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The Confused Support for a Timid Coalition

air strikesIn today’s paper, Sun News columnist Lorne Gunter spelled out the futility of the American-led air-strike campaign against ISIL. As far as he went, the analysis by Mr. Gunter was somewhat accurate although he continues to cling to the absurd idea that what he refers to as ‘serious’ air strikes might work. A tepid military response is not going to defeat or even contain ISIL and anything less than a well-planned and coordinated full military campaign which by necessity will include combat ground troops, artillery and tanks is doomed to fail

In the end, the Coalition of the Unwilling that the Obama Administration has cobbled together will be confronted with the harsh choice of either packing up their tents and going home or committing to putting combat troops on the ground to deal with an enemy that has grown stronger and even more dangerous.

There was something else about Mr. Gunter’s piece that got under my hat.

There wasn’t a word – not one word – in his piece criticizing the Harper Government for doing exactly the same thing for which he is criticizing the Obama Administration. Readers who left comments agreed with Mr. Gunter even as they too managed to skillfully avoided any criticism of our own government for jumping on board the campaign they criticize.

How is it possible to condemn the lack of effective military strategy by the American government while supporting the Canadian government as it contributes to that failed strategy? Please tell me it isn’t because Obama is a Democrat (liberal) and Harper is a conservative.

There is no room for political partisanship or expediency when nations are facing war with a radical threat like the one ISIL represents.

Since the air strikes began, ISIL has continued to expand across Syria and Iraq even as the Coalition of the Hesitant engaged in highly selective ‘tank plinking’ as Mr. Gunter refers to it. Individual trucks and tanks are attacked while major ISIL munitions depots, infrastructure it controls and military installations are all but ignored.

It is war elevated, or perhaps more accurately lowered, to the level of a video game.

ISIL is now on the outskirts of Baghdad and threatening to overrun Kobane in Syria on the border with Turkey. It has a firm hold on Anwar province and is continuing both its ground offensive and effective use of social media to recruit new soldiers.n_67670_1

By contrast, the Coalition of the Unwilling is dithering; unwilling to commit to doing what is necessary, where it is necessary, to effectively eliminate the threat that ISIL represents. Instead, it falls back on political illusions that are as dangerous as ISIL itself.

It has destroyed some tanks, killed a few of the enemy but has no coordinated strategy to defeat or even to degrade the enemy let alone to effectively support the Kurdish ground forces in Syria. When it had the opportunity to inflict serious damage on ISIL before it attacked Kobane, it demurred. Indeed, most members of the Coalition refuse to even enter Syria where ISIL is most active. How coalition leaders expect to degrade or contain ISIL when they aren’t even showing up for the conflict continues to elude me.

The Law of Unintended Consequences has also come into play as Turkey, a member of NATO and what Stephen Harper refers to as one of our “allies and partners” not only refuses to support the Coalition against ISIL – it has attacked our other “ally and partner”, the Kurds who are doing the heavy lifting in combatting the Islamist threat.

Coalition leaders who are usually quick to offer up considerable belicose rhetoric against aggressors, if nothing else, have remained silent about Turkey’s action for the most part. But then, it does becomesa tad challenging when one partner and ally they are sworn to defend attacks another partner and ally they desperately need to do the ground fighting against ISIL.

Canada hasn’t even fully deployed and the situation has evolved dangerously. We’ve been busy and only just managed to end the bureaucratic dispute between Treasury Board and the Department of Defense over the procurement of missiles for the Iraq mission. You won’t find much criticism in the media about that – they’re all too focused on Justin Trudeau’s last comments, whatever they were.

What an amateur hour!

Over the past week, opponents of Canada’s involvement in the Coalition’s air campaign have been pilloried for their opposition but they were more right than the government on the issue. The air strike campaign is a considerable amount of sound and fury but not much else and it should be criticized.

The government has talked out of both sides of its mouth. It has claimed the threat ISIL presents as the justification for war but then backs into conflict to support a strategy that is not only no strategy at all but that is failing on a daily basis.

This is cynical politics at its worst; the illusion of doing something important while doing nothing much at all but at great expense and danger.

The Prime Minister has stated that ISIL is ‘direct threat’ to Canada and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has referred to it as the “great challenge” of our generation. So explain to me how sending six aging CF-18s to conduct air strikes only against minor targets in Iraq confronts the great challenge of our time or counters the direct threat to our nation?

Explain to me why so many in the media prefer to waste our time with partisan criticism of Justin Trudeau rather than informed analysis of the government’s insistence on joining a collation that can’t even agree on the fundamental objectives of the mission.

Is it a mission?  Is it a war? You get different answers on different days.

