The Parliamentary Debate over Fighting ISIS – Defining the Enemy

Corporealism XVI: Justin Trudeau Redux

D. The Parliamentary Debate over Fighting ISIS – Defining the Enemy

by

Howard Adelman

Sūn Zǐ, a 6th century BCE, Chinese general and author of The Art of War, wrote, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” The Greek philosophical motto from Socrates was, “Know thyself!” The complementary practical motto may be equally or even more important. “Know thine enemy.”

Characterizing ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant) or Daesh as evil incarnate and adding to it adverbs and adjectives like vicious, as the Conservatives, Liberals and, on occasion, the NDP even did, may be accurate bit it is not much help in understanding ISIS. It may help rally the forces on one’s own side, by representing the target in absolute moral language, but limiting oneself to condemnatory language does not help us develop the skills of defeating an enemy in war. By using verbs like extinguish, exterminate, eradicate, we forget that the object of all war is the defeat of the enemy not elimination. Cockroaches and termites need to be exterminated. Enemies need to be degraded and decimated as a fighting force. War is a noble enterprise. Genocide, even of a horrific enemy, is not. In my next blog, I will focus on the art of war, on the means of defeating ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. In today’s blog, I will characterize the enemy and not simply brand ISIS with colourful moral language.

It is not as if there is any shortage of scholarship on Daesh or on terrorism more generally. There is, in fact, a plethora of material. As one example, Peter Bergen, Courtney Schuster and David Sterman wrote, “ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism,” for the think tank, New America (November 2015), a long essay or study of home-grown Islamic extremists who have gone off to join ISIS and whose return may pose a hidden danger to the U.S., Canada and the West more generally. David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt wrote a journalist piece called, “ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City [Surt] Gives it a Fallback Option” (28 November 2015). That essay describes the strategy and many of the tactics used by Daesh. More generally, there is the journal of an old friend, Alex Schmid (if you are reading this, I recall very fondly staying in your house in Holland). Alex edits, Perspectives on Terrorism put out by the Terrorism Research Initiative in Vienna, which he directs. The journal has published a number of issues filled with excellent analyses of different aspects of terrorism. His edited 2011 volume, The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research is a “must read” and, while terrorism is neither a legal term in international law nor a scientific classification, Alex brought together a number of depictions arrived at through examining the various uses of the term in academic literature. They are quoted in the edited volume in twelve points. I offer a pitted version.

Terrorism is primarily political in its motivation and its societal repercussions as a fear-generating coercive tactic either 1) by individual perpetrators, small groups or diffuse transnational networks to resist the real or alleged illegal use of state power, or 2) by repressive states and its spies and proxies to carry out illegal state repression. [States may practice terrorism, but states are not terrorists.] Terrorism is “a conspiratorial practice of calculated, demonstrative, direct violent action without legal or moral restraints” aimed at larger audiences and leaders utilizing shocking  brutality and  lack of discrimination,  carried out for dramatic or symbolic quality in total disregard of both the rules of warfare and of punishment. Terrorism targets mainly civilians and non-combatants for propagandistic and psychological effects on various audiences and conflict parties, assisted by the media, to instil fear, dread, panic or anxiety through threat-based communication processes to demoralize, fracture or even destroy constituencies. Terrorist tactics do not constitute war, though such acts are part of irregular warfare, but are single-phase, dual, triple or a series of acts of lethal violence – bombings, armed assaults, hijacking, disappearances, kidnapping, secret detention, torture and murder and other forms of hostage-taking for coercive bargaining. Terrorism sews insecurity and is intended to terrorize, intimidate, antagonize, disorientate, destabilize, coerce, compel, demoralize or provoke a target population and, thereby, manipulate the political process.

On 24 May 2014, a man wearing a dark baseball cap and carrying several bags walked into the Jewish Museum of Belgium in the centre of Brussels. It was 10 minutes to four. The man pulled out an AK-47 and started shooting. Ninety seconds later, three museum visitors were dead; a fourth, critically injured in the attack, would later die of his wounds. The shooter managed to escape on foot and was captured six days later, after a nationwide manhunt. He was revealed to be Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national who had traveled to Syria and served as a jailer for the Islamic State. When arrested, he was carrying a bag containing a Kalashnikov, a .38, cameras, a gas mask, and about 330 rounds of ammunition. Nemmouche, we now know, wasn’t working alone. He was part of a network run by his friend Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian who had traveled to Syria and became an ISIS “Emir of War” in the Deir es-Zor governate. Like Nemmouche, Abaaoud, too, returned to Europe with the intention of pursuing jihad. His efforts were more successful than his disciple’s, leaving 130 people dead in a series of attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. (Liel Leibovitz, Tablet 1 December 2015)

My friend, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, an Israeli academic now based in Britain, sent me a note promoting his own work on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I extract from it.  “More violence. More blood. No leadership. On November 22, 2015, Hadar Buchris, 21, was murdered. She was the 22nd victim in this wave of terror attacks that has swept Israel during the past two months. 192 other people were injured in the stabbings, shootings, and car runovers of innocent bystanders. More hatred. Polarization. The radicals are dictating the agenda. Sad.”

Violence targeting civilians characterizes both acts of terror. But there is a difference. The latter, though stimulated and encouraged by a general atmosphere and positive reinforcement from the society from which the terrorist emerged, is really a random act by a random perpetrator against a random target. The former is an agent of a political entity known as ISIS or ISIL which occupies a swath of territory in Syria and Iraq as well as a segment of a splintered Libya. The first attack was subversion behind enemy lines. The second attack above took place in the heart of the land of battle for a century, the former Mandate of Palestine. Nenmouche was an Emir of War. The murderer of Hadar was a volunteer martyr without any command and control operation. To call them both terrorists defines the act taken not the agent behind the act. For the agents are radically different in the two cases.

