Monday, October 6, 2014

Liberals potentially most vulnerable on Iraq mission vote

While MPs debate what kind of role Canada should play in the fight against ISIS, polls suggest a majority of Canadians are supportive of the country joining the United States and its coalition partners in a combat mission against the Islamic militants.

To read the rest of the article looking at what polls are saying about Canadians' views on the mission in the Middle East, visit

In the article, I briefly look at the partisan divide on the issue. I thought it might be worthwhile to explore that a little more deeply here.

The chart above comes from Abacus Data's report, breaking down responses by party support for the question of whether Canadians supported sending military advisers to Iraq.

Conservatives were the most enthusiastic, with 68% strongly or mostly in support of sending the advisers. Just 23% were in opposition.

Liberals and New Democrats saw things roughly equally, with 56% of Liberals and 55% of New Democrats in support. Opposition, at 29% and 31%, respectively, was also virtually identical.

Where opposition was strongest was among supporters of the Bloc Québécois. Just 18% supported sending the advisers, while 65% were in opposition. Greens were split, at 41% for and 34% against.

But what about sending combat aircraft, which the Prime Minister is suggesting Canada do?

We find similar divisions here, though with less agreement among Liberals and New Democrats.

Conservatives were 67% in favour of sending jets, with 25% opposed.

Liberals were also strongly in favour, with 55% in support and 36% in opposition.

A plurality of New Democrats supported sending jets, but not a majority: 49% in favour, with 39% in opposition.

Greens and supporters of the Bloc were against sending jets.

While the order of enthusiasm of the three parties does align with the views of their supporters, both the Liberals and New Democrats seem to be somewhat offside on these issues. The NDP is perhaps less vulnerable, as its supporters were the least likely to view a mission in Iraq favourably. But the Liberals may find themselves offside - their voters were only slightly less favourable to hitting ISIS than Conservatives were.

But what if respondents were given the option between a combat role, an advisory role, or no role at all? Angus Reid Global looked at this.

When given the choice, sending advisers is the preferred option by Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. But again we see the same order of intensity: the Conservatives most favourable to some sort of role, the Liberals in between, and the NDP the least enthusiastic.

Among Conservatives, fully 81% supported a role of some kind, with 55% of them preferring advisers and 45% supportive of military intervention.

Among Liberals, support for a role of some kind totaled 72%, with 58% of them favouring advisers over military intervention.

And among New Democrats, still 63% favoured a role of some kind, with 62% of them preferring military advisers. Again we see the same order of support: Conservatives most, Liberals next, NDP last.

Non-voters, interestingly, were the least supportive of any sort of mission. Perhaps if they'd like to actually have a say in whether these things happen, they should go out and vote.

The New Democrats are following their more pacifist traditions, and their supporters are the most ambivalent, so the NDP is best positioned to be the dove on this issue. But these numbers suggest that the Liberals may have been better off choosing a more moderate position on the mission in Iraq.

Whether or not Justin Trudeau has miscalculated, however, will depend on several factors: the success or failure of the mission, of course, but also whether this is an important issue to voters. The polls did not investigate this question, but we may see some fallout in the voting intentions numbers in the coming weeks.


  1. It will be interesting to see just how the public opinion polls actually work out after the House vote ??

  2. There's an interesting piece by Karl Nerenberg in from a few days ago about where the parties stand on this issue and how un/popular they percieve public support to be for Canadian involvement in Iraq vs. ISIS. Even members of the Conservative government are equivocal, which says a lot. The polls may not tell the whole story here, opposition in the form of contacts with MPs may be more determined on this issue than on many others...

  3. As you've pointed out, whether Trudeau has miscalculated or not depends on how successful the mission is. Considering that not a single one of the United States' interventions over at least the past 15 years has been a long-term success (look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria... and Ukraine for that matter), but has only led to more chaos in the regions despite vast sums of money spent, I suspect that Trudeau sees a pattern here and is looking at where the puck is GOING to be, to use a hockey analogy.

    Where he is most likely to be miscalculating is that Canadians may not find out what a mess their intervention caused before the next election. In Libya, it took a few years before the mainstream Western media finally admitted what a disaster it was - before that, they were calling the mission a huge success, even as people who were following more "marginal" news sources knew what was going on.

