“The Canadian government will recognize Libya’s rebel council in a post-Moammar Gadhafi era and will spend an additional $2 million on humanitarian efforts in the African country where civilians are being slaughtered, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday.”
- Government will recognize anti-Gadhafi rebels, Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter, Calgary Sun, June 14, 2011
In 2003, a US led coalition invaded Iraq. They told the world that the attack was sanctioned by international law. This coalition indicated that they were upholding United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. For there was a concern, by most of the world community, that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.
There was universal agreement on this fact. MI-6 – British Secret Service – was certain that this was the case. So was theCIAand almost every Western Secret Service. David Kay, for example, was the special advisor to the Iraq Survey Group. He noted in testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee,January 28, 2004, that there was a belief within many intelligence agencies that there would be extensive evidence of chemical and biological weapon production. This included inventory of ingredients, byproducts and finished weapons. He noted that other foreign intelligence agencies, including the French and the German, also felt that Iraq possessed such stocks and production lines. So it was not a surprise that alongside local dissident Iraqi forces, troops from the US, England, Australia and Poland made the initial push into Iraq.
However, Canada, France and German did not participate within the war and their reasons were very clear. “The diplomatic process was bringing positive results. That was the view of the Canadian government. It was not, obviously, the view of the American government. We can have a disagreement there. I still feel given a few more weeks, disarmament would have been achieved,” Mr. Chretien said. (CBC News Website, March 18, 2003).
Our Canadian Prime Minister had some experience in these matters. For example, he noted that regime change is a complicated thing. For “if we change every government we don’t like in the world where do we start? Who is next?” These are words were not though of when we went into Libya. The extension of the mission, supported by the Liberal caucus, is a wrong-headed idea.
For, it forgets the lessons of the Iraq conflict. The first lesson is might does not make right. Stephen Harper supported for the Iraq conflict and said as much. “‘I can tell you that in this political party we will be cheering for the success of our allies,’ Harper said. ‘If the Liberals are genuinely neutral, or will be cheering for Saddam Hussein, they should have the guts to say so. My guess is they don’t.’” (PM says Canada won’t fight in Iraq, Tuesday, March 18, 2003 CBC News Website.) Or listen to the words of Stockwell Day, the foreign affairs critic for the Alliance. “The prime minister has thrown Canada onto the side of nations like Libya, Syria, China, nations who don’t want to see a united front against Saddam Hussein”. Yet with all that cheering for an Iraqi conflict, the benefits are few if any. Countries with different interests to Canada, like Iran and Syria, have become more dominant players in the region. The US has 46,000 American troops in Iraq. So much stability is provided by those troops that Iraqi politicians are arguing whether to allow those troops to stay past January 1, 2012. And as of June 24, 2011, one could still hear Iraqi police officials talking about multiple civilian deaths due to targeted bombs. In a piece written by Chelsea J. Carter for CNN, she described the event. She noted how “three bombs exploded in rapid succession near a mosque and an outdoor market in a Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, killing 21 people and wounding 117”.
Mr. Chretien obviously remembers the famous quote from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. And he had plenty of history and experience to remember what to do and what not to do. With over thirty years in office, Jean Chretien was there when US invaded Grenada, Somalia and Vietnam. He remembers when Russia invaded Afghanistan. Neither the US nor Russia were able to obtain their desired outcome through war. Jean Chretien, I will argue, knew that the end result of a war in Iraq would have been a bloody mess with questionable returns.
However, other strategies were available. Mr. Chretien was around when New Zealand stopped accepting US ships into their ports because US military ships would not declare whether they had nuclear weapons on board. Furthermore, it was Jean Chretien’s government that led the charge in the creation of a treaty to ban landmines. Known as the Ottawa Treaty, it has been ratified by over 90 countries. So by 2009, the only states that are known to have continued using antipersonnel landmines were Burma and Russia.
With all this being said, the reality is that our Libya policy is wrongheaded. Our experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina tells us that airstrikes only work against a government who cares about the international community. For airstrikes brings both shame, international condemnation and military consequences. The Col. Gadhafi has shown, in the past, his willingness to accept those consequences. For example, British and American planes dropped bombs on him in 1986, while many countries have had embargos on him since the late 1980’s. So why would more bombs dropped on him make a difference?
Our peacekeeping and peacemaking experiences should drive our debate in Libya. In all circumstances, from the Korean War to our present conflict in Afghanistan, from the Golan Heights to the former Yugoslavia, Canadians have only been able to make a contribution when we have had “boots on the ground” and diplomats in foreign countries.
Having troops in these conflicts means that we can determine “who” and “how” force is applied. For example, in the Suez Crisis, troops led by Canadian Lieutenant-General E. L. M. Burns kept forces apart from one another. As Peacekeepers, a concept trumpeted by Foreign Minister Lester B. Pearson, non-combative troops were able to be a buffer for each combative troops.
Translating this to the modern day, Canadian-led troops could just be a buffer between rebel and government forces in Libya. This is assuming that Col. Gadhafi and the rebels would be willing to find a political solution. As Cyprus has taught us, without a political solution, it might be impossible to remove Peacekeepers once they are put into place. For without a political solution, violence would start again once Peacekeepers leave.
The other solution would be a Peacemaking Solution. The Korean Peninsula is the best example and Somalia is the worst. Either way, we would be going to war for an uncertain outcome.
However, with this being said, we would be going to war for a reason. We could lead a group of nations, Arab and non-Arab under the auspices of the “Responsibility to Protect”. The Libyan government is not willing to protect their people, so we are willing to step up to help. For, human rights are only valuable, if someone is willing to protect them.
Yet, this does not mean that we should support any raising faction. The rebels have not shown that they are any better than the Government. Various conflicts, including Vietnam and the Afghan Civil War, should have taught us that choosing sides can only lead to problems. For example, the US supported a rag-tag opposition to a communist Afghan government. It was called the Mujahideen. One of its main players was Osama Bin Laden. The CIA trained Mr. Bin Laden. So it is important to note that nearly twenty years later, Mr. Bin Laden would be held responsible for the largest terrorist attack in US history.
If we believe that we can make a difference, we need to have troops on the ground, so we can see what is happening. Canadians need to fight alongside Libyans to understand what they Libyans want. The Canadian Government needs to have diplomats, counter-intelligence and spies on the ground. They can tell use “who” is “who” and assess whether this action is in Canadian Interests. The truth is few governments want to expend that type of energy in or on Libya. The problem is this is what needs to be done. One cannot find out any of the important information in a plan several thousand feet in the air. We need to be on the ground. This is why our Libyan policy, in the long run, is destined to fail.