Monday, 13 October 2014

Why bomb the Islamic State?

Last week, my friend Daryl posted the following comment on his Facebook page, along with a link to an editorial from the Sun (the Canadian Sun News Network, not any other Sun).  I've decided to share Daryl's question and my response here, and open this conversation up for input from my legion of fans.

Daryl's original comment:

I'm curious. I know I have Left wing friends, and I know I have hawkish left wing friends too who are big on law, order, and good government. Why do you suppose this opposition exists here? Are the Liberals and NDP speaking truly on your behalf? And if so, why would you oppose Canada getting involved in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/whatever they are calling themselves this week? On the surface I understand why my dove left wing friends don't want to get involved, it's way over on the other side of the world and why should Canadian soldiers die for a cause that Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian soldiers should be fighting instead. Sure. Why not. I agree, the weak shouldn't be made to fight, they suck at it. But I don't get my hawkish left wing friends (as I described) being opposed to getting involved.... or is your opposition more of a go big, or don't go at all sort of thing?

I replied as follows:

Hi, Daryl

I saw your request for comments on Canada’s plan to bomb IS in Iraq and possibly Syria from ‘left wing’ friends.  The whole left wing/right wing or wherever on the political spectrum thingie can be somewhat subjective, but I assume that from your perspective I fall in the left wing category, so I’ll take a stab at offering my thoughts on the matter.

I originally thought of posting this to your Facebook timeline, but quickly ruled that out.  I don’t have time to hang out on fb and respond in a timely way to comments on my comments.  I noticed that your commentators were getting belligerent in defending their viewpoints, and it appeared to me that some commentators were deliberately (mis)interpreting comments through the lens of their own biases.  

I may have it wrong here, but it seemed that your initial question was based on a bit of a fallacy, and I certain did not agree with Mr McCullough’s opinion piece.

1.  The Liberals and the NDP are not necessarily pacifists.  These parties supported sending Canadian warplanes to bomb Muammar Qadafi’s forces in Libya a few years back.  I think the opposition to the government’s proposal says much about the government’s heavy handed approach to almost every area of policy since it won a majority of the seats in the House of Commons in 2011.  On this particular issue, the NDP proposed an amendment that was categorically rejected by government MPs before the government’s proposal was put to the vote.  If the government completely rejects suggestions from across the aisle, why should opposition MPs turn around and support the government?  

2.  On to specifics.  The government has decided to send 6 warplanes to provide aerial support to whoever it is on the ground fighting IS. To me, it appears that this is an attempt by the Government of Canada to show that we are going to “do something”, without regard to what “something” is, or if it is effective or (as I suspect) counterproductive.  IS wants Western powers to unite, send in military force which will then kill civilians in their area of control, so they can rant about “crusaders’ coming to get them and create a reason for muslims to rally around the black flag.  Dropping bombs WILL kill civilians - just look at what happens when Israel goes after Hamas.  Certainly to me it seems that we should not fight IS by doing exactly what they want.

3.  Prior to the debate in Parliament, there were reports of Canadian operatives active on the ground in Iraq.  I assume that these operatives were JTF types - and to my mind, JTF, SAS, SEALS, and other special forces are more effective than launching HE munitions from aircraft.  They will support the local fighters on the ground directly, provide training, backup and maybe even a bit of spine to the locals when needed.  They will be better able to distinguish between friend, foe and local farmer/grandma/other civilian.  Better to have SF on the ground than RCAF in the air.

4.  Other than the Kurds and what’s left of the Iraqi army, who is on our side on the ground?  Turkey isn’t involved, yet - they’re not about to support Iraqi Kurds in case it encourages Turkish Kurds.  We can’t distinguish between good Syrian rebels and bad Syrian rebels, and we’re ought not to be supporting Bashir Al-Assad’s forces after condemning them for the past bunch of years.  We’re not ready to make friends with Iran, even though the Iranians are probably more worried about the IS nut bars than we are.  We’re too busy shaking our fists at Russia to make an effort to bring them on side.  Basically, we need allies on the ground, LOCAL allies, and there are far too few of the ‘goods allies in the area  make a difference against IS.