My purpose here is to characterize ISIS more than the form of terrorism it practices. Yet ISIS is defined precisely by the way it uses terrorism, so it is incumbent to characterize the type of warfare being conducted by ISIS. In both of the above examples, the terrorists were driven by a cause that included the destruction of an enemy. In both cases, there is an asymmetry in power between the two sides, the terrorists coming from a much weaker side. The unique characteristic of ISIS is that it engages in conventional warfare rather than just asymmetrical warfare. But, like all terrorists, whether engaged in individual acts of terror, insurgency or regular warfare, the power of initiative belongs to the terrorists. Those fighting terrorism are by and large in a reactive role, certainly initially. Since in the debates, the warfare practiced by ISIS was referred to as an insurgency, it may be helpful to distinguish between the type of warfare practiced by Dsesh in contrast to an insurgency.

  1. Insurgency Warfare is revolutionary and looks towards a radically changed future. Daesh warfare is not just counter-revolutionary, it is reactionary and harks back to a past, in this case that of the Caliphate in which all Muslims were under a singular Muslim leader answerable only to Allah so the association with Islam is built into the terrorism.
  2. Insurgent warfare is clandestine; Daesh warfare depends also on wide publicity.
  3. Insurgent warfare depends on winning the support of the civilian population, hence the need for a hearts and minds campaign; Daesh warfare, on the other hand, simply wants to win command and control of the population; fear, rather than serving as a supplement, becomes the prime means of expressing its authority.
  4. Insurgent warfare depends on propaganda and an educational program to indoctrinate the local population into a new set of values, beliefs and practices; Daesh warfare appeals to a “pure” version of existing traditional values, beliefs and practices.
  5. Insurgent warfare demonizes those who hold existing political, military and economic power; Daesh warfare demonizes all other groups, not just those in power, such as Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Chaldeans, and readily attempts to exterminate these alleged “non-believers.”
  6. Insurgent warfare operates by surreptitiously infiltrating the local population; Daesh warfare, though it may also do the latter, operates, not like traditional armies attacking and destroying the centres of political and military power of those defined as the enemy, but by attacking often disparate sources of economic power in territories it seeks to conquer, creating in the process few if any good options to destroy ISIS without destroying a good part of the civilian population and the economic assets, oil terminals and transportation routes, being held hostage.
  7. The prime targets for insurgency warfare are chosen to expand control of territory from a base and extending from there the control of more territory; the prime targets of Daesh hybrid warfare are centres of natural resources – primarily oil – which, when it captures such resources, sells the oil on the black market to fund its military operations.
  8. Insurgent warfare to succeed usually requires a patron, whether near at hand or distant – Russia for China, the USSR for Cuba – while Daesh warfare prides itself on self-sufficiency.
  9. Insurgent warfare relies on youth, but ISIS, though it recruits many teenagers, has a more mature human resource base whose average age is 26 years among males, many of middle class backgrounds with post-secondary education as well as, and unusually, many women, especially in the underground overseas.
  10. Insurgent warfare, while flouting the importance of its ideology, really depends on the weakness of the existing regime, its corruption, its internal divisions and its inherent contradictions; Daesh hybrid warfare depends more on the extension of the above so that a vacuum in the centre seems more relevant than just the traditional weaknesses, particularly when the centre of power favours one previously repressed group (the Shiites in Iraq) and the insurrection favours a previously powerful group now relegated to the margins so that the politics of resentment becomes preeminent.
  11. In insurgent warfare, intelligence primarily focuses on the militant strategies and tactics being used by the insurgent group; in Daesh warfare, intelligence primarily focuses on the supply of arms, recruits, the sale of oil and the location of its leaders and infrastructure.
  12. Defeated leaders in insurgency warfare are often executed for crimes against the people after a preemptory military trial; Daesh captives are beheaded and literally the heads are “posted” as an integral element of the politics of fear.
  13. Insurgency warfare relies on traditional propaganda based on the print media; the internet and social media are integral elements of the propaganda campaign of ISIS and subsequent propaganda campaign after a victory attack suppresses entertainment and substitutes messages that extol the organization, Allah and then the Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  14. When suffering defeats in their home bases, Daesh militants shift their focus to attacking the home ground of the enemy militants – Paris this past November in revenge for France increasing its aerial attacks in Syria and Libya, and a Russian airliner taking off from the Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport in Egypt in response to stepped-up Russian bombing raids in Syria.
  15. When pressed and territory is recaptured, instead of increasing its calls for recruits, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the ISIS spokesman, calls for Muslims to stay home and launch attacks from there “in any manner or way.” (e.g. Michael Zehef-Bibeau, a recent convert who killed a Canadian solder at the Cenotaph on Parliament Hill.)

