The unofficial Syria debate -

The unofficial Syria debate

Two MPs weigh in


There is no indication the House will be recalled to discuss the matter, Conservative MP Dave Van Kesteren doesn’t think we should bomb Syria.

Van Kesteren, who chairs the Canadian-Turkey Friendship Association, described Syria as a “quagmire that we don’t want to get into. We should stay well out of it.” The MP said the Muslim world has to decide where they stand and how they want to move forward into the 21st century.

“I don’t think picking sides is going to work for us,” he said. “They have to work it out and then we can help. But first they have some serious issues that they have to deal with.” Van Kesteren said replacing one regime in Egypt with another hasn’t worked – “the situation has fallen apart.”

Independent MP Brent Rathgeber is also reluctant to get involved.

I am having difficulty seeing a positive outcome of interfering in the Syrian Conflict. Firstly, it would be illegal. Absent a Declaration from the United Nations Security Council authorizing such intervention (such as the one authorizing the Afghan Mission) such a military intervention, no matter how laudable, would be contrary to international law. Given that Syria’s ally Russia has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, achieving a UN Authorizing Resolution is impracticable. Canada understood this in 2003 when it refused to join the USA in its unsanctioned invasion of Iraq.

Worse, the contemplated mission has neither clear goals nor a workable exit strategy. Although the US President and the Canadian and British Prime Ministers all agree that the use of chemical weapons necessitates a “firm response,” nobody seems to know what that means. No foreign power is advocating regime change or otherwise weakening the Assad regime by taking out weapon stockpiles.

Last week, the Prime Minister described the government as a “very reluctant convert” to the idea of military action, one which would support, but not participate in, action by this country’s allies. (We might not have the sort of resources needed to participate.)


The unofficial Syria debate

  1. Pity they didn’t think that way about Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

    Of course we’re already involved in Syria’s civil war since we donated money to the ‘rebels’….and Canada of course sells weapons.

    • How was Libya – the most direct analogue to Syria – a failure? For the cost of a few billion and zero western casualties NATO was able to end the slaughter of civilians and remove an unstable long-time foe from office. Is the new regime perfect? No. But its accession was less bad than a protracted war and eventual victory by Gaddafi.

        • When NATO intervened Libya didn’t have order. IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CIVIL WAR. Militia violence is bad, but it is not a protracted civil war. Ditto Syria today. Is your argument seriously that the United States shouldn’t intervene because it would upset the wonderful stability that Syrians presently enjoy under Assad the consensus-builder?

          • And we made an even bigger mess of it.

            My argument is that we should all mind our own business, and let the Syrians run their own country.

            The west has interferred so many times, that will be difficult…..but it’s their job to do and we should stay out of it for a change.

  2. As in 2003, the UN is being used to hide behind. I find Rathgeber`s sense of logic a bit strange. He cannot support any action not sanctioned by the UN while fully knowing and admitting as much that the UN is basically useless! How convenient to want it both ways all at the same time.

    • It is an example of making the perfect the enemy of the good. The UN security council has sanctioned very few wars – Korea (only passed because the Soviets were boycotting the UN at the time), the Gulf War and Afghanistan (in Libya a no fly zone was approved). Most human rights violators have at least one great power patron that can run diplomatic defense for them, vetoing efforts to stop atrocities.

      • The UN is the most hypocritical body in the world creating more problems than it solves. Men like Rathgeber should be aware of that by now. If Rathgeber is not aware of that by now, then I think Rathgeber needs to take a dose of reality.

  3. When asked about the sarin gas attack Ron Paul says “I think it’s a false flag . Why don’t we ask about Al Qaeda? Why are we on the side of the Al Qaeda right now?”

    I wonder why MacLean’s in incapable of asking similar questions. As always the latest MacLean’s article “a rouge states new low” follows the US government’s fictitious narrative.

    See :
    The western backed rebels are Al Qaeda. Why is the world not questioning this?

    • Bull-in-a-china-shop solutions like the west employs means we don’t know the people we’re dealing with, and are confused as to who to help….so we usually help the wrong people.

  4. Canada understood this in 2003 when it refused to join the USA in its unsanctioned invasion of Iraq.
    “Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations. This is a serious mistake.”