5.  While the Syrian civil war has been raging for years, there has been a massive dislocation of Syrian civilians.  There are HUGE numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.  We can make a meaningful contribution to their lives by providing support, especially in Jordan.  Why not take the money that would otherwise keep 6 CF-18s and 600-odd CF ground and air crew function in their undisclosed location, and use it instead to help these refugees.  It would create more goodwill, both with the refugees (who for the most part just want to go home) and with the countries hosting those refugees (who are our potential allies against IS).

6.  In the meantime, we don’t seem to have a meaningful idea of how we;re going to help the people in West Africa fight Ebola.  We should be sending them support so that this outbreak can be contained there before it spreads.

7.  It seems that IS is recruiting Canadians.  We can do more by tracking Canadians leaving the country - we don’t even interview people leaving Canada which is common practice in other countries - I’ve been interviewed by Immigration officials when leaving Afghanistan, Australia and other countries.  Setting up an exit interview would allow immigration officials to verify that visitors have left the country, and for Canadians leaving, they’d get at least the first destination that potentially radicalized Canadians are visiting, even if these potential jihadis are smart enough not to hand over their entire itineraries.  Extra police work at home can help stem the flow of recruits to IS, which again will be a greater benefit to the battle against them than dropping bombs on cities in Iraq and Syria that IS has occupied.

8.  Legally, what is our basis to go and bomb the crap out of another country?  We have no treaty obligations (unless IS is foolish enough to attack our NATO ally Turkey).  I don’t think that the UN Security Council has addressed this as yet, or even been asked to sanction the activity.  Is it just because IS has issued threats?  Done horrible things?  We’ve ignored horrible behaviour before (Rwanda, Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Sierra Leone, etc) so what makes IS different?

I could keep going, but it’s late, I’m next up for feeding Erik and I need to get some sleep or i won’t be able to keep up with Arthur in the morning.


As you can see, I kind of ran out of steam toward the end.  If anyone cares, I could expand my opinion on any of the items I've presented above, and would be interested in anyone who wishes to refute them.



  1. Why a bomb calling Islamic?
    Dear Sir.
    The term Islamic Bomb having assumed a general and universal notoriety throughout the world and having appeared both in the world press and publications, no appears, at least in outward appearance, to be losing its luster. But the atomic bomb having been the basic topic, it could not be safely assumed that the affair has been finished. No, but the affair will only see its end with the end of the process of the Baconian science-guided progress, (the basic cause of the appearance of the atomic bomb), without any doubt or ambiguity, in the flames of the atomic hell, that is the atomic bombs and the atomic radiations. The atomic bomb is only the one thing. Tagging it with various denominations makes not a whit of difference to its basic function. It is a hell, and calling it by different names is only a calling. It is wrong, to call it as Christian, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist bomb. Let it rather be called as Baconian bomb, the common bomb. To associate its name with any religion is a blasphemy against the religion, and therefore accountable inspite of the rational, irreligious and scientific outlook of the people of this present age. The atomic bomb is a phenomenon quite peculiarly different from the rest of the phenomena. The Christian bomb will not hesitate to kill the Christians nor will the Communist bomb ever spare the Communist. The Islamic, the Hindu, or the Buddhist bomb could not be regarded as an exception to this rule. The atomic bomb with its sophisticated name that is the nuclear bomb may be regarded as the common grave-digger of this mankind, and will not make any distinction in erecting tombstones on the graves of different peoples.
    Allama Muhammad Yousuf Gabriel
    Adara AFqare Gabriel QA Street Nawababad Wah Cantt Distt Rawalpindi Pakistan

  2. Dear sir,

    thank you for your insightful comments, however I fear you have misunderstood my original article. I wrote of the aerial bombing campaign by western nations against targets associated with the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and made no mention of the nuclear weapons program of Pakistan or any other nation.

    Best regards