Given this characterization of the enemy, assuming it bears a resemblance to reality, in the next blog I will explore the strategy and tactics necessary to combat Daesh.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

Next Blog: Strategy.and Tactics for Confronting ISIS

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C. Confronting ISIS – Opposition Party Critiques

Corporealism XVI: Justin Trudeau Redux

C. Opposition Party Critiques

by

Howard Adelman

Though the exchanges over differences between the Liberals and the Tories over the withdrawal of the CF-18s were more heated, they also lacked much substance because the differences were tactical more than strategic. In contrast, the differences between the Liberals and the NDP loomed larger because they are strategic differences and they help to make the picture both sides took that much clearer. But first we begin with the similarities. Like the Tories, the NDP agreed with and supported a number of the Liberal initiatives:

  • the increase in humanitarian aid, but based on three fundamental principles: neutrality, independence, and impartiality incompatible with an intervention mission
  • welcoming refugees into Canada
  • enhancing diplomatic engagement
  • engaging in the interdiction of both arms and funds as the critical factors in eliminating the threat and scourge of ISIS
  • make sure that Canada is the kind of country where everyone feels welcome, thereby ensuring that no Canadians would ever consider joining ISIL
  • robust intelligence capabilities
  • robust training and advising, but not in combat zones
  • a radical separation of humanitarian assistance and the military mission lest humanitarian workers be put in harm’s way
  • development aid, specifically for the Iraqi government’s reconstruction and stabilization efforts in regions liberated from Daesh

However, the NDP

  • accused the Liberals of reneging on their election promise that they would end the Conservative government’s mission
  • does not want military engagement; does not want the Liberals to follow the Conservatives in asking Parliament to approve the deployment of Canadian troops in active conflict zones while defining the mission as a non-combat one; “We in the New Democratic Party believe that this is entirely appropriate, as there are few other decisions that governments make that could be more important than placing Canadian troops in harm’s way. Yet, public debate seems to have veered into a narrow cul-de-sac over this question of whether or not this is in fact a combat mission.” The Liberals have muddied their own promise to draw “a clearer line between combat and non combat.”
  • In addition to the withdrawal of the CF-18s, opposes Canada remaining (“fully”???) part of the allied bombing mission with Canada continuing to contribute two Aurora surveillance planes, a refuelling plane and now, in addition, four helicopters to fly missions over Iraq and, with the surveillance aircraft, help paint targets on the ground for the allied bombing missions
  • “Canada could be providing a leadership role in cutting off the funding, the arms, and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS.” (Randall Garrison, Esquimalt–Saanich-Sooke), particularly the $1 million to $3 million a day in oil being sold by ISIS on the world market
  • In a multilateral military mission, Canada should only participate if it has the mandate of the United Nations
  • wants figures on the proportion of trainers, now tripled, who would be in the front lines and under what guidelines
  • wants the training to include human rights and international law components
  • wants projections of the casualty count
  • wants weapons provided to Kurdish forces tracked and their use monitored
  • wants Canada to sign the Arms Trade Treaty
  • wants an exit strategy lest Canadian men and women in the Armed Forces are interminably put in harm’s way
  • wants criteria to determine whether the approach taken is the correct and want measures to assess the results
  • wants an overall review of defence policy in general without waiting two years to arrive at one
  • domestically, wants Canada to develop a strong campaign of counter-extremist messaging based possibly on the model of Regroupement interculturel de Drummondville, but the Liberals reiterated that, while developing a de-radicalization in Canada, the primary focus would be overseas on preventing the recruitment of foreign fighters, who may be Canadian, and enhanced capabilities and measures to counter those recruitment efforts; the Liberals focus more on fighting radicalization in that region to stifle the terrorist group’s perverse and diabolical propaganda so that nobody else thinks they will go to heaven by murdering their fellow human beings.

The NDP made it clear that they did not support the withdrawal of the fighter jets or oppose the deployment of the other aircraft or additional advisers and trainers on the ground because the NDP doubted the capabilities or willingness to fight or stand in harm’s ways, as required, in the service of Canada and world peace, nor even the characterization by the Canadian Armed Forces of the mission as a hybrid one, somewhere between traditional combat and non-combat missions, but opposed misleading Canadians and calling it a non-combat mission. The NDP hammered away at the supposed record in Afghanistan rather than Iraq, and queried in what way what Canada is doing in Iraq differs very much from what Canada did in Afghanistan. The NDP kept stressing the absence of clear goals and boundaries for this “combat” operation, even though Canada was in an advisory role in such battles, and, like the Tories, but for very different reasons, reminded Canadians of this past December when Canadian Armed Forces personnel became engaged in a firefight with Daesh forces.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (the Conservative representative from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) repeated the point that, “the families of soldiers well remember the 2002 friendly fire incident when U.S. jets fired on Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, killing four of them.” Of course, she used the point for the opposite rationale, to justify keeping the CF-18s in Iraq and Syria. “Our CF-18s would have known they were Canadian boots on the ground, and now we are back to relying on other countries for air cover.” She also asked whether the Liberal government was introducing anti-armour in the ground equipment to make up for the absence of the CF-18s. In another example of, what proved to be, bad questioning, Dan Albas, the Conservative member from Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, suggested that since the Liberals were now deploying four Griffon helicopters to medically evacuate people, was that not an admission that more casualties could be expected because the CF-18s had been withdrawn?

These are two of many examples of the Tories asking questions where the questioner was not prepared for an answer that would undercut rather than advance their position. As I pointed out in the last blog, this happened when the Tories insisted on blaming ISIS for genocide, only to have the Liberals endorse that description of ISIS. The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, replied to the first query above that the anti-armour capability should have been provided before the Liberal government was elected. Further, “in inclement weather, the air strikes cannot take place. If there is a threat that can only be taken care of by anti-armour capability, we need a portable system to do so, and that system is not in our inventory any more.”

