The growing conflict in Iraq and Syria raises more questions than those being evaded in the House of Commons, the scene of much partisan sniping and a decidedly undemocratic stance taken by the Harper government (see Calandra, Paul).
No one can deny, however, that something must be done in the short term to deal with Islamic militants turning an already unstable region into an even larger cesspool. That the very countries taking action today – from previous colonists in Europe and the meddling U.S. to the fellow Middle East states who arm the terrorists and provide financial support – are largely responsible for the mess doesn’t negate the need to clean house.
Canada has sent over a few dozen advisors and some military hardware. For the most part, there’s been a whole lot of toothless rhetoric from Stephen Harper and the likes of John Baird.
Canadians can be forgiven for feeling like it’s déjà vu all over again, as we saw something like this just last year with the Assad regime in Syria, which doesn’t look too bad now compared to the group using a misnomer to call itself the Islamic State. There’s a similar feel to past goings-on in Libya, now a mess that’s helping to fuel the jihadists, and Afghanistan, a terribly pricey failure.
Far more active, the Americans have their own issues, handcuffed by their stance vis-a-vis Assad, and forced to keep a certain distance given the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With its history of intervention in other countries, often clandestine, the U.S. has been complicit in a long list of atrocities. It has no moral authority to step into the Syrian civil war. Yes, the war is a catastrophe for the people there, but the planet has seen many such unfortunate wars that the U.S. and others in the West were fine ignoring, largely because there were no strategic or economic benefits to doing so.
As with recent military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – none of which has brought peace and democracy to those countries, rhetoric aside – there’s a very real risk bombing in Syria and Iraq will serve only to reinforce the Muslim world’s view of the U.S. and the West in general.
The history of U.S. hegemony in Latin America is clear, with more than a century of military and economic oppression. That same model is at play today in the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan and, perpetually it seems, in Israel and its Middle-East neighbours.
As it stands, that policy is doing more harm than good. It will do nothing to ward off another 9/11; quite the opposite, in fact.
Intervention and occupation by the West have made Islamic extremists more popular with the native populations, exactly the opposite of what needs to happen for things to get better.
Well armed and well funded, the terrorist group now in control of some parts of Iraq and Syria poses a very immediate threat in the region, though not to the West. Something needs to be done. The immediate goal is to wipe them out, restoring the occupied areas back to their respective national governments. In the long run, less meddling – i.e. a hands-off approach – would make more sense, extricating the West from the region.
In reality, it doesn’t really matter what happens internally with those countries: the oil will still flow and people in the West won’t notice a thing.