Monday, October 6, 2014

Canada and Iraq: Good and Bad Arguments

Today is the day of the vote that expresses confidence (or not) in the government's decision.  Lots of arguments and spin.
  • The government, as always, is muddying its message by trying to have it both ways: that the mission is only for six months but that it may last longer.  This just makes them look like liars.  The reality is obvious--this thing is going to last for more than six months.  Canada is lining up with Obama, who has said three years.  The Libyan air campaign lasted for eight months, and that was a far less complex effort (with a lousy aftermath).  Why can't the government say that this effort is likely to take some time but they will evaluate every six months (or year or whatever) progress? 
  • Mission creep.  Watch out for the slippery slope!!! Boooooo!!!  I really want to dress up as Mission Creep for Halloween.  The opposition is correct that bombing will not be sufficient to defeat ISIS.  But Harper's rhetoric is a bit different from Obama's--tis about disrupting not destroying ISIS.  Anyhow, my real problem is that Canada has bombed before without engaging in ground combat (Libya, Kosovo--only peacekeeping in Kosovo), that there is a real distinction between air combat and ground combat in terms of risk, cost, and political consequences
    • I am very confident that this government will not put infantry troops on the ground because this government cares far more about balancing budgets and message management than anything else.  Sending infantry troops would be very, very expensive and making the CF pay for it out of money already budgeted would be very controversial.  Putting one or two thousand young men and women on the ground in combat with embedded reporters would mean that the messaging of the war would be driven by events in the field and not by Harper's people in Ottawa.
    • The votes that Harper schedules on these things, that are not required by the constitution, do serve to bind him just a bit.  If he were to decide to escalate, that would seem to require a vote--not legally but politically.  He would win that vote with his majority, but the opposition could use that opportunity to make far more credible arguments about the mission creeping.  Today's vote, thus, serves to bind the government to the current course of action.  Doing more will be costlier.
  • The better criticisms can focus on what this bombing might do: empower Iran, empower Assad, and other stuff that happens on "the road paved with good intentions" as Elizabeth May put it.  To work well, this effort depends on the Iraqi government making a deal with the Sunnis that the Sunnis will find not just attractive but credible.  The Shia-dominated government has reneged before.  So, one could argue that we should make our bombing commitment contingent on an Iraqi deal.  Well, we cannot really since Canada has no leverage since its allies are already ahead of it--US, UK, France, Belgians, Danes and others are already there, engaging in airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Phil Lagassé and I will argue about what votes do in this wacky semi-democratic system that Canada has.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was going to borrow a CF-18 pilot uni and have zombie makeup.
But you know: plagiarism.

And really, people would just think I was a zombie CF-18 pilot.