  4. The National Post is having a field day with the Trudeau Liberal's position on Iraq, but I don't think Trudeau's position would make the party vulnerable. I don't see anybody contimplating to vote Liberal change their mind because the party does not support another intervention in the Middle East. In fact, I don't think Liberal support would change whether the Trudeau supports Harper's mission or not. It simply is not a primary factor to most voters.

    The Liberals can potentially benefit if the campaign in Iraq becomes sluggish by next year during election time.

    Now Trudeau does have a weakness in this issue. Harper and Mulcair are much better orators on the pros and cons of the Iraq issue. This issue does make him seem like a lightweight.

    1. I'd actually say that the best leader's speech on the issue from the ones I've read has been Elizabeth May's:

      As for Liberal support changing as a result of Iraq: if Trudeau had supported it, it would have made me less likely to vote for him. Not because I support ISIS, but because NATO actions in the region to date have been a big part of the reason for the current mess, and the very first order of business should be to try to stop NATO countries like Turkey and allies like Qatar and Saudi Arabia from helping ISIS grow. Until you cut off ISIS's material sources of support (and ability to easily cross borders), bombing them would just mean that Canada is providing support to both sides of the war. It would be pointless. I'm looking for a leader who's willing to speak the truth even when it doesn't agree with the mainstream narrative.

      Joe Biden himself spoke the truth recently at a speech in Harvard (then was promptly forced to apologize):

    2. Without a question the middle east is a mess of past events. The last Iraq war indirectly led to this outcome, destabilization of Syria, but in all honesty the hodgepodge of ethic groups tossed into countries they shouldn't be in has its legacy with the post WW1 breakup of the Ottoman empire. I'd say even if ISIS the organization is defeated, the mentality of the people who support them will not be so easily changed. Something else will spring up again. I do agree with Jay though, the joke of the CF18's is likely the worst of it, should have left that alone...but also really when has postmedia ever been supportive of anything Trudeau says or does, I wouldn't expect them ever to be either. The vulnerability comes from perception of Trudeau more so than the position he is taking itself.

  5. Saw some figures on the CBC last night and Ottawa residents 85% in favor but nationally it's only 49% . So it isn't a "sure thing" with the public ??

    I think the country as a whole has just seen too much war in the last 50 years. Major war virtually every decade since the end if WW !!

    1. I think that was Jamie Watt's Political Traction segment, which tracks the 'conversation' rather than support. Shows that Ottawa is more interested in the debate than the rest of the country, rather than necessarily supportive.

    2. OK Eric that makes a sort of sense,. But since Jamie is well known Tory supporter I tend to take his stuff with a major grain of salt.

      I'll bet that if you look at left and right wing newspaper polls you will get a far better perspective!

  6. As a Liberal, I think that Justin failed on this issue. Not because of his position on the war but because of the way he spoke about it.

    He chose to fall into the Harper trap of taking a Black or White position without any Grey.

    You can be for or against it, but going all out humanitarian when we know that you cannot send aid workers in such a hostile chaotic environment makes Trudeau seemed unrealistic or just reciting lines he memorized.

    1. You can obviously work with other nations and work together as a much larger collective with Canada providing support in a non military capacity if other nations are providing a military one. If Canada did go all in on humanitarian, it wouldn't be in a vacuum, it could be in established refugee camps, providing food, etc, plenty of opportunity to do a lot of good for a lot of people in need.

  7. Or maybe Phil he is just recognizing reality ?? There is a no winner situation. Establish a cordon sanitaire and let the natives sort it out !!

  8. I cannot support more open "Western" bombing in the Middle East without any mention of nor action plan to stop the supply and support for the extremist SUNNI group ISIS from the usual suspects.

    We know Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the largest financial backers of SUNNI extremists as they are their proxy fighters against the region's Shia - which is what this conflict boils down to.

    At the same time reports show where ISIS is getting their weaponry - with these being the top five suppliers:
    1. China
    2. Soviet Union
    3. United States- from captured Iraqi equipment
    4. Russian Federation
    5. Serbia

    This call for bombing ISIS forces without any plan to confront and stop their suppliers and supporters is simply and extension of the badly conceived and executed strategy the "West" has clung onto for over a decade in addressing the unending tribal, religious and familiar loyalty conflicts in a region of the world history has shown we do not understand nor know little about.

