Monday, November 16, 2015

Bomb Until Something Happens - Even George Bush Wasn't This Stupid

As I suggested yesterday, the media is awash with demands that we go to war against ISIL (even though we're already at war with ISIL). The usual crowd of journalists and pundits are upset that Justin Trudeau might actually keep his election promise to withdraw from the bombing campaign. Reasonable statesmen change their minds in accordance with changing circumstances, they say, rubbing their chins sagely.

Actually, reasonable people don't do insane things. Reasonable people avoid making commitments to kill other people until they actually have a plan in place that has some reasonable chance of achieving a clearly defined objective. Notably, by this standard, there are almost no reasonable people in the media right now, and very few reasonable people in government.

Nowhere, in any of the condemnations of Trudeau's purported failure to demonstrate the necessary resolve, do I detect even a semblance of an actual plan. There isn't one. We are just going to bomb Syria until something happens. What that is, we have no idea. What is our goal, and how will we know when we achieved it?


When Bush invaded Iraq, he was rightly faulted for not having an adequate plan for building a successor state once Saddam had been forcibly removed. But at least he had the objective to build a successor state. We don't even have that much.

The reason ISIS exists is because Syria and Iraq are failed states. This much should be patently obvious. If they weren't failed states, they should be able to put down the rebellions within their borders. At the very least, they would be able to contain those rebellions and reduce them to underground guerrilla movements. Yet this does not happen.

So our goal now is to keep bombing ISIS. Never mind that in the process, inevitably and through no fault of anybody in particular, our bombing campaign will lead to the deaths of many more civilians than died in France.

Never mind that, in the space of a few hours, the West appears to have largely decided that the possible deaths of hundreds of thousands of refugees is acceptable not just as collateral for guarding our borders, but as revenge. Even now, it seems, my fellow Canadians are gathering their pitchforks and torches to burn down local mosques. Well done people. Incidentally, I'm sure ISIS is tickled pink that they have so easily goaded you into your starring roles in their next propaganda videos.

Let's suppose that we could bomb ISIS into oblivion. I am not at all persuaded by this, but let's suppose we could. Then, we would have no ISIS. Instead we would have a Syrian civil war, and a failed Iraqi state. Because that's what we had before ISIS emerged. The problem here isn't ISIS. ISIS is the symptom. The problem is that there are weak states who cannot control their own borders and police their own populations.

It follows, with fairly basic logic, that the best way to combat this problem long-term is to strengthen the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. But the weak regime in Baghdad is of our own making, and our official policy is still the toppling of the regime in Damascus. So we are actively committed to treating the symptom, while making the underlying disease worse.

I don't mean to suggest that there is some sort of conspiracy by the military-industrial complex here. Stupidity is a far better explanation. That's why the Toronto Star claims Canada's strategic situation has changed, when it hasn't. It's why Jason Kenney claims that the North Atlantic Treaty obligates Canada to bomb ISIS, which it doesn't. It's why Postmedia columnist Michael Den Tandt claims that as a G7 nation we are obligated to do something serious about ISIS, even though the G7 is a financial policy forum and not a mutual defence pact, and even though three of the other seven G7 countries already aren't partners in the military intervention.

ISIS is a limited threat. They do not have the resources to threaten the survival or even the prosperity of Western society. We can afford to take the time to figure out what our interests are, what are objectives should be, and what will be necessary to achieve them, instead of charging off into a poorly thought-out assault campaign that is unlikely to succeed anyways.

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