What kind of force for global peace does the NDP want Canada to be?

What kind of force for global peace does the NDP want Canada to be?

The NDP sees itself as a party built on international justice and human rights. So on the war against Islamic State, why isn’t it standing up for its values?


NDP leader Mulcair receives a standing ovation from his caucus while standing to reply to the government's plan to participate in a military campaign against Islamic State militants

In an interview with Maclean’s earlier this month, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was asked if the Islamic State jihadist group can be defeated without firing a shot or dropping a bomb.

Mulcair didn’t directly answer the question. Instead, he voiced the ahistorical and myopic falsehood that everything horrible befalling Iraq and Syria stems from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 12 years ago. Then he repeated a variation of something he’s said before: “This is not Canada’s fight.”

There are good reasons not to support Canada’s combat mission against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It’s generally unwise to get involved in a war you’re not committed to winning. Victory against Islamic State depends on the United States. And U.S. President Barack Obama appears content to merely contain Islamic State, then hand the problem over to his successor in 18 months.

Related: There’s a way to beat Islamic State. But it won’t be pretty.

Another major problem is the absence of a coherent strategy for dealing with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose butcher’s bill far exceeds that of Islamic State.

Four years ago, Obama said it was time for Assad to step aside. Since then, Assad’s regime has killed tens of thousands, driven millions into exile, and launched poison gas attacks on Syrian civilians. The latter atrocity crossed a “red line” Obama had defined, and it briefly appeared as though Assad might be punished for it. He wasn’t. The Russians brokered a deal for Assad to give up his chemical weapons stocks. The Wall Street Journal  now reports that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Syria didn’t relinquish all its chemical weapons. Assad won’t face consequences for that, either.

His regime survives because of Iran. Tehran spends billions of dollars there, and has deployed advisers and fighters from its Revolutionary Guard, and from its Lebanese proxy militia, Hezbollah.

Related: Why the international community isn’t holding Assad to account

The United States has just negotiated a nuclear with Iran, and is now strangely uninterested in the departure of Iran’s Syrian client. Syria’s non-jihadist rebels, understandably, see a connection and feel betrayed—something that will further complicate any Western efforts to help shape a post-Assad future for Syria. If we’re going to defeat Islamic State, we also need to plan for what should happen next.

But Mulcair’s response was more visceral: This doesn’t concern us.

If Mulcair led a party of conservative isolationists, his stance at least wouldn’t stink of hypocrisy. But the NDP’s own constitution says its goal is to “build a more just, equal, and sustainable Canada within a global community dedicated to the same goals.”

Mulcair himself has written: “As Canadians, we don’t want our country sitting on the international sidelines—unwilling to help, and marginalized by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives’ one-sided approach . . .I believe Canada can be a positive force for peace, justice and respect for human rights around the world.”

What kind of force for international peace, justice and human rights does the NDP want Canada to be?

There are instances in which that force can be non-violent, where generous foreign aid and persuasive diplomacy can pay dividends—countries where girls can’t study because they are poor; where homosexuals are discriminated against but can benefit from legal aid; where clashing religious groups might be encouraged to reconcile.

Then there is Islamic State’s self-described “caliphate.” Girls and women are systematically gang-raped; slavery is celebrated and widely practised; homosexuals are thrown off buildings or stoned to death; and religious minorities are exterminated.

Helping Islamic State’s victims by caring for those who have fled it is necessary but insufficient. It is military forces that prevented the wholesale genocide of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. (Thousands were killed or enslaved anyway.) It is military force that stopped Islamic State from overrunning Iraqi Kurdistan. And it is military force that must ultimately play a role in defeating the group.

Mulcair disagrees. “[I]t’s not more bombs into that horrible situation in those countries that’s going to get us closer to peace,” he said in the Maclean’s interview. But it hardly matters what Mulcair thinks might work instead, because he added: “This is not our fight.”

Islamic State is an explicitly fascist organization. It opposes everything for which the NDP says it stands. Its caliphate is the grim antithesis of the just and equal Canada and global community of the NDP’s constitution. The fight against it is the NDP’s fight—or it would be, if the party lived up to its declared values.