    Rather than join in a bombing campaign that the majority of experts agree will NOT be an effective foil to ISIS, Canada could have played a more productive and meaningful role as the international voice against those "behind the scene" players.

    However, such "soft power" is unheard of in the warrior mind and fantasies of our country's current leadership.

    1. The airstrikes are working well. Far from not being effective they have limited IS' ability to expand significantly. More importantly they have kept Baghdad free of IS attacks. The West has air superiority in the region as demonstrated by the recent use of helicopter gunships. IS has limited surface-to-air capabilities and the West can continue air strike with impunity. If we fail to act now IS' capabilities may well increase.

      As much as I would like a diplomatic or soft power approach to work it simply is not in the cards. China, Russia will not take orders from the West. Serbia is a different story but, they are a bit player.

      Canada holds an obligation under the UN Declaration of Human Rights as do all the signatories. At some point a person or political party either believes in human rights or does not. If Canada is not willing to send resources to a conflict zone where we know genocidal acts as well as other human rights abuses are being committed then, we abrogate our place in the civilised world and reject human rights teachings. We become little more than passive enablers.

    2. With the exception there are many instances when these things have been ignored, from Rwanda to Cambodia and current happenings in China or North Korea without much call to war to protect those people. The battles for human rights and protection of peoples varies widely in terms of how they are actually applied and the principles are quite flexible in which nations actually do take a stand.

      That is not to say ISIS should be ignored or isn't quite horrid its just hard to say that the rights of Iraqis is a moral stand everyone should stand up for while ignoring the plight of North Koreans, the Sudanese, or even the Ukrainians. As James posts previous the real long term plan there needs to be more than just destroying ISIS, as another entity will eventually spring up in its place.

      Obviously every instance and region is unique but a moral argument for war in one case seems weak when many other instances of violations of human rights continue without calls for war or even much mention by the government, media etc.

    3. Canada was already an enabler in Ukraine when the government there decided to solve its political conflict by bombing civilians and causing nearly a million people to flee to Russia (according to the UN).

      If that didn't cause Canada to abrogate its place in the "civilised world", maybe that world is not so "civilised" after all, and ethnic cleansing is okay when it's the right people being ethnically cleansed.

    4. James: the report you're quoting (which is very brief, by the way) is here:

      It says that the Russian-sourced ISIS weapons were either captured from the Syrian army (which is to be expected) OR, and this is interesting, are from a brand that the US buys from Russia to resell to its Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from whom it somehow ends up in ISIS's hands.


    5. bede, your talking points bear an uncanny likeness to the government's, and I can't help wondering about your independence...

      Anyway, some good points made here by James, Carl and ESN. I'd like to add a few notes. ISIS is made up to a large extent of former members of the US-trained Iraqi military, disaffected by the disintegrating situation in Iraq, many of these people were happily non-religious until a short while ago. There are also former members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who, of course, were also essentially founded by the US (and its moral allies, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc.) going back the 1980s. In the current circumstances, the only group that has been militarily successful against ISIS are the Kurds, most notably those in Kobani and now, without any support from outside forces (like the US, etc.), soon to be engulfed by ISIS. But the Kurds have a strong contingent of leftists/progressives, and it's undoubtedly on the minds of many (Obama, Assad, Netanyahu, al-Abadi...) that it would be very convenient to let ISIS slaughter them all and deal with the killers later, rather than risk letting a genuinely populist force gain a moral and practical victory in defeating ISIS largely by themselves. As for the ISIS weapons, it turns out that about 25% of them are indeed US-made, as you would expect for former members of the Iraqi army. Finally, you have to judge proposals for action by their likely outcome. In the case of military action "against ISIS" (a loaded proposition in itself), there's no question - given the ample evidence of Western military actions in the region for the last 25 years - that military strikes now will make the situation worse. There was no sectarian strife in Iraq until the US occupation stirred it up. Every importation of military materiel has resulted in the spread of weaponry throughout the region, intensifying conflicts and arming groups that would otherwise have been comparatively harmless. And now we have Hilary Clinton and others offering an endless war in the region. In fact, the US-led airstrikes have been designed to prolong the conflict, rather than shorten it - the Kurds have been asking for airstrikes on ISIS targets at the front lines, notably tanks, instead, the US has attacked (usually empty) offices alleged to have been occupied by ISIS. To be sure, maybe the US doesn't have the cynicism to be trying to prolong he conflict, in which case they are simply arrogant and incompetent. And these are also not mutually exclusive possibilities. The upshot, Canada has no business getting involved. It's morally, militarily, politically and pragmatically indefensible. And just a reminder, we're talking about UNexpendable civilian lives here, our country's actions should be governed accordingly.

