Canada’s back? With jets out, we’re almost gone
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2nd R) takes part in a news conference with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (L), International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau (2nd L) and Foreign Minister Stephane Dion in Ottawa, Canada, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
By removing our fighter jets from the anti-ISIS coalition, Canada has sent the wrong message not just to the people who want to kill us, but to our allies.
The Liberals held up "evidence-based decision making" as what made them different from the other guys. Yet when it comes to the government's announcement Monday to pull out our CF-18 fighter jets from the fight against the Islamic State by Feb. 22, evidence was the last thing on their mind.
Because the evidence shows we want to stay in the bombing mission, our allies want us to stay, and the bombing mission matters when it comes to downgrading the ISIS threat.
Polls both before and after the election show a majority of Canadians support the bombing. After the election our NATO ally France was brutally attacked and sought a coalition of friends to ramp up the strikes on ISIS. It was the first such attack believed not just to be inspired by ISIS but directly organized by the terror group in Iraq and Syria. In other words, the terrorists have upped their game. They're no doubt gearing up for more.
Then ISIS continued to name Canada as a target for attacks. Then U.S. defence secretary Ash Carter wrote an op-ed saying that, "since no country is immune from an ISIL (ISIS) attack, no country can afford to ride free." Then we learned the U.S. was in fact trying to get Canada to keep our jets in, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously telling us U.S. President Barack Obama understood his position.
And what was our response to all of this? To a narrative that should make it painstakingly obvious that maintaining our contribution to the bombing mission was the best way to be a good global citizen? It's to downgrade our role in engaging the enemy.
This sends a message to our enemies and allies alike that we underestimate the severity of the situation.
There seems to be some confusion as to what exactly ISIS represents. The Islamic State is not a small rag-tag group of misfits. It's not a group of disenfranchised youth who only need employment and motherly affection. Its members are not mentally ill. They're not freedom fighters with grievances worthy of diplomatic solutions.
The Islamic State is an expansionist group of organized and disciplined political Islamists who have access to resources such as oil wells and military equipment to aggressively wage war against their targets, which includes the West. It's these resources, plus the fighting positions of their soldiers, that the bombing sorties target. The bombings also provide air cover for ground forces like the Kurds to go in and fight to take back their land.
Given all of the above, it's hard to understand what motivates Trudeau to stubbornly stick with his plan to pull the jets. Sure, it was a campaign promise, but it played a minimal part in his win plus the facts have changed.
The Liberals announced some wise changes Monday -- to increase humanitarian aid to the region as well as triple our number of advise-and-assist officers on the ground.
"We will be supporting and empowering local forces to take their fight directly to ISIL, so that kilometre by kilometre, they can reclaim their homes, their land and their future," Trudeau said.
He's right. But pulling out our jets only hampers that goal.
The symbolism of withdrawing our jets alone proves that contrary to the Sunny Ways doctrine, Canada isn't back when it comes to fighting this rising menace. If anything, Canada's backing away.