 

It is not as if the Tories could not ask questions that could elicit gaps in the Liberal policy. For example, Mr. Todd Doherty, the Tory member from Cariboo-Prince George, insisted that, “If we are putting our forces in the line of fire, we want to ensure that they have every tool to be effective and ensure that they come home safety,” and asked, “Does the hon. member not believe that we should be making sure that our forces should have access to all tools to ensure they come home safely?”

Similarly, when Tom Kmiec, the Conservative member from Calgary Shepard, cited the names and numbers of all the ISIS commanders killed by Canadian air strikes, Sajjan replied, “that is exactly what has happened. The air strikes were effective and targeted, but the enemy also learns from our lessons. I remember when I was serving, I had a rule. When we were in some intense combat, we could never use a strategy twice because the enemy would always learn from it. When we looked at the analysis with our military commanders, we looked at where the mission was at, where the evolution of the enemy was at. When I asked the ground force commander, General Clark, what he needed, the first thing he said to me was ‘intelligence’. The enemy is getting smarter because of our effectiveness in the past. We need to increase our intelligence capability. Why our Canadian intelligence capability? It is effective. Why do we need to increase our training capacity? This is what is needed on the ground. This is to defeat ISIS. It can only happen with troops on the ground. It cannot be done from the air.”

So many times the Tories asked questions and only fell into traps. As well, Tories often tried to score points with irrelevancies – the 1990s role of peacekeepers was catastrophic for Canada, especially in Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed because our soldiers were powerless to intervene. In addition to being irrelevant, the point was factually incorrect on a number of points

    1. Other than the Commander (Roméo Dallaire) and a communications unit, very few of the peacekeepers in Rwanda were Canadians
    2. The 800,000 were not killed because Canadian soldiers were “powerless to intervene” but because UN and powerful states like the U.S. would not authorize intervention.

The Liberals notably, on a much more macro level, attacked the Conservatives for losing Canada’s reputation internationally because they distanced Canada from responsible international engagement, avoided many international talks (e.g. climate change), for being forced to step out of the running for a position on the United Nations Security Council, all emphasizing the Liberal primary goal of rebranding.

The Conservatives not only attacked the Liberals for withdrawing the fighter jets and for adopting a liberal brand with a stress on the use of diplomacy internationally, but insisted that these moves were totally out of synch with Canadian opinion polls even though the Liberals won the election with a clear majority.

  • an Angus Reid poll  of February 2016 indicating that 63% of Canadians want Canada to continue bombing ISIL targets at the current rate or to increase the number of bombing missions conducted against ISIL
  • 47% believe that withdrawing our CF-18s will harm Canada’s reputation abroad
  • only 18% of Canadians polled thought that pulling our jets from the fight would have a positive effect on our international reputation
  • two out of five people, 37%, believe that Canada should continue with the current number of bombing missions against ISIL; one-quarter, 26%, believe that .the number of missions should be increased
  • 64% believe that the threat ISIL poses has increased
  • half of those people (about 30%) believe that the threat has increased significantly
  • 33% believe that Canada should increase its involvement in the fight against ISIL.

The Tories also indirectly criticized the refugee resettlement program and stressed the humanitarian aid for the refugees in the camps (Pierre Paul-Hus, member form Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles), as if the Liberals did not announce an even larger humanitarian program. Further, the Tories characterized the withdrawal of the CF-18s as a retreat rather than acknowledging an increased presence on the ground. The rebranding became the main target of the Tories who kept insisting, implausibly, that the Liberals had made a decision “not to deploy our military” (Rona Ambrose), a gross distortion. A number of valid criticisms for keeping the CF-18s in the war were missed in a continuing effort to make political points instead of analyzing and criticizing in depth the Liberal shift in policy.

The substantive Conservative Position entailed:

  • keeping the jets in theatre on the grounds that they were needed for cover for 75 troops on the ground and, if tripled, need more cover
  • even if Canada only carried out 2.5% of the strikes, Canada was one of the five countries that were bombing targets effectively
  • By withdrawing the CF-18s, Canadian troops on the ground will be relying on allies to do the heavy lifting.

The problem is, as the NDP pointed out, Canada was not cutting its military and abandoning its allies. Further, no one asked to substantiate the Liberal claim that

  • sufficient air cover exists with interoperability and communication with the ground whatever the source of the troops
  • deployment in Afghanistan did not have air cover
  • the battle requires far more robust engagement, but by a different contribution
  • the coalition has significant capability to maintain the gains the jets have achieved.

Further, the Tory claim that the policy had alienated Canada’s allies seems to have been refuted by a number of American military experts. Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (the American mission), said that, “everybody likes to focus on the air strikes, right, because we get good videos out of it and it’s interesting because things blow up—but don’t forget a pillar of this operation, a pillar of this operation, is to train local ground forces. That is a key and critical part.” James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander said, “Now I understand you’re going to shift from doing training, which is… perhaps the most important of all. So I applaud the fact that our Canadian military and NATO colleagues will be working on the training mission with the Iraqi security forces, potentially with the Kurdish Peshmerga in the north because we don’t want to send 100,000 troops or 150,000 troops like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Did the Tories not have any authoritative sources to back their claim that America resents the Canadian shift?

What most surprised me about the debate, other than the even greater ineptitude than I imagined of the vast majority of Tory politicians who spoke, and other than the by-and-large enormous civility of the debate, was the number of parliamentarians who served in the Armed Forces or in overseas missions. They may not outnumber the lawyers, but there were a large number, more that I, for one, ever expected. I have not undertaken a count for the current parliament, but I am convinced from reading Hansard that the total numbers would approach that of the last parliament where 1 in 13 had military experience, “over 50 having served either in the regular forces or in reservist organizations, representing military service in a variety of operational theatres including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland.