    6. Carl,

      To justify non-intervention by acknowledging the West has not responded to every humanitarian or human rights abuse is to miss the point: At the moment the West has the ability to prevent thousands if not millions of deaths and hopefully prevent genocidial actions from occuring in Northern Syria and Iraq. A more indepth reading of history would indicate western involvement in Rwada, Cambodia, North Korea etc...We may not invade China , Russia or North Korea but, we do impose restrictions upon them and through diplomatic and other channels, we support opposition movement even in an informal way such as the de facto recognition of the Dalai Lama as a head of state in many Western countries or support for the umbrella movement in Hong Kong.


      Your criticism against Canada is toally misplaced. Russia invaded Ukraine! Vladimir Putin is on record threatening to capture Kiev in two days. I can not speak toward the military initiatives of the Ukrainian Government but, I think fairly dramatic evidence exists that Russia is the agressor in that particular conflict. An impression reinforced by Russia militiamen shooting down a Malaysian jetliner.

    7. The Malaysian airliner may or may not have been shot down by “Russian militiamen”, but no investigation has been concluded. Certainly, Western governments were quick to conveniently pin the blame on Russia or pro-Russian forces, yet as bits of information trickled in from the scene - impeded by Ukrainian government forces and their (notably neo-Nazi) proxies – it became harder to support the claim and the story has simply disappeared from the news. In fact, there’s considerable evidence that it was members of the Ukrainian military that shot down the plane, possibly while drunk. Furthermore, Russia had no motive for shooting down the plane, and, as Putin would have understood, to do so would only put Russia in a worse situation – as has happened following the Western claims of their responsibility. Until an investigation has been completed, it’s irresponsible – or worse – to blithely claim that Russia is responsible for the downing. Volatile and dangerous situations like this require even more than the usual restraint and rationality demanded of honest political analysis. (Incidentally, back around 2001 the Ukrainian government shot down a Russian passenger jet, that was flying from Tel Aviv to Siberia. That was an accident, and it reinforces the idea that competence is always a factor to be considered.)

    8. chirumenga,

      It is shocking that leftists such as yourself would disregard some of the Global Left's greatest accomplishments for partisan reasons. This was a party that at least feigned support for human rights, human dignity and justice. It was a party that had the title "the conscience of Parliament". The crisis in Iraq has sadly demonstrated that both the Liberal party and NDP have lost their moral compass and no longer understand right and wrong. They care not for the little guy overseas their love is solely placed in the hands of domestic pollsters.

    9. I am not using it to justify non-action, I am pretty sure I have not actually taken any side (for or against). I am merely pointing out the weakness of using morality alone to justify action itself. Maybe I am not understanding your thought process enough, but it seems to me that you are suggesting that if we value human rights war is the only possible option. Would other actions be good enough in your mind in this case?

      By your own comments though there are obviously other alternatives that can be applied without calls for war, like with China or Russia because obviously going to war with them will kill millions in the process. If the only reason you favor war in this case because it is so easy to win?

    10. @bede "Russia invaded Ukraine!"

      The only proven "invasion" so far has been in Crimea, where not a single person died and 83% of eligible voters then came out to vote for joining Russia (a result in line with prior opinion polls). It seems that Crimeans are happy with what happened, so what's the problem? That it was illegal under Ukraine's constitution? But Ukraine's constitution was already broken, because Yanukovich was removed illegally (they didn't have enough votes in the Rada to constitutionally remove him).

