite the fact Harper played his usual game of wedgie politics instead of truly seeking a consensus. Canada’s history is we do get our hands dirty, for good or for ill. Opposition lose he opening round, but maybe not the match.

  6. No it isn’t worth it…

    WHAT IS tho is claiming ”the foreign govt of islam” Defunct in Canada
    Stop islam in All schools in Canada, close down mosques, islamists compounds, areas, banking, camps..

    isis is using the islam beliefs Stated in the quran ….

    Canadians Are Being Threatened , daily , by ”the foreign govt of islam” and it’s members, living in Canada… For Way Too Long Now …
    the Leaders of ”the foreign govt of islam” themselves , have declared war against Canada
    yrs ago now…

  7. “Long lasting success.” The last long-lasting military-related ‘success’ (with some notable exceptions) happened well before young Mr. Kilpatrick made his world debut.

    In his lifetime there have been very few longterm successes in anything much at all – with the exception, perhaps, of mechanical reliability in automobiles and the treatment of digestive system ulcers.

    Of late I can’t see anything in Canadian military adventures that would recommend doing the same again. Despite the $10 Ottawa ‘hoo-haw fer heroes’ – Libya has not turned out to be anything the NFB would have made a ‘heroic record’ about and the Afghan ‘pig’s ear’, other than a travelling cenotaph, hasn’t yet found its way of being suitably glorified.