 

Tomorrow: D. Defining the Enemy

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Parliamentary Debate over Fighting ISIS – The Liberal Policy

Corporealism XVI: Justin Trudeau Redux

B. The Parliamentary Debate over Fighting ISIS – The Liberal Policy

Justin Trudeau positioned the Liberal Party stance between the NDP, insisting on no combat role whatsoever, and the Conservatives, insisting on the retention of the air fighter jet contribution. The Canadian contribution by the Liberals was set within the context of a humanitarian operation and the larger goal of fighting ISIS in a battle for hearts and minds, of which the military role was an adjunct rather than front and centre. “When we talk about the fight today, it is not just a military fight; it is a fight for the hearts and minds of those who are under pressure to join the Islamic State.”

The issue was how best to leverage Canadian military assets. The policy was broad in its geographical application – Iraq and Syria, Lebanon and Jordan (border security, border monitoring, providing technical equipment and training facilities) – broad in the set of tools brought to the task – military and training, humanitarian programs ($870 million in aid over three years and resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees through government sponsorship alone by the end of 2016) and intelligence operations (re chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security), diplomatic coordination and development aid ($270 million over three years for promoting gender and sexual equality, protecting minority rights, mine and explosive clearance, etc.). The central message – a combat mission if necessary (versus the NDP), but not necessarily a combat mission for the fighter aircraft had been taken out of the equation (versus the Tories).

The Conservative response (to be explicated at greater length tomorrow) offered a great deal of humanitarian aid and helped refugees (???), but asked, why change the military mission in the sky? Air attacks have been successful, restricting ISIS to 25% of the territory it once held in Iraq. ISIS is weaker, more isolated. ISIS is also a threat to Canada. So the direct application of force is necessary, desirable and effective.

The Liberal response to the deployment of six CF-18s: perhaps before when ISIS was spread out; perhaps before, but not when Canada is only flying 2% of the missions; perhaps before, but not when the missions have been cut by a half or two-thirds; perhaps before, but not when the next major battle is for Mosul, a very large city totally infiltrated and controlled by ISIS in which aerial bombardment would be too costly in civilian lives. And perhaps never, for the major battle is not a military one, though a military one is necessary, but one best fought on the ground with well-trained and well-equipped local troops. The central battle is psychological, sociological and political. It is one for the minds and hearts of Iraqis, especially young ones, who are attracted to joining ISIL. As one Liberal member who has coached sports teams for a number of years, argued, you have to adapt the strategy to the current field conditions.

Trudeau also argued that Canada should concentrate on its expertise in advice and training developed from ten years in Afghanistan. Trudeau implied that, even though other countries desired primarily to play a training role, Canada was one of the best countries to fulfill it. To say, as Trudeau did, that Canada does not “have any troops on the ground in the front lines,” is very misleading, for in insurgency warfare, the enemy comes to you from the side, from the back, from underneath, from within. The battlefield does not have a front line by definition.

If the Liberals were engaged in a massive rebranding operation to portray Canadians as much more on the side of the angels involved in a hearts and minds fight rather than a direct combat role, why not go all the way? Why a hybrid mission with a scanty skirt of possible and risky combat training? If political stability is key, why get involved in the killing at all? The answer was there in the debate, but indirect and not really articulated very well by Justin Trudeau or other Liberals. It depended on how you characterized the enemy. It depended on how you characterized the means to combat the enemy.

On the question of the typology of the enemy, the Tories and Liberals were on the same ground, though the Tories used more fiery and unequivocal language. Daesh, ISIS, ISIL was evil incarnate, vicious. The militants in ISIS were “homicidal maniacs.” John McKay, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Defence Minister, called Daesh, “evil, brutal, and a completely ruthless collective of organizations that specializes in the use of terror to accomplish its aims. ISIL seeks to conquer and subjugate, with the interest and intent of establishing a quasi-nation state.” Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, not to be outdone by the Tories, said, This is certainly a horrible group, and no word, be it ‘genocide,’ ‘massacre,’ or ‘terror,’ is strong enough,” thereby contradicting Tony Clement’s claim that the Liberals were reluctant to characterize ISIL’s treatment of the Yazidis and the Christians as “genocide.” “This group is driven by a perverse and terrible ideology that makes young people think they will win salvation if they murder everyone who does not believe what they believe and if they kill men, women and children. We must do everything in our power to fight it.”

Dion added, “It is important that we do everything to eradicate this group.” Not defeat! Not vanquish! Eliminate. Exterminate. Eradicate. When is the last time you heard such language applied to an enemy? Daesh was characterized as perverse and diabolical by both the Liberals and the Tories.

On the question of the utility of the air strikes, they may have not only prevented Daesh from taking more territory but they helped push back the militants by providing air cover to the Peshmerga Kurdish forces. The Tories could have quoted Falah Mustafa Bakir, the top diplomat for the Iraq Kurds in the north, who said, when he toured Canada three months ago, that, “the Kurds would prefer Canada continue air strikes in Iraq and Syria.” Perhaps the Tories did not quote him because he put the position gently and added that, if Canada chooses to take another course, then the Kurds hoped that other forms of support (political presumably as well as economic and humanitarian) would be forthcoming. Fighter jets were helpful, but not absolutely necessary, was his message. The Tories tended only to generalize about the first half of Bakir’s remarks.