      "Vladimir Putin is on record threatening to capture Kiev in two days."

      He said that he COULD, which is only accurate. He said it to a European diplomat in a private conversation. Note that he hasn't done it yet.

      "I can not speak toward the military initiatives of the Ukrainian Government but, I think fairly dramatic evidence exists that Russia is the agressor in that particular conflict."

      The aggressors were the new Kiev government and the EU, who signed an agreement with Yanukovich in which early elections were supposed to take place, then turfed him out of office the very next day after they signed it (supposedly because a massacre that Yanukovich ordered, though it is now known that the snipers were firing from a rebel-owned building, and that they killed people from both sides).

      After this happened, people in East Ukraine took over government buildings and demanded autonomy - EXACTLY as the Maidanites had done in Western Ukraine months earlier. No difference!

      This time, though, the new Western-backed Kiev government responded to this mirror-image of how they themselves got into power by sending neo-fascist gangs to terrorize the people and fighter aircraft to bomb their cities, causing thousands of civilian deaths and irreplaceable loss of infrastructure. They were not attacked; they went on the offensive!

      I wonder at the international reaction if Canada had decided to do that in Quebec.

      At first, the people of Donbass were only asking for the federalization of Ukraine - which Russia also supported. Now, the fighters there say that they can never live under a united Ukraine again after what has happened. And the EU and Russia are supporting a plan for the federalization of Ukraine. So what was the war for?

      "An impression reinforced by Russia militiamen shooting down a Malaysian jetliner."

      They probably didn't - notice how the media went very quiet about it all of a sudden? I wonder why. I also wonder why the Americans don't release their satellite images, despite having a spy satellite over the exact area that the crash happened (the Russian military did release satellite images, and, surprise-surprise, they implicate Ukraine). But if it WAS the rebels' fault, it would have been accidental. They had absolutely nothing to gain from it, and a lot to lose. At the time it happened, the rebels were winning - after it happened, Ukraine regained the initiative for a few weeks, before losing it again. Ukraine refused to allow inspectors to the crash site by starting a huge military operation in the area right after the crash. The rebels were trying to declare a truce in the area to allow inspectors to come in. As usual, Western news media did not mention this.

    11. In general, most of us have a very poor idea of what is going on in Ukraine - almost all of the real decisions and actors are hidden. I will tell a little story to illustrate:

      Two weeks after the MH-17 crash, CNN reported that Ukraine had fired nuclear-capable ballistic missiles at the rebels, in a "major escalation of the conflict":
      Then... nothing. No mention of them actually landing. Only rumours in some blogs about Russia shooting them out of the sky with some secret weapon ( ). Then suddenly the world media (including the Russian media) went silent about all of it. Then John Kerry was widely reported to say (but ONLY in the Russian news) that the Ukrainians were ready to immediately cease all hostilities ( ). People wrote editorials about what it meant. Then the next day, the editorials vanished, Kerry's statement apparently never existed, and the Western world adopted heavy sanctions against Russia, which were first reported to last for 3 months, and then a year.

      Weird, eh? What do you think happened? A nice little puzzle for future historians.

      Now, here's another example: there are rumours floating that when the whole separatism movement in Eastern Ukraine started, it was being pushed by Rinat Akhmetov (the big oligarch there) as a way to have a bargaining chip with other major oligarchs in Kiev (Poroshenko, Kolomoisky). Akhmetov's plan was supposedly to gain a little fiefdom for himself (like Kolomoisky now has in the Dnietropetrovsk region), but, by controlling the situation, make sure that the East stays within Ukraine. However, other people took the idea seriously, and some of "the rabble" started calling for all the oligarchs to leave (just like they had on the Maidan), even as the DPR government announced that no oligarch's assets would be seized. Things really came to a head when DPR Defence Minster Igor Strelkov and his men, who everyone thought were going to be destroyed by Kiev in Slavyansk, instead escaped to Donetsk. Immediately, many of the top figures in the supposedly anti-Kiev Donetsk People's Republic stepped down from their posts or fled to Kiev. And immediately after that, Kiev became a lot more aggressive, and the war became much more intense. Seems like somebody lost control of the situation. Today, Strelkov has been forced to leave the Donbass and is in Russia accusing "people around Putin" of being traitors, and warning that the ceasefire will not last (the Russian mainstream media is generally ignoring him).

