Decision to bomb Syria dooms us to repeat history

Thanks to a parliamentary vote earlier this week, Canada is expanding its mission against ISIS in Iraq and will now bomb targets in Syria.

The merits of this action will not be discussed here.  Frankly, ISIS is a savage organization forcing its poisonous misinterpretation of a religion onto a population that, by and large, is unable (or unwilling) to fight back.  It is necessary to stop their march of insanity across the Middle East.

The question that arises now is one of — what’s next?  The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not really specified an end game in ISIS-occupied territories in Iraq and Syria — something that he has been excoriated for, and rightly so, by opposition leaders.

We need look no further than Libya for the folly of bombing a nation and then leaving them to their own devices.  Western forces undertook a concerted bombing campaign to help rebels remove long-time dictator Muamar Gaddafi from power.  Then, we basically up and left.  Now, Libya is a quagmire, riven by internal divisions (including, and not limited to, ISIS) and potentially destabilizing its neighbours Tunisia and Egypt, both of whom have had some measure of stability as a result of the Arab Spring.

And, indeed, Iraq is a good example of the folly of packing it in and leaving.  U.S. President Barack Obama unwisely yielded to public pressure and took most U.S. troops out of the nation, against the advice of even his own defense staff.  Basically, without a stabilizing presence in the region (the Iraqi army, such as it is, was completely inadequate for any sort of combat), ISIS was allowed to rise to the forefront.

Many foreign policy experts around the world have repeated the need not to follow the example of Libya.  Once ISIS is driven back to behind the rock from whence they came, it would be a tragic mistake to pack it in and leave.  Humanitarian aid is necessary, but also military trainers to ensure a stabilized presence in Iraq (the issue of Syria, and the fact that we may or may not be supporting a murdering despot like Bashar al-Assad, is a matter for another day).

Philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “Those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Let’s hope that this isn’t the case, once again, in the Middle East.

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