I think we may have become just a tad to fat and lazy here in the Great White North either that or the threat of winter being upon us our brains are starting to freeze up.

ISIL has declared war on us and whether we like it or not; whether our weak political leadership wants to admit it or not – we are at war. The only questions that remain are when do we go to war and how do we go to war?

Do we go at a time of our choosing? Do we go in strength and with the stated objective of defeating the enemy or do we dither and dally until they enemy having grown even stronger finally forces us to do what we have been trying to avoid?

There isn’t one – not one – political leader in the Coalition of Bluster that has any understanding of the threat we face or how to deal with it. More to the point, there isn’t one – not one – that is prepared to put politics aside to do what is required to defend his or her nation.

And what is required is leadership – real leadership – not the dangerously timid, self-serving foolishness we are being given and which is being supported by too many.

Has no one learned anything from history? Have our leaders so completely forgotten the consequences to Europe when the nations dithered while the Nazi regime strengthened its military and began invading and occupying other nations?

Don’t talk to me about how it might be worse under Justin Trudeau. Trudeau isn’t prime minister; Stephen Harper is. What Trudeau might do under similar circumstances is irrelevant. The only thing that matters today is what our current prime minister and other world leaders ‘are’ doing right now.

We can discuss how vacuous Trudeau might be when he’s in the election campaign next year. Right now, we are facing a war and we need to regain some perspective and properly focus on that.

The simple truth is that thanks to the same inept leadership that completely failed to defend Ukraine or even to help secure its territorial integrity, we are once again being led down a garden path of political expediency; a cynical attempt to avoid potential political fallout rather than stepping up to lead and defend our nations and our way of life.

Mr. Gunter and other members of the media might want to consider that the next time they choose to selectively criticize individual members of the coalition. There isn’t a statesman or genuine leader in Coalition of the Unwilling. It is nothing more than a gaggle of politicians stumbling along the path of least resistance.

Obama is only part of the problem. This coalition and its lack of coordinated military objective and strategy is a collective effort and the sooner we come to understand that and the danger it represents – the safer we may become.


© 2014 Maggie’s Bear

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Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca


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  • shaky lady

    Hey closet liberal. Do us all a favor and move your crap over to liblogs.

  • charlie98

    The US not only has no strategic plan for the Middle East but it’s constant meddling in alliances it does not understand will ultimately lead to a nuclear arms race in a region dominated by fanatics. What could possibly go wrong?

    Canada is not threatened by ISIS. Potential terrorism in Canada is not limited to ISIS. Assisting a US administration interested only in the next election will do nothing towards defeating an ideology.

    Canada should contribute nothing to this exercise in futility.

    • Bert_1

      Having ISIL fighters announce publicly that they are “coming to get you” after identifying a number of western countries, including Canada, suggests that Canada is,indeed, threatened by ISIL. These people don’t fool around. Turn your back on them and you will have your head impaled on a stake.

      If Canada contributes nothing and these people do attack us, what then? Or do you live in an area that is unlikely to be attacked so you don’t care?

      • charlie98

        As I recall Saddam Hussein claimed to have nuclear weapons and we know how that turned out.

        I live in a large city in Canada so there are lots of potential targets, not just for ISIS, but for any group willing to commit violence, or any deranged individual for that matter. I don’t advocate attempting to wipe all such people off the face of the earth. Let Canadian security forces protect Canada from within Canada and make sure border services aren’t letting easily identifiable individuals into the country.

        Participating in a skirmish without even the significance of a named military action suggests a serious lack of commitment on the part of the individual orchestrating this folly. I use the word individual deliberately since the US military would never do under their own volition what is being advocated presently.

        Why we are doing the bidding of the current US administration makes no sense to me, particularly when they are unwilling to do what is necessary themselves. Or maybe they don’t really have a legitimate nation interest but it’s all politics to show that they will do something, no matter how insignificant.

        • Bert_1

          I am not trying to suggest that ISIL is the only threat to Canada or any other country. But, they are probably the most serious threat.

          Did Saddam have nuclear weapons or other kinds of WMD’s? We don’t know and I suspect that we will never know. Assad seems to have come into a pile of chemical weapons that no one is completely sure of the origin of so there is the possibility that they were a gift from Saddam.

          As long as you look at this as doing the bidding of the US, you will never appreciate what needs to be done. ISIL doesn’t give a rat’s pettotie about you or me or whether we are Canadians, Americans or anything else. They want us dead. That, to me, is a fairly personal threat that has nothing to do with the US or any other country. For that matter, if we were to do the bidding of the US, we would stay home and sing kumbaya.

