I have written that I am not thrilled that the Liberals have chained themselves to their promise to pull out the CF-18s. They could have used the Paris attacks as an excuse, but have not done so. Yet I find this whole "the allies are going to remember this" just a bit too much.
Canadian foreign policy types should keep in mind that two things will limit the ramifications of this:
a) Politicians understand domestic political constraints and strategies better than most folks
b) Everyone has short memories.
First, Obama, Hollande, and the rest understand that campaign promises matter. They have done stuff that is upsetting to other countries because they have to satisfy their political base: Keystone XL anyone? So, they are unlikely to take it personally.
Second, anybody remember Canada cutting and running from Afghanistan? Yes, Canada left that war early, leaving the US in a far more difficult spot. 6 CF-18s is nothing compared to not just the nearly 3000 Canadian troops but also the far more troublesome precedent set back then. Given that the allies are kicking in more right now, the US can afford far better Canada re-adjusting its contribution. In 2010 with the Dutch leaving and the Canadians about to go, the possibility of a stampede towards the door was a real concern. It is different this time. And what penalties did Canada pay for the 2011 departure? Nothing. What did Canada get for its efforts before than? Not soft lumber, not keystone, not other stuff.
As long as Canada continues to contribute via training and maybe other air assets (the Auroras and Polaris), then it can have its flag on the various powerpoint slides, so that the coalition can still be > 60.
These six CF-18s were far more important when Canada was the only western country other than the US that was willing to attack targets in Syria. Now that the British and French are doing so, Canada (sorry) is not that special.
A young government is sticking to its promises. Which is not that surprising. The real test is later on when Canada does face some pressure to do some combat, and then will Trudeau still feel he has to please pacifists who voted Liberal rather than NDP. Right now, he can go ahead.
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