    Stephen Harper, March 2003

    • Our Dear Leader….the plump War Lord Wannabe.

      • To refer to the man that way, as a War Lord, is an outrageous dumb statement and you know it.
        But even if he was it’s still a long way up the moral ladder from the strange little thing you worship. Not a single massage parlour full of teenagers in sight anywhere.

  5. The problem is that people are comparing intervention to some perfect outcome, rather than the true counterfactual. If the international community does not intervene in some way, mass deaths of civilians will continue in Syria AND norms against the use of chemical weapons will weaken.

    The most likely result of sustained airstrikes would be a rebel victory in Syria. Assad has a weak power base in the country (his ethnic group is a small minority, just north of 10% of the population). He is still in power because of support in the military, and air superiority.

    If the west commanded the skies, the rebels would be much more likely to win, ending the wholesale slaughter of civilians. Would the rebels be pro-western? Probably not, though they have been reliant on aid from the west and Turkey, and that provides more leverage than we have with Assad. Would the rebels be democratic? Probably not, but since they include the largest ethnic group in Syria they would be more likely to support democracy than Assad. And lets be clear – there are differing degrees of authoritarianism.

    As an added bonus, ending the civil war would prevent Syria from becoming a failed state and a haven for terrorists. As well, we would eliminate Assad, who is the biggest sponsor of Hezbollah. And it could be done relatively cheaply. The intervention in Libya cost a few billion dollars, spread around NATO (the US spent about 1.1 billion). Will it spark anti-Americanism in the region? I doubt that – many Arab states are financing the rebels. Moreover, the victims of Hussein’s Iraq were mostly Shi’ites and Kurds – minority groups in the Middle East (except in Iran). The victims of Assad are Sunni muslims, and the perpetrators are Allawites – a small minority.

    And to those crying “that’s what they said about Iraq/Afghanistan”, surely one of the lessons of those interventions was that the complexities of different countries matter. Iraq failed because of a bad counter-insurgency strategy (search and destroy) and de-Ba’athification (which got rid of all the people that knew how to run the country). Iraq isn’t perfect today, but it is reasonably stable, has GDP growth of ~10%, and Iraqis are subject to less oppression than under Hussein.

    Afghanistan is a different story. It’s much more fragmented (ethnically/religiously) than Iraq, and has no history of a strong centralized government, much less of real democracy. And Syria is neither Iraq, nor Afghanistan (nor Libya).

  6. Sigh.

    Remember when a Republican was in the White House, and news outlets were actually allowed to give critical coverage to Americans launching irresponsible wars?

    This is pathetic. Aaron Wherry, who writes almost exclusively about Canadian politics, has contributed more than anyone else here to the Syria issue.

    Come on Macleans. You’ve got an idiot warmonger President flailing around ready to start World War 3 by bombing a Middle East country with shaky justification, zero public support, and no exit strategy. Who gives a flying fig whether Harper recalls Parliament now? Pretend Bush is still President if you have to, but do your f**king jobs.

    Not 30 minutes ago Obama just said “I didn’t set a red line” regarding Syria. Savage, Petrou, et al, are just going to pretend he’s telling the truth about that, despite being the easiest lie in the world to verify. It took me less than one minute on Google to find that article. Too bad no-one here still remembers that it’s your job to do that.

    • The ‘red line’ he’s referring to are the international agreements about not using chemical warfare. He backs it….other countries do not.

      Mostly because everybody has stockpiles of it…..and because Bush and Blair ‘poisoned the well’ when it comes to intervening in other people’s countries.

    • “Remember when a Republican was in the White House, and news outlets were
      actually allowed to give critical coverage to Americans launching
      irresponsible wars?”


      I shouldn’t laugh. It was a question. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that it was a rhetorical one – the implicit answer being “no”.

      Or maybe you were still in diapers when Bush invaded Iraq.

  7. Canada can do a lot to help the whole region without getting involved in military action. Adjacent countries would welcome help to accommodate the flood of refugees they are experiencing. We could also help by accepting and expediting the resettlement of many more refugees from the area ourselves.

    • Yes. I don’t know if military intervention is the correct solution, but we sure as hell need to stop standing idly by while civilians are being slaughtered & people are living in refugee camps the size of small cities. I’m appalled that our gov’t has done so little to help Syrian refugees.