The smartest response to the Tory criticisms came from John McKay. “The Conservatives agree that we should triple our advise-and-assist mission. The Conservatives agree that we should double our intelligence mission. The Conservatives agree that a helicopter component is an important component to these two missions. The Conservatives agree that we should have a medical component to this mission. The Conservatives agree with the upping of the amount of money for humanitarian assistance. The Conservatives actually agree, reluctantly may I say, with the resettlement of refugees here in this country. The Conservatives kind of reluctantly agree, as well, that diplomatic re-engagement is a good thing. The only thing they disagree with is our opposition to the bombing mission continuing.” On that question, the core argument was not over past effectiveness but, given the changing circumstances, whether a re-evaluation should take place and, if so, whether the evaluation recommended ending the air mission.

That was the nub once it was agreed that a combat mission was not ruled out in accordance with NDP preferences. And the Liberals were vulnerable on this question. First, they had campaigned on withdrawing the six fighter jets, not on re-evaluating whether the continuing deployment of fighter jets should be part of the Canadian contribution. The books seemed to be cooked before the Liberals took office. They did undertake that re-evaluation when they had access to all the requisite evidence. Secondly, a number of reputable scholars on defence matters, while welcoming the overall package of changes, argued that the continuing deployment of the jets was important for the following reasons:

  • training Canadian pilots in actual combat situations
  • the need to continue the degrading of ISIL
  • the need to have air cover for troops on the ground when training missions took them into combat zones
  • the preference for Canadian jets supplying that ground cover because direct communication was better, compatible communication equipment was in play and, hence, a more rapid response could be expected, one which decreased the possibility of friendly fire on one’s own troops.

The options had to be weighed against alternative uses of resources, the significant decline in the sorties for those jets, questioning the results in the use of such expensive equipment relative to costs and whether other resources in the air from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Jordan, Netherlands, U.K., Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and UAE could readily fill in the gap while Canadians contributed in other ways.

After reading the debates, I became convinced that the main reason for withdrawal of the six jets was not an exercise in cost effectiveness or effectiveness more generally, or whether the Canadian contribution was essential or could be made up by others given the diminution in the number of sorties. The main issue, I believe, was rebranding and the complementary strategic stress on giving priority to a hearts and minds campaign over the military one without compromising those military goals. Since neither the Conservatives (at least, on record) nor the NDP objected to either the rebranding and the new emphasis on the hearts and minds campaign, the only question, setting aside all the irrelevancies about past performance of the jets and the other errors and faults of Liberals over the past two decades, was the question of whether the withdrawal of the jets compromises a) either the overall military effort of the consortium of sixty-six countries or b) compromises Canada’s relationship with its allies or c) is the best approach given the nature of the enemy and the relevant strategies available.

Since the answer to the first two questions, as I piece it together from the replies and remarks elsewhere, seems to be “No,” no to compromising the overall military effort, and no to putting Canada offside with its allies, then the whole debate comes off as blather when it comes to Conservative-Liberal differences, all steam and smoke but a product of hot air rather than fire. The blessing was that it was conducted with great civility, a complement to the new mood of parliament, even when John McKay called Obhrai’s verbose speech “entertaining,” to which Obhrai took offence.

Obhrai, exasperated, just protested that the change was “at the expense of the most effective weapon we have in destroying ISIL.” So why did he not spend his time piling on one piece of evidence after another to try to prove that point instead of going off into a multitude of tangents? Why did he not quote from allies that “the coalition forces are a little disappointed in the Liberal government?” But more on this tomorrow. It may be true that, to the best of one’s knowledge, the CF-18s have never attacked civilian targets and have destroyed infrastructure, fighting positions, training grounds and weapon caches. The actual record after their final mission has been:

  • 251 airstrikes, only 5 in Syria
  • dropping 606 bombs
  • destroyed 267 ISIL fighting positions
  • destroyed 102 vehicles or other pieces of equipment
  • destroyed 30 improvised explosive device factories or storage facilities

I do not know, and I could not find anything to tell me, whether this was an efficient or inefficient use of resources, assuming all claimed successes are correct. I could not find any strong arguments, pro or con, to help conclude whether, going forward, the deployment of jets would be the most efficient or effective use of resources.

On the matter of allied criticism of the change in policy, on  8 February Justin Trudeau claimed that he had spoken both to President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel and both expressed understanding of Canada’s change in policy and did not condemn it. Canada was asked to continue its refueling and reconnaissance roles and Canada complied. Bruce Heyman, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, in his statement not only called Canada’s contributions “significant,” not only noted that Canada was among the first to join in the fight against the Islamic State, but affirmed that the new Canadian policy was “in line with the Coalition’s current (my italics) needs.”

The NDP objected to any combat role or risk of a combat role for the Canadian military. Further, when it came to repeated questions about the Arms Trade Treaty, the Liberals either obfuscated or simply went on to answer an imaginary question on another matter. According to UNODA (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs),

Under the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) countries regulate the international trade in conventional weapons – from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships – and work to prevent the diversion of arms and ammunition.”

The treaty has 131 signatories, including Canada, but Canada is among the fifty countries that have yet to ratify the treaty. Yet no explanation was offered when the NDP used this debate to raise the issue. Of course, it fits in with the NDP’s major point that the prime thrust of policy in dealing with ISIS should be cutting off its access to recruits, arms and funds. But, again, more on this tomorrow.

