I think we can all agree that ISIS is without doubt an evil, vile, and terrifying organization that has committed atrocities from mass executions of religious minorities to the beheading of Western aid workers. The oilfields they have captured, coupled with the American military hardware procured from surrendering Iraqi and Syrian troops, has made ISIS well funded and well equipped. The core of their belief is simple enough: believe what we tell you to believe or be killed. This is a sentiment so wrong, so completely dangerous, I’m not even going to begin to argue this and just assume that anyone reading this more or less agrees that ISIS is horrible and they need to be stopped.
So a myriad of countries have formed a coalition and each has pledged a certain amount of military aid to fight ISIS, to stop them from perpetrating hate on the world. This would seem to be a no-brainer. I mean, even other Islamic countries have ponied up fighter jets, and some Islamic leaders have publicly denounced ISIS. This almost never happens and goes a long way to demonstrating how vile ISIS is. Canada is a nation that has participated in the two great wars and fought well above our weight defending democracy and freedom and just doing the right thing when and where the world has needed us. When our friends have asked us to help, we helped (this might be stretching it a little with regards to WWI but I’m not going to get into a history lesson of the relationship between Great Britain and Canada at that time). Canada has been asked to give help, military help, to at the very least aid those poor brave bastards, the Kurds, by giving air support, training, and guidance. This is an easy decision to make, right? Of course we will lend our military to a cause as noble as this. Right?
Maybe not. Politics enters the picture and we have a bit of a mess. For my American and international friends I will give a quick and dirty synopsis of the political landscape in Canada. We do not have political parties that are anywhere near as polarizing or binary as Republicans and Democrats in America. We have a Conservative, Liberal, and, New Democratic Party (NDP). They are all more or less the same in that all three could fit nicely with varying degrees into the Democratic party of the U.S. All three leaders of the parties are in their own way perfectly nice, and I do believe that they have sincere intentions of wanting to serve the country and make it a better place.
It is comedic to me to see elements on the far left who claim that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and the Conservative party he leads are attempting to install some sort of Fascism at worst, and at best are turning Canada into the United States of America. Yes, to my great shame this antiquated notion of America as a great devil, and a horrible place, is still bandied about and is one of the last bastions of prejudice some Canadians will still participate in. And to call Stephen Harper a Fascist is an insult to Fascists. In that company I’ve no doubt the man would be considered a lightweight. But please don’t mistake this analysis for approval. The Conservatives have been involved in more than a few shenanigans, and I find many of their practices repugnant, but no more or less than those of the other parties.
Stephen Harper: Likes beer and hockey. Not a fascist.
The Liberal party is led by a young man named Justin Trudeau. He is largely unqualified to run a country as his job before being elected was as a substitute drama teacher. A fine and honourable profession, but not what I consider the best training to manage, say, a complex foreign policy, or our vast natural resources. But I do believe at his core he is a good and decent person who genuinely wants to do good for the country. And he has great hair, which doesn’t hurt with the ladies. If he were elected I don’t think he’d do the damage that the more right wing elements claim: All businesses will leave Canada, prison doors will be flung open, everyone will go on welfare, abortions will be mandatory (for men and women), and cats will lie with dogs.
Justin Trudeau: Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.
I pay little attention to the NDP as does the rest of Canada. Their leader, Thomas Mulcair, is foul-tempered and has a thousand-yard stare which inspires ghost stories in all provinces and territories of this nation. Because they will never be elected they can promise outrageous things like free university for everyone, knowing they would never have to actually implement any of these policies. Collectively, though, the country gives the NDP a friendly nudge with an elbow to the stomach, winks, and says, oh, c’mon now, we know you’d pretty much run the country the way it is now if you were elected. Perhaps some social programs would get a boost in funding but not much else would be different. The most offensive thing about the NDP is that they are popular in Quebec, and the rest of Canada pretty much wants Quebec to just shut the hell up and move out already.
Thomas Mulcair: I’ve seen some things. Terrible things.
This is a system that more or less works well. It does breed some complacency but I see complacency as a symptom of a country running well. If there is an active and enthusiastic movement underway, it is usually because the shit has either hit the fan or is about to. But the odd time a leader will very much miscalculate, when disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing can backfire–or at the very least make him look foolish, and that’s what’s happening to Justin Trudeau.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested that Canada would indeed be helping out militarily to fight ISIS, Trudeau immediately opposed the suggestion. This was a mistake. I understand that the system is set up in such a way that he is obligated to oppose anything the Conservatives propose, whether he agrees or not, in order to differentiate his party and their policies from the Prime Minister and his party’s policies. The proposal was for Canada to contribute some air power in the form of CF-18 fighter jets for six months. In my opinion this is a laughably small contribution and barely qualifies as helping out. Trudeau in a cringe-worthy statement said, “Why aren’t we talking more about the kind of humanitarian aid that Canada can and must be engaged in, rather than trying to whip out our CF-18’s and show them how big they are? It just doesn’t work like that in Canada.”
Sigh. Oh boy.
I really hope that this is just posturing for maybe some of the more fringe, radically left members of his base. I can tell you that wanting this scourge wiped from the planet has nothing to do with wanting to demonstrate the size of Canada’s penis and has everything to do with wanting a world where women can be educated, homosexuals can love who they want, and people can practice whatever religion they want, or practice no religion at all, and the more these ideals are practiced in the world, the better the world will be. And if a source of batshit crazy decides none of these things should ever exist, and they will kill anyone who opposes them, then violence must be met with violence. What Trudeau has done in a somewhat subtle way is draw on an outdated, yet still present in some circles, anti-American sentiment that had been formed in the days when we received a lot of our information about America from the CBC, university professors, and Margaret Atwood–that America is a brutish, insecure, dumb, testosterone-driven teenager looking to get in a fight and then maybe get laid. But at this time I think enough Canadians have given up this antiquated notion of America and are focusing on the problem of today.
At this moment, right now, the brave few souls fighting ISIS need more than humanitarian aid. They need help physically stopping the progression of ISIS. Help holding a bridge or taking back a dam. To reduce my desire to see our military fight for a cause so clearly as just as this one to merely a symptom of insecure masculinity is insulting and stupid. And for Trudeau to be unable at this time to separate the idea of military aid from the man proposing military aid demonstrates to me a limited intellect and an inability to know when playing politics is just part of the game and to know when playing politics is going to cost people their lives. It is maybe understandable that in the Canadian political system there are really so few ways for a political party to differentiate itself from the others that opportunities must be embraced when they come along, but this is an instance that is so much more important than the scoring of political points.
And humanitarian aid is also being given. We can, and will, do both. They are not mutually exclusive actions.
What we need to also keep in mind in Canada, and what we take for granted, is that we may someday need our friends to help us. I would say a good motivator for that would be that when presented with an opportunity to fight evil and help our friends, we take it. I think one of the better side effects of globalization, the internet, social media, and even blogging is that it’s getting harder for politicians like Trudeau to manufacture a boogeyman like the evil empire of the United States of America because now the information, and how we know each other, comes first hand. I know people, and people know me, and when this happens it becomes nearly impossible to demonize, to manufacture the Other, and men like Trudeau sound old timey and silly and likely will find that the world is passing them by.