      Basically, it seems that in Donetsk, having traitors in the leadership may have been what was preventing all-out war. As soon as the traitors had to leave, that war came.

      Similarly, it seems to me quite likely that the only reason NATO is not in an all-out war with Russia yet is because NATO can still influence the situation from within Russia. So, I'm not worried yet. But I'm really afraid about what our leaders are going to do if they ever begin feel that the situation there is beyond them.

  9. Canada's proposed 6 month CF-18 mission is ancillary at best in military terms. We will not make a large difference in the tactical situation on the ground.

    What is more important is that we stand with our allies against Islamic militants moving forward. Anyone who wants to deny the religious flavour of IS (the name kinda gives it away) ought to watch the VICE news reports from Syria/Iraq. These people are telling the West their motivations. I, for one, believe them and their actions speak louder than words.

    The Kurdish people are a very moderate group of predominantly Sunni muslims. They deserve our protection. The idea that they could defeat IS on their own does not comport with the facts. They were pushed out of Mosul, and had tens of thousands of civilians helplessly stranded on a mountaintop before the U.S. finally intervened.

    The Kurds are an obvious ally in the fight for the heart of Sunni Islam, and leaving them to their own devices would show an unfortunate lack of moral backbone.

    No, we will never be able to kill every bad person in the world, but that shouldn't stop us from making a start. I fail to understand how otherwise liberal-minded people balk at fighting a group like ISIS with military force. It should be obvious to all by now that they must be stopped. IMHO those against military intervention against ISIS now would not support any type of military action at any time against anyone. This type of pacifist is not the moral paragon he/she believes themselves to be, but rather a moral weakling who will never stand for what is right.

    While thinking in terms of good and evil is not very productive, there is a good amount of truth in the sentiment of Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men to do nothing.".

    1. "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men to do nothing." But it does not follow that to do something necessitates a military operation. There are other things that can be done. Here's another quote, applicable to virtually any situation, but particularly crises : First, do no harm. (probably Thomas Inman, but often attributed to Hippocrates).

    2. I should clarify one thing. I think there's an argument for military intervention in this case - but with very specific and explicit limits. What seems to be happening is that Turkey and the US are taking advantage of the ISIS move against the Kurdish stronghold in Kobani, intentionally allowing ISIS to destroy the most significant thorn in the side of Turkey. (And incidentally, Kobani has been at the centre of the most democratic, secular and egalitarian political entity in the Middle East). ISIS forces around Kobani are exposed and vulnerable but have suffered zero attacks from Western forces, who are busy launching airstrikes against civilian enclaves and abandoned offices of ISIS. Support for the Kurds ought to start here. But when it comes to proposed Canadian involvement, I do not want us to undertake military actions for one reason in particular: the Harper government can be trusted to make a complete mess of it. They are willfully ignorant of world affairs, they are slavishly devoted to an imagined US foreign policy that is even more extreme and aggressive than the really existing one, and their motives are as far from humanitarian as can be.

    3. Chimurenga,

      Come on! US foriegn policy is pretty benign at the moment and if you believe Harper's interpretation of this policy is more extreme than reality then Harper will display less interventionist tendencies than Obama. Harper et al. are not willfully ignorant of world affairs Canada has a sophisticated intelligence gathering community that cooperates with our allies to collect and interpret data. Harper has engaged with Europe and South Korea to sign trade agreements and Jamiaca to set up a RCN station on the Island. Canada has sent humaniotarian relief to post-Earthquake Japan and Haiti. Even if Harper was "willfully ignornat" that is why Canada has a foreign service. Trained professionals whose sole purpose is to keep the Government informed and handle international relations. As for criticising harper for not having humanitarian motives-that is simply wild speculation on your part. Should we criticise the CCF for not having "huimanitarian motives" for their pacifist stance during the Second world War? Or the NDP of today for voting against military action? where is Mulcair's humanity does he simply want the Kurds and Yazidis to die at the hands of IS? Your last comment is simply non-useful hyperbole.