  • Stan

    Bert, do you not believe Harper or the American Republicans when they say is coming here to kill us all? If you believe it then it is not just a Syria/Iraq problem we are fighting for our own survival. The problem is that Harper’s over heated rhetoric is not matched by his actions. As a result, he seems dishonest in his assessment of the risk. If ISIS is truly a threat to Canada then our response is inadequate and dangerous. No one really believes Harper so providing 6 f-18’s is the least we can do to say we stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.

    • Bert_1

      I said “ultimately” it is an Iraqi/Syrian problem. It has not spilled over to the rest of the world yet and if we mount the proper response to it, it never will.

      No, 6 F-18’s won’t contain ISIL. But, combine them with the military hardware of a number of other nations, ISIL can and will be stopped. Go at this half heartedly and we are all dead.

      You should also stop blustering about Harper. You hate him, I get it. But bitching about him solves nothing. He is our PM and he needs our support. Partisan bickering will solve nothing – it will just make things worse. Like it or not, Harper has done an exceptional job since he became PM.

      • Stan

        I am neutral to Harper. I don’t dislike him. His military contribution does not align with the rhetoric that him and Baird put out. I deduce that he he does not think the threat is as serious as he says. The alternative is that he believes there is a major threat but is providing an inadequate response. I don’t think Harper would do that. So I am left with believing that Harper, as he always does, uses overheated rhetoric for his personal political gain.

        • Bert_1

          Harper has to balance military and political realities. Yes, ISIL poses a “clear and present danger” but the fact that you have people arguing against ANY kind of military involvement by Canada beyond humanitarian support should tell you that Harper would be committing political suicide if he called for an all-out WWII style invasion. Is that a CYA move? In a way, yes. But, if the government were to fold on a non-confidence vote at this pint, what would happen to Canada’s contribution then? We would be reduced to throwing rocks.

          So, Harper is walking a very fine line. He knows that we need to throw every piece of military hardware we have at these barbarians if we wish to stop them. At the same time, he knows that one misstep will cause the opposition to jump all over him with “I told you so’s”. His response so far has, in my opinion, been a good balance. It shows the world that we are serious in dealing with a potentially world-altering threat while, at the same time, showing that we aren’t a bunch or war mongers spoiling for a fight.

  • Stan

    George Bush’s needless war in Iraq has had many terrible consequences. Saddam was no threat to the U.S. but he was a secular strongman that kept religious nuts out and counterbalanced Iran. The U.S. wasted so much blood and treasure defeating and occupying Iraq that it can’t afford another lengthy occupation. The public’s support for such an adventure is low. The U.S. and Canada lack will and capacity to take the fight to ISIS. So what we get is Harper talking loud and carrying a very small stick. He, as he always does, manipulates perception to cover reality.

    • Bert_1

      If you want to point fingers, this whole mess is Obama’s doing. He pulled the US troops out of Iraq prematurely leaving a golden opportunity for ISIL to capitalize on. Then,when ISIL went into Syria, Obama did nothing to help Assad.

      Whether the US troops should have been in Iraq in the first place isn’t the issue. I didn’t agree with the second Gulf War either. But, Obama is the one who created the mess that we see today, not Bush or Harper.

      • Stan

        10 years and 100,000 troops was not long enough? As you say, Iraq has to solve its own problems, eventually.

        • Bert_1

          Obviously, no, it was not long enough. The problems and grievances in that region go back a long way. Many argue that this is the doing of France and England when they played the Arabs for a bunch of patsies back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

          Regardless, there is a situation that needs to be dealt with NOW. We can sort out all of the “root causes” later, if we survive.

  • Bert_1

    While it is true that ISIL cannot and will not be completely defeated without ground troops, I do not believe that ground troops are required or even advisable at this point. Just like in the first Gulf War, the response to the hostilities should begin with a concentrated air, sea and land based bombardment. No troops. Once the bombardment has had an opportunity to control the situation, then send in the troops.

    The question at that point is: Whose troops? Is it necessary to send in US or Canadian troops? I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Ultimately, this is an Iraqi/Syrian problem and they have the combat troops needed to secure a victory. Yes, they need some help but the bombardment I mentioned should be more than enough. Once that is complete, they can retake their own territory.

    • MaggiesBear

      The difference between then and now Bert is that in the Gulf War there was a coordinated strategy in place and the troops were on the ground before the first plane dropped a bomb.

      The strategy was to first use stealth bombers to blind Iraq’s radar so that it couldn’t target coalition aircraft conducting air strikes. Once that was completed, the real bombing started with strategic attacks first on air fields, command and control centres and anti-aircraft batteries. Then it moved to infrastructure targets including bridges, rail lines, and highways to disrupt supply lines. Subsequently the attacks were against any military or political installation the coalition felt was strategic. It was always recognized, however, that the air campaign was merely to pave the way for a ground invasion and it was so effective that when the troops went into combat, the Iraqi army surrendered by the thousands; in many cases without a shot being fired.

