I listened to CBC “power and politics” yesterday about Canada and ISIS and am somewhat concerned about the underlying consensus and untouchable assumptions, by all parties and the moderator Terry, that Canada should and must be in the fight in the first place, and that Canada must not have diplomatic relations with Iran. There were some mild caveats that this be subject to avoiding collateral damage and killing civilians. Otherwise, it seemed that parties were only determined to criticize each other’s articulation of this, to appeal to what they think voters want.
To me, the debate was ill informed and shamelessly political. This region has been in conflict since before the birth of Christ. The Mideast has over two million men under arms, and trillions of dollars of weapons surrounding ISIS, and we think six Canadian jets are important here and makes a difference. The mid east is on a somewhat chaotic road to sorting ISIS out and will probably lay the seeds for further Sunni Shiite conflict in the process. Whatever the outcome, this will remain a problem for the world. Perhaps the question for us is not about fighting wars here, but how can we contribute peace making in the region. We have to remember that military action under international law must have a reasonable prospect of success, which is just not there in this case, and well acknowledged by the US president and military professionals. Yes, we need boots, but peacekeeper boots that protect people and protect aid. Also boots that talk to all sides and prepare for peace talks. So I throw my lot into protecting people, caring for victims, humanitarian aid, non-violence and sponsoring peace talks when the readiness and willingness is there. There is the notion that “when they hurt enough, or love their children enough”, we will have peace.
Regarding the reinstatement of diplomatic relations with Iran, I find the debate incredulous. It has to be more important to talk to those with which we have differences than just our friends. Miscommunication and misunderstanding is how wars start, and no communication leads to missed opportunities to end wars or advance chances for peace. The more we know each other the better the chances for change and peace, Iran will do what Iran will do with regard to nuclear weapons and we better think about plan B if they choose to do go down the road to such weapons. This is a debate we must also have. How do we live in peace with another nuclear state for which we have differences?
So whither Canada in all this? How can Canada assert what we claim are our true and cherished values for peace, in the face of a world always bent on military intervention as a response to conflict? It takes courage. We can do much much better.
Former DND Director of Defence Ethics