The other war we're in

Is Canada's mission in Libya going the way our leaders expected?

Ahead of Tuesday’s debate, Campbell Clark reviews the state of the mission in Libya.

This was not the mission Canadian MPs agreed to join when they unanimously voted to back a deployment this spring. Then, the goal was to erect a no-fly zone, shielding Libyan civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi’s air force. Canada would provide a frigate, six fighters, and surveillance and refuelling planes. But in three months, the NATO effort has escalated into a fierce bombing campaign that have left Tripoli buildings in rubble and centred on ousting the country’s long-time ruler…

While the NATO assault has elicited criticism in other countries, politicians in Canada have yet to grapple in public debate with the fundamental questions about the mission’s shifting goals, and the options for achieving them: Should we be in a war of bombing Libya into regime change? And how will it end if NATO’s air war doesn’t drive Col. Gadhafi from power?

The Prime Minister first announced the mission on March 18. The House debated the mission a few days later and the motion that was unanimously adopted afterwards read as follows.

That, in standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom in Libya, the House welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973; that the House deplores the ongoing use of violence by the Libyan regime against the Libyan people; acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya; consequently, the government shall work with our allies, partners and the United Nations to promote and support all aspects of UNSC Resolution 1973, which includes the taking of all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya and to enforce the no-fly zone, including the use of the Canadian Forces and military assets in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1973; that the House requests that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence remain seized of Canada’s activities under UNSC Resolution 1973; that should the government require an extension to the involvement of the Canadian Forces for more than three months from the passage of this motion, the government shall return to the House at its earliest opportunity to debate and seek the consent of the House for such an extension; and that the House offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

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