      This time the coalition is cherry picking where it will fight with Canada, France, Britain and others refusing to conduct strikes in Syria. It is, as Lorne Gunter calls it, tank plinking, attacking vehicles rather than key strategic targets. It has conducted a few hundred strikes to date and has failed to degrade ISIL in any way as is evidenced by the fact that ISIL has continued to expand in both Iraq and Syria. Now there is word they may even have found an old Iraqi chemical weapons cache. What the consequences of that may be, if any, remains to be seen but clearly it is one more indication of just how dangerous this situation is.

      I criticize the Obama Administration for its lack of thinking and leadership on this issue and clearly many others do as well. But if the strategy of the leading nation in the coalition is flawed and to be criticized then so too is the decision by any other political leader to follow blindly along.Doing less than is necessary out of political expediency in order to appear to be doing something is no better and perhaps even worse than doing nothing.

      We cannot do nothing so our options become somewhat limited. If we have to fight, then let’s go to battle with everything we need rather than tiptoeing around politics. One can’t imagine Churchill or Thatcher conducting themselves so disgracefully as the leaders of the nations in this coalition.

      If Harper had wanted to do something effective or more statesmanlike, he should have led the charge to build a broad coalition across all opponents of ISIL; a coalition that would have strong, committed international participation as in the Gulf War and a coalition that would have sent in the military power required to do more than just try to send a message.

      As I wrote in an earlier piece, there is more than enough combined military strength in the coalition nations to do that.

      Unfortunately, Mr. Harper did not do that. He chose to do what he has always done and that is to jump on board with each of Obama’s failed foreign policy initiatives from the chemical weapons issue in Syria to the betrayal of Ukraine and now to ISIL.

      That isn’t leadership Bert, that’s following the herd.

      • Bert_1

        It is recognized today that the air campaign is to pave the way for ground troops. As I mentioned above, though, precisely who those troops will be is still a question. Should it be coalition troops or can Iraq and Syria field their own troops to look after the clean up efforts? I believe that it should be the latter but I recognize that I am not a military strategist so I could be wrong.

        We can’t avoid politics. As you saw last week, there is a concerted effort on the part of both the Dippers and the Grits to keep Canada out of any hot conflict. True, Harper could take a page out of Cretin’s book and unilaterally send in the troops, but he decided to take a more democratic approach instead and debated the issue in Parliament. Regardless, the deployment of military troops into a hot zone is always a political gamble. The fact that there was a debate about it tells us there there are some people who believe that we should stay home and let the Americans fight and die for us.

        I find it odd that you accuse Harper of being an Obama puppet. It seems to me that he, more than any PM in recent history, has stood up as a Canadian and made decisions based upon Canadian needs. He criticised Obama for his inaction in both Ukraine and Iraq/Syria. He also took diplomatic steps that few western leaders were prepared to take in supporting Ukraine and opposing Hamas. He spoke the truth even though many considered the truth to be too painful to admit to. He has been very much an international statesman of the calibre rarely seen in Canadian politics. In short, he has been a leader on the world stage, not a follower.

        However, Harper also has to live in the real world. He has to recognize that Canada lacks the military might to take on ISIL or Russia. We need the Americans and, to that end, do have to follow them to a certain degree. If the Americans don’t go in, we can’t either. It is that simple. That isn’t the lack of leadership, it is the *definition* of leadership. One of the most important facets of effective leadership is effective followership.

        • MaggiesBear

          I don’t even know where to begin to reply to this. It is so full of factual error and partisan rationalization that I haven’t got the energy to even begin. But I will say this, the opposition parties opposed this mission to Iraq/Syria and so do I. It is a coalition of the futile, a horrendous waste of effort to accomplish virtually nothing. I’m tired of people carping about the Opposition. All that matters is what the government is doing and lately, it has done nothing of consequence when it comes to protecting our national interest. Rationalize that all you like but it will be too late for rationalizations in six months when we are forced to do what we should have done in the beginning.

          • Bert_1

            You should reread my response. I did not express an opinion on whether or not we should respond militarily. The closest I got to that was when I said that I don’t think that or troops would be necessary. I simply mentioned the opposition to point out that there are people on both sides of this issue. Some believe that we should go in – many believe that we have no choice but to respond militarily – and there are those such as the opposition who believe otherwise. Like it or not, any PM – Harper or otherwise – has to take that into consideration. If the majority of Canadians oppose military intervention in Iraq or Syria, then we can’t and mustn’t go.

            What are my factual errors? And, what do you think we should have done in the first place?