The Sun King's ambiguous nonsense:
Canadian military trainers will likely face "engagements" with enemy Islamic militants in Iraq, but that doesn't mean they're in a combat mission, the chief of the defence staff said Monday as the Liberal government finally deployed its long-awaited alternative to bombing sorties in the Middle East.
In offering his view of Canada's expanded training mission, Gen. Jonathan Vance went to some lengths to avoid contradicting his boss, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has insisted trainers would not be involved in combat.
I wonder how many of those in the Trudeau Cabinet are aware that this was precisely the rhetoric used by the Kennedy administration in deploying "advisers" to Vietnam. Knowing the caliber of Team Justin I suspect no one. Inevitable when soldiers are in a combat zone they will - spoiler alert - have to engage in combat. That is unless the government intends on deploying Canadian personnel stripped of their arms and uniform. That would make things a touch too obvious. An army without guns or uniforms, a pacifist's dream. The government is trying to have their peaceful war and fight it too. This is a contradiction that the government will strive mightily to smother over.
If the Islamic State is a threat to our national interests, so much so that money and personnel must he deployed to the region, what practical consideration argues against their use in combat roles? Are we suppose to believe that it is right and proper to train those who fight against the Islamic State, but not right and proper to fight along side our allies? If we lacked experienced combat troops that might be a sensible position, however then our value as advisers would be greatly reduced. But of course we have plenty of combat veterans recently returned from Afghanistan, indeed we have more combat veterans of that conflict than any NATO country save the United States and the United Kingdom.
We have the resources and the personnel to make a real impact in the fight against the Islamic State. But wars are messy things. Especially if you're a Liberal. There is a streak of pacifism that runs through the Canadian Left, naive and deeply foolish as always. Over the last fifty years it has become entwined with that most persistent of Canadian neurosis, our inferior complex relative the United States.
When individuals - or whole countries - are comparatively weak in terms of financial and physical strength they try to overcompensate with a type of pseudo-morality. Thus the chatter over "soft power" and "moral leadership" in the international relations journals and schools. Sure we haven't the cash or equipment to actually do anything in international affairs, nor the will to acquire the sinews of war necessary to do something, but we can sure as hell play the preaching schoolmarm to the real powers of the world. This approach accomplishes precisely nothing. It does have the added benefit of making a handful of important people in Canada feel very smug about themselves. Considering that smugness is the raison d'être of much of this country's elite, the sacrifice of our national interests seems a small price to pay.
Hard facts speak plainly: Canada is and has always been a middle power. One of the bigger middle powers but still a second tier player. Unless the population of Canada doubles in the next little while - with a commensurate increase in our GDP - we shall remain very middling into the foreseeable future. With this in mind foreign policy thinkers and practitioners from Borden through to Pearson understood that the best way for us to maintain global influence is through an Anglosphere slanted version of multilateralism, preferably with a decent military to back up our promises.
The Trudeau Family have shown themselves indifferent toward the logic of an Anglosphere multilateralist middle power. Within his first term of office the Elder Trudeau made it very clear he regarded foreign policy as a platform upon which he would pontificate to the nations. Foreign policy as moral posturing. This approach culminated with his pathetic and pointless Peace Tour of 1983. Aside from annoying the Reagan Administration it accomplished precisely nothing. Expect this same kind of smug moralizing from Trudeau the Younger in the years head.
The current approach to fighting the Islamic State can be thought of as the Liberal Way of War. Just as in domestic politics the Liberals have sought to split the difference between the NDP and the Conservatives, they repeat this compromised approach abroad. A Tory government dispatched a half-squadron of aging CF-18s as our sincere token in this fight. This at least showed a degree of seriousness and was understood as such by our NATO allies. An NDP government would have allowed what remains of the RCAF to rust into the tarmac. By way of contrast this Liberal government will fight steadfast to keep our military just ramshackle enough that it can clear the streets of Toronto in event of a large blizzard.
A Liberal military is capable of only a token tokenism. So we play teacher rather than fighter in the war against the Islamic State, so long as that thin distinction last. While that illusion survives it allows the Trudeau Government a kind of cynical moral smugness. We are doing something to fight those evil nasty Islamists, just not anything so unpleasant and dangerous as actually killing them. We fight for the right so long as that fight does not entail any actual fighting. Justin Trudeau wants his pacifist cake and to eat it too. This will last until the first Canadian returns home in a bodybag.