I will admit that I do not have a clue how or if we can solve the ISIS/ISIL problem in the Middle East. As passionate as Thomas Mulcair has been, he hasn't convinced me that there is no acceptable military solution available to us. However, I do give him credit for presenting a clear, unambiguous position.
The argument for military intervention. Well....
According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has deployed forces to Iraq because:
"The highest priority of any government must be protecting its citizens from harm. I believe that Canadians realize that we cannot stand on the sidelines while ISIL commits atrocities in the Middle East and promotes terrorism in Canada and against our allies. We are therefore seeking the support of Canadian parliamentarians for our decision to extend and expand Canada’s military mission, with our allies, to fight Islamic jihadism which threatens national and global security. We intend to continue to degrade and disrupt ISIL as well as provide humanitarian and stabilization support to help alleviate the suffering this terrorist group is inflicting."1
"Our Government believes that we must act to protect Canadians against the threat of terrorism at home and abroad.
As a result of ISIL’s specific threats against Canada and Canadians, our Government has worked closely for the past six months as part of a broad international Coalition, including our closest allies, to help degrade and disrupt ISIL’s ability to inflict harm. While the Coalition has succeeded in stopping ISIL’s territorial spread, the global threat that ISIL poses remains. In particular, we cannot stand on the sidelines while ISIL continues to promote terrorism in Canada as well as against our allies and partners, nor can we allow ISIL to have a safe haven in Syria. That is why I am pleased that the House of Commons has passed a motion supporting the Government’s decision to extend and expand Canada’s military mission against ISIL for up to 12 months."1
So according to our esteemed and honourable Prime Minister, ISIL is building up an armada of landing craft and troop transport planes to invade our shores and take over our country. Canadians must be protected from this threat. Yes, yes I jest. But come on. The self-evident total and complete bullshit in these statements does not merit a serious response.
Since the leader of our country cannot be taken seriously in a time of war, we must turn to others in search of justification for our military efforts. Enter Terry Glavin.
How does he justify this action? By relentlessly mocking Thomas Mulcair and the NDP.
I can be persuaded by a well laid out argument. Andrew Coyne, Dan Gardner, Andrew Potter and others are quite good at laying out the foundation of their premise, and layering their supporting arguments to guide you to a clear conclusion. I may disagree with them at times, but to do so requires thought and consideration on my part (even if it only happens inside my head.)
Terry Glavin. Well.
He rants. He rants quite well as a means of expressing his outrage, but that's all it accomplishes. The problem with rants is that they are often an incoherent mess with leaps of logic that rely on spurious correlations and other fallacious methods. I should know, I do it a lot. You read them and you either agree or disagree depending on your point of view before entering the swampy morass of his foam-flecked rages. As a means to convince the undecided? A total failure.
Rants are also hard to pick apart and refute. Because it's so hard to decide where to begin. But I shall try.
Glavin's focus on the NDP's pacifist streak (by selectively rambling all over recent history) is a curious thing. For one, the NDP do not form the Government of Canada (for good or for ill, I leave the reader to decide) and as such are completely unable to dictate foreign or military policy. And two, they are the Opposition. And the job of the Opposition is to oppose. Last I checked Canada has an adversarial type Westminster Parliament. Under such a system, it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government to account, to challenge every assumption, to question every policy. To present an alternative point of view. Thomas Mulcair and the NDP have been doing a pretty good job on this front. I can quibble with some of the arguments they have chosen to use, but overall they are serving their purpose. To do otherwise subverts their role in our system of Government. They are not the official Cheerleaders. They are the Official Opposition.
In short, Glavin's focus and attack on the NDP is an attack on the fundamental principles of our democracy.
I'm of the firm opinion that journalists and pundits should primarily be holding the Government to account. You know, the people with the actual ability and power to make and execute policy. Especially in times of war. When lives are on the line. (It is perfectly OK to point out when the Opposition makes unreasonable arguments. But that is accomplished with something more than rambling diatribes.)
And this is where the utter bullshit in Glavin's columns starts to smell. Glavin espouses mission goals that are almost entirely absent from Harper's official stance. Glavin talks about saving lives in Iraq and Syria, Harper is "defending Canada." But even if one accepts that Glavin knows the point of the mission better than Harper, he still traps himself with his own logic.
He acknowledges that, the US led mission "in the cause of at least stalling the ISIS rampage, it’s the only thing on offer" which may "save even a few thousand lives"
Does it not make sense that to save a few thousand lives, you need to do more than stall the rampage? Would you not need to end the rampage, and prevent it from restarting at a later date? But that's what the official mission is; "to help degrade and disrupt ISIL’s ability to inflict harm"
Is there not something seriously at odds about an "operation against this genocidal terrorist organization-I emphasize the word genocidal" that has a "middling Canadian Forces role" participating in a "half-baked U.S.-led coalition?"
Sounds like a mission designed to fail to me. And that's what really bothers me about this mission. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right. And we aren't committed to that. We're committed to doing it in a "half-baked" way. But Harper and his cheerleaders think doing anything is better than doing nothing at all.
That's a strange view of combat. History is littered with half-baked wars and the countless wasted lives expended in these efforts. Enemy combatants rarely leave the battlefield where the vanquished acknowledge the righteousness of the victor's cause. And that's even after a complete military victory. The hatred, recriminations, and sense of victimization can last decades, even centuries. Victory has to be near absolute to ensure the losers are unable to retaliate in any meaningful way. Are we going to have a total victory with a "half-baked" "degrade and disrupt" mission?
Given the two choices on offer, I'll take peace at any cost over half-assed wars any day of the week.