Other than the withdrawal of the CF-18s from the air mission, what changes were being made on the ground? According to the Liberals, Canadians realized that our efforts to help the local government win could best be served by increasing the amount of resources and troops who contributed to the training mission and to intelligence, provincial reconstruction, and actual regional stabilization. From about 2005 to 2010, this transition was under way and applied with great determination and skill, by not only the Canadian Armed Forces personnel, but indeed by all those who contributed to a so-called “whole-of-government” approach.

Sven Spengemann (Mississauga—Lakeshore, Liberal), who once served as a UN official with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Baghdad, put it this way: boots on the ground were absolutely necessary. However, the great shortfall is in training indigenous forces. What was needed was boots on the ground who were:

  • the best trained
  • local
  • had the best intelligence.

The Liberals wanted local forces to fight ISIS. The ground seized by Daesh, displacing millions of refugees and throwing the region into turmoil, will, the Liberals argued, only be taken back by efforts on the ground. To retake that ground, local allies need better training and support to take the fight to Daesh directly and allow people to return to their homes. To that end, Canada needed to train, advise and mentor them. The Canadian complement of military personnel taking part in Operation Impact will increase from approximately 630 to 850 focused on operational planning, targeting, and intelligence. The size of Canada’s training, advice, and assist mission will also be tripled and will include equipment, such as small arms, ammunition, and optics to assist in the training of Iraqi security forces, to boost local security forces’ independence. Consistent with international law, Canada would provide training in the use of that military equipment supplied by the Government of Canada.

The Liberals promised to provide additional intelligence resources in northern Iraq and theatre-wide to better protect coalition forces and those of the host country and enable the coalition to develop a more detailed understanding of the threat and improve its ability to target, degrade, and defeat ISIS by choking off the flow of supplies, money and personnel in an “observe, detect, orient, and react cycle.” Canada’s air mission would not end entirely. The Liberal government continued to support coalition operations using the Canadian CC-150 Polaris aerial refueller and two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft.

However, the new emphasis was not on the military, but on humanitarian, development and diplomatic assistance. In recognition of the worsening humanitarian crisis, Canada will undertake an $870 million three year commitment, 30% more than the previous three years, for humanitarian aid to support the basic needs of conflict-affected areas. Assisting Syrian refugees to resettle in Canada is an integral part of that humanitarian program. Canada will welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February and 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of this year.

In the area of development assistance, as stated above, Canada will spend $270 million for development and resilience aid over three years, double the amount of the previous three years, to improve the living conditions of conflicted populations, and help to build the foundations for long-term regional stability of host communities, including Lebanon and Jordan, and work with local partners to build the capacity to provide basic social services, and foster inclusive growth and employment:

  • help create jobs by, for example, supporting Jordan’s commitment to put in place conditions that will create jobs for Syrian refugees in exchange for greater targeted development aid and better access to foreign markets for Jordanian exports
  • ensure that people have access to essential services
  • teach local officials how to operate water supply, water treatment, and sanitary facilities to prevent water-borne diseases associated with unsanitary conditions.
  • increase children’s access to education
  • provide a safe and healthy learning environment for the children of the local populations and the refugees
  • renovate schools
  • advance inclusive and accountable governance.

The education component is crucial. In hundreds of schools in Jordan and Lebanon, school has been shortened to half a day to permit refugee children to attend in the afternoons. Two million children in Syria and 700,000 in the camps no longer attend school. An entire generation is missing an education, with enormous long-term human and economic consequences. After all, education is the cement in order to build a democracy and maintain peace as well as provide the foundation for economic growth.

Since the solution to the crises in the region is first and foremost political, the diplomatic component will also be bolstered by additional staff in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Diplomats will work for a political solution to the crisis in Syria by supporting the UN-sponsored peace process as well as the reconciliation efforts of the Iraqi government and other crises in the region.

 

Tomorrow: A detailed critique from the Opposition parties

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Welcoming Strangers and Ethnic Cleansing

Welcoming Strangers and Ethnic Cleansing: Parshat Mishpatim Exodus 21-27

by

Howard Adelman

What does the dictum to welcome the stranger have to do with ethnic cleansing?

Chapter 22:20 of Exodus reads: “And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Chapter 23:9 reads: “And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Rabbi Gunther Plaut used to remind me that the commandment mentioned most frequently in the Torah is the injunction to welcome the stranger. Rabbi Yael Splansky reminded us this past September, when our congregation initiated both a joint recollection with the Vietnamese community about the role Jews played in 1979 and subsequently in welcoming the Boat People to Canada, and when the congregation also launched its campaign to bring to Canada Syrian refugees, of Rabbi Plaut’s 221-page report on “Refugee Determination in Canada,” commissioned by the Government of Canada to propose changes to Canada’s refugee determination system. That Report began with a personal introduction:

“I was a refugee once, having fled from Hitler under whose rule I had lived for more than two years. I came to the New World exactly 50 years ago, after finishing law school in Germany and having been deprived of pursuing my chosen profession because I was a Jew. In a miniscule fashion my own life rehearses the story of my people who have been refugees all too often. I know the heart of the refugee, a person who desperately seeks for a place to stand, for the opportunity to be accepted as an equal amongst fellow humans….  I belong to the fortunate ones whose quest has been generously answered. My personal experience and my own religious tradition have moved me to put on Canada’s national agenda the larger issues that arise from a consideration of refugees and their problems.”

