But to be fair, this is a really hard policy problem: should Canada be dropping bombs on Daesh in Iraq and Syria? To what end? I have been ambivalent so I am using this post to figure out my stance. The focus here is on expanding to Syria, as it is the real question du jour, but many of the arguments apply to bombing Iraq as well.
- Striking Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS) in Syria will make it harder for them to expand their territory in both Syria and Iraq.
- Causing Daesh to lose some territory is a major defeat for them as their rhetoric and strategy have focused on momentum and inevitability.
- Helps US with "low density, high demand" assets. Not the CF-18s but the Auroras and refueling aircraft. Helping an ally in difficult times is a good thing.
- But it is not going to get Canada anything in its relations with the US if there are offsetting domestic dynamics--Keystone pipeline, for example.
- Hurting Daesh in Syria helps Assad. So, hurting one set of genocidaires assists another.
- The risk that a plane might get shot down or fail, leading to the capture of a pilot by ... barbarians.
- Syria has air defenses that have not been knocked out.
- So far, Syria has implicitly cooperated with the US and its Arab allies. No reason to see this change. If it does, Canada can leave Syrian air space.
- Being so very visible in this fight (only non-US Western country striking Syria) probably makes Canada a more likely target for terrorism by Islamist extremists.
- To be clear, I don't believe that Canada's foreign policy should be held hostage due to fears of retaliation. It is a con, but not one that is large in my calculus.
- Money spent on this effort means less money for the Canadian Forces to do something else.
- What else? Training and maintenance. Harper is not sending the CF to do peacekeeping someplace else, so no false choices between this and DRC or whatever.
- Responsibility to Protect [R2P] is kind of moot here. Why? Because it would imply helping the Syrian people with their biggest threat--Assad! Um, yeah. Even Lloyd Axelworthy, father or patron saint of R2P, is not saying that R2P applies in Syria.
- Talk of victory via bombing (by Canadian Minister of National Defence Kenney) is silly. We cannot bomb Daesh into defeat. That is the job of people on the ground.
- International law? I am not an expert on such stuff, but I have never found compelled by the argument that one needs a UN Security Council resolution for doing something serious in the world. Why? Because it means that one's foreign policy is subject to vetoes by Russia and China.
- Exit strategy is missing? Yes, in the case of Syria, there is no clear strategy to win. Bombing
- Mission creep? Yes, expanding to Syria is some creep, but it is not a radical expansion of effort. So far, no more SOF, no more planes. So, this is a re-allocation of effort and not an increase in the personnel or expenses. The risk is somewhat larger but not radically so. This is not an enduring ground campaign.