A couple of years back, the NDP went through some internal consternation over a vote to adopt a new preamble to its constitution that removes references to “democratic socialism” as the governing philosophy of the party.

But socialism—the best versions of it, anyway—is about solidarity with the oppressed. It means telling the weak and victimized, wherever they are, that your fight is, in fact, our fight. The NDP’s problem isn’t that it is socialist. It’s that it has forgotten what socialism should be.


What kind of force for global peace does the NDP want Canada to be?

  1. Interesting piece.

    When is the author signing up to fight or is that just the job of others too?

    • Journalists go to the warzones and report, often putting themselves in peril. That is their job.

    • What an idiotic comment.

  2. A lot of Canadians agree that it is not our fight.
    But in the future, it will be.

  3. Michael, if you did your research you would be aware that ISIS is very much a creation of the west. Thomas Mulcair is right to state it is not Canada’s fight – Canadians shouldn’t be giving up lives to enforce US dogma overseas.

    • Ya, it’s amazing that a writer for a national magazine such as Macleans can make such asinine remarks.

      The U.S. has created ISIL and they should clean their own dirty laundry. They’ve also been meddling in the middle east for decades. Propping up dictators who are right at the top of the list when it comes to the butchery of their own citizens. I really like these “bench dancers” advocating war but saying so from their mom’s basement.

      As for clowns like John G here, there’s good reason to seek protection when your own PM, diluted of any common sense, wants to run blindly into Iraq in 2003 at the behest of two other equally stupid people, Bush and Cheney.

      • If Obama weren’t a coward and unilaterally withdrawn US troops, maybe the US could have finished the job that Bush & Cheney started. But I’m sure you idiots will blame Bush & Cheney for every act of Islamic terrorism for the next century. Critical thinking is hard, repeating Michael Moore’s BS talking points is easy.

      • Chretien offered Bush troops for Iraq.

    • You know, that’s what I hate about some of these NDP posters, they think we live on an island somewhere in Mars. Whether you like this conflict or not, this is spreading across the globe and we are there in the thick of it, it would be embarrassing for this country to pull out now, and you can’t flick a switch to end it. At least if the dippers want to back away from this conflict, tell us how you are going to do it, instead of constantly using platitudes to convince voters, they look weak on world affairs and foreign diplomacy. What do the dipper know about conflicts, they don’t even have anyone from the military with credibility in their party to cut through their fog of platitudes. They have no credibility with the economy, unless you think Thom is the expert. You need a good and experienced team of experts in your party to make very important decisions with world events, not a class full of daycare students, like what sits on the NDP benches now.

      • “some of these NDP posters”
        Thanks for that. There are a significant number of people on the left for whom opposing theocratic fascism is a priority. Julia Gillard, former Labor PM of Australia, speaking at the Broadbent Institute, asserted as much. Socialist President Holland of France has been getting results across North Africa. When Al Qaeda wanna-bees blew up the train station in Spain one of the responses of the Socialist government of the time was to increase the their troop strength in Afghanistan. The Soviets were defeated due, in part, to the efforts of Anarchists, Socialists and social-democrats around the world and more are playing a part in containing Islamic-fascism now. Admittedly, and major chunk of the Canadian-left is lost in Chomsky land. But not all of us.

    • Joseph, I’m sorry, but that’s a very condescending and (ironically) uninformed comment.

      ISIS is not a “creation of the west.” While misguided western military involvement in the Middle East has provided some additional fuel for groups like ISIS, it can hardly be credited with its creation. Groups like ISIS, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and on and on, have been around under one name or another for 500 years. Spouting the exact same ideology, committing the exact same attrocities, and openly–and honestly–attributing their violence to the exact same justifications.

      Islamism is as old as the religion itself. As is jihadism. And Muslims have suffered unimaginably from these violent literalist groups for centuries. They continue to suffer today.

      How can any person who believes in human rights, who respects human life, who holds liberal values, who feels even moderate compassion, turn their back on the great suffering of Muslims (and others) at the hands of these delusional, religiously-drunk lunatics?

