Saturday, October 4, 2014

Penetrating The Fog Of War

Yesterday, in response to a picture I posted quoting Herman Goering on the ease with which people can be manipulated into war, Scotian, a frequent commentator, responded to the picture, offering his analysis of the Canadian reaction to ISIS. I offer you his comments, always insightful, for your consideration:

Sadly, I am forced to agree.

However I was rather pleasantly surprised to see Trudeau and the Libs not at the last join with Harper on the combat side, I rather had expected to see that. Indeed, in the last couple of days Trudeau has been sounding a lot more sensible than I was expecting, and in even more importantly, nuanced in his positioning on this issue, which I happen to think is the right place to be. I do think something needs doing by Canada at this point, if only because of our alliance partners being involved, as well as just how ugly ISIS is in its actions, but the idea that it must be combat action, no that comes from the Harper mentality on this issue. I happen to think we are far better suited in this case for the non-combat logistic and recon roles where military elements are concerned, and we have been asked by the Kurds and Iraq last month not for combat power but humanitarian assistance. That being said though I was never in favour of military/combat action to begin with.

I have yet to be convinced of the threat to us here in Canada by this group. Are they nasty operators with terrible ideology and aims with brutal means of trying to bring them about? No question on any of that. Are they recruiting from our disaffected youth? Again yes, that is factually inarguable. However, what actual threat capacity to they pose to us here in this nation above and beyond the already ever present threat of individual actions of terrorists (of which there are many such groups including some with high funding) using local materials to disrupt/attack local targets? This is a question I have yet to hear any answer that makes any sense to me beyond the political rhetoric level.

I am also more than a little troubled that until ISIS/ISIL started beheading western reporters and using youtube to publicize that fact this group was not seen as such a massive threat to our interests. We know this group has a lot of well educated westerners within it, that indeed they recruit for such as much as locals. Therefore they have to understand that this sort of thing will inflame emotions and make military intervention more probable, so why then are they asking for it? There is much military wisdom in not doing what your enemy is clearly trying to get you to do, I said that about GWB and the 2003 shift in focus to Iraq instead of following through with Afghanistan (where I still believe that if the US had stayed there alone and done the full follow through there could not only have been a real success but a ripple effect to weaken such forces, instead of the strengthening we saw as a result of doing what bin Laden clearly wanted from the US with Iraq), and I think this is something that has not gotten anywhere near the serious consideration it needs in this case.

I also recognize the difference that while ISIS/ISIL is using terrorist tactics yet it is still more than a terrorist group, it is an insurgency, and that is an important distinction to be making. This is a group that wants to become a real government, it means that to really defeat them will take far more than military action but serious political/diplomatic action, and there Canada could have been vital in laying the groundwork in that area, and I think that was where Trudeau was making the most sense to me.

I find it interesting to note that both sides are using that Goering quote against us. The Harper side is obvious and other have dealt with it before so I won't rehash it here at the moment. However, the point I was making about the use of youtube and the handful of western beheadings ISIS/ISIL has been releasing is also clearly being used to create that effect in countries like ours, which is why I said it is clear to me they want military action from us, and when your enemy wants something so obviously is it really the wisest course to give it to him?

So that is where I am at the moment. I am very disturbed by how poorly I find this issue being examined given the level of obviousness of ISIS/ISIL in trying to provoke this exact response. I am also bothered by no one being able to show the actual real threat in real terms to western nations by this group. I know there is some threat posed, if only by their destabilizing effect in an oil rich part of the world, but in terms of direct security threat, that I have seen a remarkable dearth of credible information, and that also troubles me. This time I think the Opposition parties are right to vote against this action (and I am far from a dove, I have strong military history within my family, would have been reserve in my youth save for a disqualifying injury in my late teens) and that currently the Liberals (much to my surprise) are actually closest to where I am on this issue at this time, something I did not expect, and has actually increased my respect for Trudeau in this issue. He was smart enough to to not freeze his position too soon, he showed nuance, yet he also in the end stuck up for the role which in this conflict I think we would be best serving our national interests as well as those of those suffering on the ground.

This is a very complex and nuanced issue and deserved far better treatment than this government has given to it, not just on the political aspects but the substantive as well. As I said, much to my surprise over the past month Trudeau navigated the substance of this issue far better and closer to my own preferences than I expected to see from him (and I am one that was not offended by his comment regarding whipping out F-18s the other day, it was clear to me he wasn't trying to make a joke or be funny but to make a policy point/critique in a fairly blunt and direct manner, something a bit different than just a joke, and I went and watched the relevant material multiple times before I came to this degree of belief as to what he was doing), and his party is in my view making not just the right decision but also for the right reasons. Imagine that.

I hadn't meant to go on quite so much on Trudeau, I only did so because for me at the moment he is of the three main leaders making the most sense on this issue (May is also providing serious sense on this front, but being such a tiny party leader gets little coverage and carries negligible impact unlike the big three) to me since it first started becoming a serious political issue in this country some weeks back. I've been relatively quiet to date because like Trudeau I was waiting to see what was actually being proposed, and issues like this I take seriously and tend to try to stay away from discussing only in political/partisan terms because of that (mind you the political partisan games Harper clearly has been playing is I believe unheard of in our history for such an issue).

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