      If not military operations what? It's great to say other options may exist but, what are they? We could close our embassy in Saudi Arabia and Qatar but, the effect on the ground will be negligebile. We could drop humanitarian aid but, we run the risk of the aid falling into the hands of IS.

      As fior Kobani I have also read reports of IS troops massing with apparent impunity while coalition air forces did nothing. However, these were reports from civilians in Kobani and while they may be telling the truth verfication of the facts is often missing. We also do not hear the other side of the story perhaps, the USAF had a very good reason to wait. It is a chaotic war zone so it is best to treat most reports with a grain of salt.

    4. North Korea kills more people (nearly entirely for political reasons and sometimes just as barbaric though at least does not post videos about it) on an annual basis than ISIS does, is just as fanatic and I am still waiting for the moral calls to war against them. Thats the problem I have with using a moral justification in this case while ignoring so many others. I am only saying that this type of argument is really weak because its so obviously not applied with any consistent basis by western countries.

      The better questions to ask and wonder about are what James posted above, dropping the bombs and defeating ISIS on the battle field is relatively easy. Stopping another entity from forming again is much harder. Feeding people and helping refugees when fighting stops is going to be equally important. The work needed in the aftermath of the war is going to far exceed the fighting...or another cycle of the same thing will happen again.

    5. I've seen that they've been hitting Kobani today. I don't know what took them so long, but I don't ascribe the nefarious motive to Obama that you do in an earlier post.

      I think we start from a strong point of agreement about respect for the Kurdish people. You seem open to helping them in this case, but don't trust the government. I think that a poor reason as it is the military that will be handling the war effort, not Harper.

      The mission is fairly well defined. Six months of airstrikes to show our solidarity, help degrade IS and halt their advance. We will see where to take it from there.

      I'd also like you to know that I appreciate that some civilians will die in these actions. There are definite costs to doing this. IMO the costs of inaction far outweigh the risks of acting. Letting the IS run rampant in the region is really not a viable option.

      I hope to live to see the day of an independent Kurdistan spanning parts of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Pipe dream?
      Maybe so, or maybe some good can come of all this in the end. Time will tell.

    6. A Kurdistan would be ideal, as much as any group of people seeking their own independence should be granted it if a majority wishes it. I really do not see any of the countries which host Kurdish populations granting them it willingly though. Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Syria seem most unwilling types. Though in practice Iraq and Syria might not be able to do anything about it if they declared themselves more than an autonomous region.

    7. Carl,

      Of course North Korea does create attrocities. A moral argument does exist for a war to remove the regime but, realpolitik cautions against such a move.

      In the first place the scale of executions v. IS murders are not comparable. North Korea executes somewhere between <100-.>1200+ people per year. Although verifiable statistics are hard to come by. IS has murdered 24,000 people according to the UN in the first 8 months of 2014.

      We have a moral obligation against IS because the cost is minimal. The lives saved will greatly outnumber the lives lost. This is essentially the same argument in favour of progressive taxation; the cost to the rich is minimal so they should pay more because their taxes will disproportionately help the less well off.

      The likely outcome of conflict with North Korea is a war costing hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives- it is cost prohibitive.

      We of course do put pressure on North Korea by limiting trade and through diplomatic channels. One of the reasons the West does not do more is because in the opinion of most Western observers the NK regime and country are on the verge of collapse. Why risk millions of lives when "nature" will do the work for you?

      Western powers may not be consistent in their application of moral justifications for war. However, the West's lack of consistency is not a reasonable argument for standing idly by while attrocities that can be prevented take place. If you see a house on fire should you refrain from calling 911 because when the last house in town burned down you didn't call 911? The moral argument exists here and now because Western powers are able to make a difference both in containing IS and delivering humanitarian aid and security to refugees and minority groups. The cost to the West is very low both in terms of manpower, potential casualties and other costs.