      While a coherent case can be made that we can provide more value in other manners than bombing campaigns, what is not acceptable is simply permitting such attrocities to continue with no response and without honestly speaking out against it.

      Mulcair needs to educate himself on this issue and quickly. And then he needs the courage to start speaking honestly about it. And doing something to support and protect the victims.

  4. Honestly don’t understand how a guy who demanded 24×7 RCMP protection in the wake of the Islamic terrorist attack in Ottawa can say that the fight against ISIS is “not our fight”.

    • The RCMP protection was simply an effort to try to make himself look/feel important.

    • Hey this is the same guy who called it “Dutch Disease” when Ontario’s manufacturing failed. Gee Tom Mulclair now oil is in the tank and so is the Canadian dollar…why isn’t Ontario’s manufacturing flourishing?

  5. Bombs fall, children die and Harper gets votes. His default action plan in international diplomacy is always underpinned by “What is best politically for me?” No long term thinking, no vision for the end game, and certainly utter disregard for the lives he puts at risk. This journalistic piece of drivel would certainly pass any audit by his media handlers.

    • What’s the “long-term thinking” and “vision for the end game” that comes with allowing ISIS to continue butchering innocent civilians without opposing them in any way? Who do you think has killed more children, Canadian bombs, or ISIS psychopaths? You have a bit of growing up to do, I think.

    • If the gist of your post is that Harper uses fear to manipulate votes, you are absolutely right. I don’t believe he takes this issue any more seriously than those people who thoughtlessly shrug ISIS off as “the result of U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 12 years ago.”

      But the anti-thesis to Harper’s manipulations and sleazy advantage taking of a real issue, is not to dismiss the issue as “not Canada’s fight.” Both approaches are not serious.

      All democratic societies that claim to espouse liberal values (civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation) have a vested interest and in fact an obligation to stand with and support Muslims suffering so gravely at the hands of the delusional jihadists, as well as to also stand and fight against Islamism for our own safety, as well as all the world’s.

  6. Given the headline of this article, I was expecting an actual analysis of the NDP’s foreign policy platform. Instead I got a dozen paragraphs of basic information about the conflict that I already knew, while the author only commented – repeatedly – on a short quote by Mr. Mulcair. No substantive information, extremely lazy. Did the author even bother to contact the NDP to find out what they plan to do? If he did, it’s not in this article.

    This reads like a lazy partisan hack job. For shame, Macleans. You could have published useful information instead of this vacuous rant.

    • Agreed

    • Did you even read the article? The very first sentence has a link to the full interview with Mulcair. The question was asked, and Mulcair didn’t answer it. Thus, the author can only analyze Mulcair’s position based on previous quotes and actions.

      But I know, it’d be so much easier to just ignore the fact that the NDP’s statements are idiotic at best, and horribly dangerous at worst.

  7. Uuggghhh … no!

    Please tell me Mulcair did NOT say “everything horrible befalling Iraq and Syria stems from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 12 years ago.” Please, say it ain’t so! In fact, I will not believe it till I actually hear it. Is there a recording of this?

    I was just starting to come around to seriously considering Mulcair and the NDP as a “potentially” viable option to vote for. At any rate, I will not abandon that consideration until I actually hear it myself. I don’t buy it. But if it’s true, I will absolutely NOT vote for anyone so uninformed and confused on such an important international issue–let alone somebody applying to be Prime Minister of a serious country.

    Granted this is not the only issue on the table or even the most important one facing Canadians, but it is top 5. And it speaks to judgment, understanding and an awareness of the realities of international affairs probably more clearly than any other issue.

    It’s easy to understand a balanced budget is important, it’s easy to understand employment rates are important, it’s easy to understand we can’t destroy our environment, it’s easy to understand we have to get out natural resources to market. These issues offer little in the way of tests on a candidate’s capacity to understand complex issues. The threat and root causes of jihadism and Islamism are a strong test. And the simple-minded, thoughtless response of “U.S. foreign policy is to blame” does not suggest an educated, serious or thoughtful enough person to justify any consideration for the roll of prime Minister of Canada.