Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Stephen Harper's Lonely War

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Stephen Harper's Lonely War

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Stephen Harper's lonely war

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published March 24:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will get his expanded shoot-up in Iraq and now Syria. Given his Conservative majority in the House of Commons he can't be denied. But he will be waging a deservedly lonely war, in Parliament at least, without support from the opposition benches and with gnawing unease across the country.

While the polls show Canadians have given Harper every benefit of the doubt so far, the country is split on being drawn deeper into a protracted, amorphous campaign against Islamic State jihadists with no real strategy to defeat them on the ground.

As Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau rightly observed, Harper "brazenly misled" the public from the start about Canada's involvement and has undermined his credibility on this file. Harper assured Parliament, repeatedly, that our contingent of fewer than 70 special forces troops in Iraq would be in a "low-risk," "non-combat" role as trainers, far from the front lines. In fact, they've been risking their lives calling in airstrikes and trading fire with jihadists.

Sgt. Andrew Doiron's death in a "friendly fire" incident underscored the perils they face.

Now Harper is upping the ante, asking Parliament to commit military forces for another year, complete with airstrikes in Syria, "to deal with the threat to this country." While the direct threat to Canada is overblown, he no doubt hopes this will help position his Tories as forceful defenders of the national interest in the coming federal election.

Yet it's far from clear that Canada's national interests, as distinct from Conservative political calculations, hang on bombing targets in Syria, a country already in pieces. What Canadians are witnessing is something more akin to "mission leap" than mission creep, as New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair aptly put it. We are being press-ganged into what Trudeau sees as an "unfocused, unending" tour of duty in a notoriously unstable region plagued by civil war, jihadism and shifting rivalries.

Both leaders rightly question whether Canada's interests are truly served by getting more deeply embroiled in this chaos, in tacit alliance with the likes of Syria's Bashar Assad, Iran's Shiite militias and Kurdish nationalists. …

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