      James does pose good questions and the answer is very simple. The West is positioning the Iraqi government, the Kurdish gopvernment and anti-Assad-anti-IS Syrian forces to fill the void. Will this division of territory prevent a future war or prevent a future terrorist group emerging is difficult to say but, at least with the Kurds and Iraq we have willing partners. There is a reasonable expectation that the Kurds and Iraqis can provide stability over a wide area of territory. The situation in Syria is far more fluid, however, the West obviously wants a counter-balance to both al-Assad and IS. whether this counter-balance exists is difficult to know

      I am fairly confident we will see a Kurdish state within the medium term. The Peshmerga have fought bravely against IS and our the only reason Baghdad has not fallen to IS. With the potential loss of Syria Iran is running out of allies a buffer state of Kurdistan may well be in their interests. Although Turkey and Iran may not be in favour of Kurdistan an argument exists that a Kurdish state may relieve pressure for these two countiries. After 100 years of waiting would Kurds risk it all just to obtain marginal pieces of territory from Turkey and Iran? Of course the Kurds would need to negotiate with Iraq particularly oil rights and reserves but, there are many reasons to think now may be an opportune moment to reach a compromise among all the major parties concerned.

  10. I feel the need to vent a little about Mr. Trudeau's position on the matter. I have a good respect for Phil S's view that humanitarian aid must be coupled with military security for humanitarian workers. Many who are left-of-centre never grasp (or admit) this reality. Kudos to you good sir!

    I have much less respect for Trudeau's position which amounts to riding the coattails of others military might, while patting themselves on the back for how good and pacifistic they are.

    A good point was also made by Andrew Coyne recently about the Liberal (and NDP) position of opposition to air strikes while providing munitions to groups such as the Kurds,

    "Indeed, who is likely to take more care to minimize civilian deaths, the Iraqi irregulars we would be equipping with grenades and rocket launchers, or highly trained RCAF pilots operating under the laws of war?"

    This is a salient point to the armchair moral warriors. Does distancing ourselves from actual bloodshed in this manner make us more moral, or less so?

    Finally Trudeau's recent quote about, "trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are." is beyond the pale. I try not to let emotions guide me when evaluating potential PMs but this really pisses me off.

    Dick jokes about this? Really Justin? Up to this point I've viewed Trudeau as clueless and naive. I am now starting to view him as reprehensible and callous. I shudder to think what our foreign policy might resemble should this idiot lightweight become our PM.

    1. Sending a couple warplanes is not military might, its a minor contribution...generally speaking Canada does not have any military might so we always ride on others coattails by your definition.

      More importantly though one could ask, in what way can Canada help the people dealing with ISIS the most? We could send 6 planes bombing targets or we could send a couple warships firing missles or use them to replace american ships in other locations allowing them more tactical flexibility. We could send food relief, aid workers to refugee camps in Turkey to provide medical care or accept refugees into Canada itself....etc

      Personally I would not be so quick to denigrate people who believe there are better way to help people around the world than just bombing or going to war. Obviously you can do both at the same time, as any war will leave thousands of non military problems to deal with anyway.

    2. I think you missed my point. I admitted that in tactical terms Canada's contribution would be small.

      In strategic terms we have more to offer. When countries with leadership as diverse as Canada and France both back the U.S in this manner it offers credibility for the military action in the international community.

      To straddle the fence and say that while military action might be justified but Canada ought not get involved is a defensible position, but in my view a callow one.

      By helping as we can, and getting our hands dirty we show solidarity with the Kurds and the Americans in a way that would not be achieved by humanitarian efforts alone.

      As you rightly point out, these options are not mutually exclusive.

  11. For all of us just remember ONE thing. If Isil does cross the border into Turkey, as seems likely, then that is a NATO member attacked by a non-NATO group.

    That means ALL NATO members are at WAR !!

    1. We owe Turkey nothing, they actually made things worse due to their inaction and their involvement of supplying weapons to anti-Assad rebels in Syria two years ago who happened to include ISIS.

      Turkey has no intentions of helping the Kurds.

    2. They have their own "Kurdish" problem so to speak so I agree they would do very little unless forced to help by the US.

  12. Basically and in fact the parties voted as they said they would. With a majority govt you can't expect anything else.

    But the Libs and NDP said they would vote against and did. Kind of an odd split from the Greens ?

    Otherwise nothing unexpected.

  13. I'd like to retract calling Mr.Trudeau an idiot earlier. Even if I might think that, it's not a good look to come out and say it like that. I will do better in the future. I appreciate Eric letting it slide this time. I stand by the rest of the comment.


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