Monday, September 8, 2014

Harper Hypocrisy?

I got a call from a member of the Canadian media today asking me about a puzzle: after all of the hyperbole about the Russian threat, Stephen Harper committed the military resources of Canada to ... fighting the Islamic State movement in Iraq.  Canada is sending about 100 Special Operators (Canadian Special Operations Regiment) to train the Iraqis--with much (if not all) of the effort aimed at helping the Kurdish forces.  Thus far, Canada has not kicked in anything clear for the 4,000 NATO troops that are to be the very rapid reaction force to be based in Poland and the vicinity.

How can we make sense of this?  What distinguishes the East European mission from the Iraqi mission?  A few ideas come to mind:
  • Harper is not a fan of NATO and prefers the bilateral/trilateral (US or UK and UK) option that minimizes working with a multilateral military organization that is tainted by past Liberal involvement
  • If the choice is between putting the regular army in the spotlight and the special operations in the shadows, Harper would pick the latter every time.  Why?  Because the regular army has been a pain for Harper: it complains about budget cuts that hurt readiness, it defied efforts by Harper and his minions to manage them in Afghanistan, and so on.  The Special Operations folks?  They don't complain.  They also benefit from the Westminster tradition of the media respecting the secrecy stuff.  
  • ISIS is a greater threat than Russia.  Wow, I was able to write that without spilling my beverage.  No, Russia is a greater threat to Canada's allies than ISIS.  However, the problem of people with Western citizenship fighting for ISIS is a real problem.  
Are there other explanations? 

Perhaps Canada will kick into the rapid reaction force once it becomes a bit less vague. 

Anyhow, I do appreciate Harper for giving social scientists a fun puzzle--variation is what we seek, and variation is what we get here.  Harper is discriminating, which is fine.  Why he is discriminating in this particular way after all of the anti-Russia rhetoric is not clear.  

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