Friday, October 3, 2014

About That War Thing

I am dismayed over the general collective amnesia that has once more taken hold of political leaders and the public over the latest so-called world threat. In the solution being embraced, few seem to remember the abject failure of past incursions in the Middle East, incursions that only gravely exacerbated existing problems. It is as if hysteria has replaced critical thinking.

But my dismay is ameliorated, however slightly, by evidence that at least some have retained their faculties sufficiently to call into question the current prevailing 'wisdom' that says ISIS is a clear and present danger to all of us, and perpetual war against them and all subsequent threats is the answer. I therefore offer you some snippets of what, sadly, must now be labelled 'unconventional wisdom.'

In The Star, Haroon Siddiqui offers this assessment of Barack Obama's motivation for airstrikes against ISIS:
What if the U.S.-led war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is designed, wholly or in part, to prop up Barack Obama’s sinking presidency and salvage the Democratic majority in the Senate in mid-term elections on Nov. 4?
Although Obama has tried to avoid wars and concentrate on things like the economy and climate change, his efforts have made him appear feckless and weak in the eyes of some.
Launching air attacks fit the bill. Overnight, he was the “war president,” without launching a full-scale war. Not only the far right but also the moderate centre and the left came on-board.
And very pertinently, Siddiqui asks,
Can Islamic State be destroyed without fixing the dysfunction in Syria and Iraq, the primary cause of the rise of these jihadists?
While one may not agree with everything he says in the piece, the important thing is that he is asking the right questions, something few others are doing.

Siddiqui's fellow Star columnist, Rick Salutin, also probes beneath the surface of this complex issues, offering The case for doing nothing about the Islamic State.

Pointing out that this is a war where we do not have to confront the casualties of bombs and drones, from our perspective, it is quite bloodless. He therefore invites us to partake in a thought experiment:
So imagine being a villager. From high overhead, others are raining Hellfires, literally, on you. You can’t see them but you know they don’t look like you or speak your language, and care only in the most abstract way. Then along come the Islamic State thugs. They look and talk like you. They’re brutal but they create some administrative order, after the chaos of invasion and civil war: 3 million to 5 million people in Iraq and 9 million in Syria displaced due mainly to U.S. military operations since 9/11. It’s an awful choice between those two forces but it may not be a hard one.
I close with two letters from Globe readers who offer some trenchant insights:
Re Harper Pitches Expanded Role In Iraq (Oct. 2):

Whether it’s a Liberal or Conservative government, the playbook seems somewhat the same. We begin with some small, relatively manageable commitment and before you can say “Bob’s your uncle who didn’t come back intact from the war,” we are knee deep in the blood of the innocent citizens of other countries who are collateral damage, and that of our own troops.

Whatever the solution is to extremism in the Mideast and beyond, I’m with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Let’s practise our time-tested caution and restraint and not succumb to Stephen Harper’s rush to battle.

Bill Engleson, Denman Island, B.C.
The world’s mightiest superpower failed to bring peace and security to the people of Iraq and the entire region, despite an all-out effort over many years.

If Stephen Harper thinks sending our sons and daughters to war will make a difference, he should lead by example, slip on his flak jacket, and take his son Ben, now 18, over with him to see the war through to its conclusion. Then he might begin to understand why Jean Chrétien told George “Dubya” Bush no to his face when pressured to join the ill-advised American invasion of Iraq.

Mike Priaro, Calgary


  1. I doubt that there is widespread support for military action in Iraq despite this week's "Oopsos" Reid poll claiming that some 64% Canadians either support, or somewhat support, airstrikes in Iraq. Pretty certain their polling was done with their pre-selected, focus group, online panels (in other words, non randomized polling) methodology. This was the same methodology that, oops, had predicted that Hudak was significantly ahead of Wynne in the last provincial election.

    It is looking like the NDP at least will oppose combat mission in Iraq. Will the Liberals do so even though they are hinting they will? Unfortunately, from their past record, it would not be surprising if the Liberals turn around and support Harper after all. Guess we will find out when Junior whips his party's "it" out, whether "it" is big enough to stand up (no pun intended here) to Harper's, eh?

    You'd think that politically it would be a no brainer for both the Liberals and NDP to let Harper wear this war. But then again, you'd think that these two parties would have realized by now that if they were to co-operate, Harper would be history.

    1. Your comments say it all, Anon. We live in an environment where 'manufacturing consent' may be as simple as the poll manipulations you suggest, along with a largely compliant television medium that too often sees itself as mere extensions of the government communications office. Of the game-type explosive imagery they share I will not even speak.

      As for co-operation between the NDP and the Liberals to rid us of our current political scourge, I will quote Hamlet and say, wistfully, 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

  2. More evidence of The March of Folly, Lorne.

    1. There is a sickening familiarity to the drumbeat accompanying that march, isn't there, Owen?

  3. Let all Canadians follow this imbecile Imperial Oil mail boy (given the job by his imbecile Imperial Oil account father) into war.

    1. Another apt choice, Anon. Thanks!

  4. Lorne, your post sums the whole situation quite well. ISIS is an aftermath of the Iraq invasion. We sure don't learn.

    U.S. and allied forces failed in Iraq miserably as well as in Afghanistan. Now it is both to raise the approval ratings of Obama and create business for weapon companies. Harper wants to show the world that he is a big macho man. Sad.

    1. We seem doomed to folly by the people we elect, LD, although I also think that the concept of real choice is more illusion than reality in today's debased democracies.

  5. Harper, being the ever crafty bugger, has announced it'll be a 6-month mission. How that fits into America's or any of its allies' plans is far from apparent. I wonder where he'll find the money to cover this. He's already saddled us with a navy that's no longer sea worthy, an army that's worn out its gear in Afghanistan, and an air force that has to scour museums to come up with spare parts to keep its aging aircraft flying.

    Oh well, the Americans have a lot of F/A-18As mothballed at Davis Monthan AFB outside of Vegas. They can probably rustle up spares for our venerable CF-18s.

    1. Well Mound, as in WWII, perhaps the government will have to ask us to buy war bonds; being in terror of the terrorists and their threat to our domestic security as trumpeted by Herr Harper, I am sure many patriots would eagerly embrace such bonds.