After the attacks in Paris, I decided to say nothing. But now, even though the shock has barely begun to wear off, the decisions made by France and its allies, including Canada, call for a response. The debate has started out on the wrong foot. It’s getting bogged down in a false dilemma: should we opt for an all-out war footing and state of emergency, or do nothing at all?
I’m no expert in geopolitics and don’t claim any ability to provide a detailed analysis of the situation in Syria. However, as a citizen of a country currently involved in the “war on terrorism,” I note that this strategy, which has been pursued since 2001, is not working. And contrary to what the war hawks say, recognizing this failure demonstrates not doctrinaire pacifism or naivete but rather clear-headedness.
A while ago on French television, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin opined that “the war on terrorism cannot be won; we can foresee defeat.” This is a right-wing politician, not an alter-globalization activist, so it says a lot that he recognizes the failure of military interventionism. All the invasions by the West since 2001, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, have been disasters. They have all led to increased chaos and violence. Observers agree that the growing power of Islamic State is the direct outcome of the political vacuum created by the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 — a tragic irony.
Einstein defined insanity as doing something over and over again and expecting different results. What France and its allies are proposing — waging war better this time — fits the definition nicely.
Stop the hypocrisy
There are alternatives to yet another military intervention by the West. Since the events in Paris, many experts have been saying that the way to stop ISIS is to cut off its supply of money and arms. It should be possible through diplomacy to put pressure on those who are directly or indirectly arming or financing this terrorist group.
However, for that to happen, the major powers will have to set an example by putting an end to the double standard in their existing foreign policies. Marc Trevidic, a judge who heard anti-terrorism cases in Paris from 2006 to 2015, expressed dismay during a recent interview: “Do you know what American policy is? It’s ‘We love religious fundamentalists as long as they’re economic liberals.’ That’s their credo. ‘The Saudis? The Qataris? They’re just fine because they trade! That’s all we care about.’ It’s completely contrary to common sense.”
The warmongering rhetoric of our leaders will not be able to mask this contradiction forever. Regimes that directly or indirectly encourage terrorism, whether or not they are currently doing business with the major powers, must be isolated politically, economically and militarily. Until this is done, how can people in the West be asked to take part in a deadly and costly war?
Just two months ago, during a debate among the party leaders, Stephen Harper was defending a $15-billion contract between a Canadian tank maker and Saudi Arabia. We’re still waiting to see what Justin Trudeau will do about this contract. Who’d like to bet that he’ll let it go ahead?
This piece originally appeared in the French edition of Ricochet and has been translated by Brian Mossop.