Rabbi Splansky went on to say that, “Every single member of our congregation has his and her own story of migration. None of our family lines is indigenous to Canada. Against the backdrop of Jewish history, we are relative newcomers to this good country. Therefore, we Jews easily identify with the asylum seeker, the migrant, the refugee who searches for a better life and a place to call home. No matter his religion, no matter her country of origin, the empathy comes easily to us.” Rabbi Splansky cited that week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo (the text study was dedicated in memory of three year old, Alan Kurdi, a refugee child from Syria found drowned on a beach in Turkey). Splansky reminded us that, “Moses instructs the people to share the land’s bounty with the vulnerable – the orphan and the widow as well as the foreigner, that is, ‘the stranger’,” and to do so joyfully.

At the same time, in this week’s Torah portion, the text promises to execute a few of the most vulnerable and to turn most of the inhabitants of the land into the vulnerable by forcing most off the land.

The text commands the Israelites to execute witches. You shall not allow a sorceress to live.” (22:17) This commandment alone can be cited as a major source of persecution of women from the Biblical period through the Salem witch trials to current uses of text to demean women, whether in Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

More significantly, for today’s purposes, to force out the inhabitants, the Torah portion for this week promises that God will send the tzir’ah [insects like hornets, but they blind and make the person whom they bite impotent; perhaps the word is prophetic and the Israeli IDF is about to acquire CF-18 Hornet fighter planes to do the job.] The tzir’ah will “drive out the Hivvites, the Canaanites and the Hittites,” but by a process of stealth and gradualism “little by little” until such time as the Israelites have increased and can occupy the land.” (23:27-30) Reading this does it not remind us of the settlers in Israel in the West Bank?

According to Joshua 14, it took six years to overcome the military might of the Canaanites “to subjugate their portion of land and remove the defeated people.” But of the twelve possible tribes of Canaanites – the Canaanites themselves, the Perizzites, Gittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Jebusites, Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hivites, Hittites and the tribe of Raphaim – why are only three mentioned here for ethnic cleansing? After all, Leviticus (18:25) said that the land vomited up its inhabitants. And Deuteronomy (7:1) mentions seven, not three, though not all twelve. The Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Gittites and the tribe of Rephaim are omitted.

The omission of the latter five and the inclusion of seven could be explained because the five did not occupy land promised to the Israelites. Perhaps only three are mentioned here because they were the fiercest and the strongest and were in possession of the most strategic portions of the land. But why were the Philistines not included as well as the Canaanites?  In any case, whatever the number and the group, ethnic cleansing is ordained. How does one reconcile that with empathy for the stranger?

Only, I believe, by distinguishing between enemies versus strangers. Enemies are those who would do you in if they have the chance. Strangers are Others who are no threat. But how do you distinguish the two? After all, in today’s world, some would target all Muslims for exclusion and not just Daesh or al-Qaeda. One burlesque madman would even exclude Mexicans. Are Israelis to define all Palestinians as their enemies, including their own citizens, or only those determined to drive Israel into the sea?

It seems there will always be a political debate about whether the definition of enemy, on ethnic, religious or ideological grounds, should be drawn widely, moderately or narrowly. Some would not target any group at all, even determined exterminators – unless they are a direct existential challenges to one’s own people. I, myself, believe that some – like Nazis and members of Daesh – need to be targeted, but the targeting should be narrow and neither made moderate to allow a margin of safety and certainly not drawn broadly. The latter results in McCarthyism and fear- mongering of the worst order.

So welcome the stranger. Be reasonably cautious but do not exaggerate a danger.

Corporeality IIIB: Justin Trudeau and Canadian Identity

Corporeality IIIB: Justin Trudeau and Canadian Identity

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday I wrote about Justin Trudeau’s policies with respect to the war against Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. I tried to show that on the basis of strategic considerations alone, Canada’s plan not to renew the deployment of the six CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft as part of the allied mission in Iraq and Syria, did not make rational sense. At the end I suggested that the account could not be left at the level simply of strategy, but the explanation lay deeper in Trudeau’s conception of the Canadian identity and the way, sometimes erroneously, that he envisions enhancing that identity.

The energy his government has put into resettling the Syrian refugees in Canada is a major expression of the view of the Liberal Party under Trudeau of Canadian identity. Though overwhelmingly cheered on, the initiative has not been without criticism, usually on security grounds rather than humanitarian ones. But some critiques have emerged that argue that we are importing a population which has values diametrically opposed to our own, particularly in the treatment of women. The following op-ed by the brilliant son of two very old (now sadly deceased) friends, David Frum, was published on 16 March 2015 in The National Post:

Trudeau now urges Canada to enable and assist those who define women as inferior — and who require women to wear special identifying badges of their inferiority. In his Toronto speech, Trudeau said: “one of the highest aims of Canadian political leadership is to protect and expand freedom for Canadians.” He is so determined to expand freedom, in fact, that he now proposes to expand it to include the freedom to treat women like chattels. This is not the freedom that Trudeau’s hero Wilfrid Laurier had in mind when he called freedom “Canada’s nationality.” The freedom Justin Trudeau defended in Toronto is the freedom Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee fought for: the freedom to dominate and subordinate.

Canada stands for human rights. Canada stands for freedom. Canada stands for gender equality. It is wrong, the argument goes, for Canada to bring in people who do not share those values. What the Justin Trudeau government is asserting by its initiative is that it is absolutely wrong to label a whole region and the people who live in it as discriminatory against women, let alone a whole religion. For the region contains many people. Yazidis and Chaldeans do not define women as chattels. Neither do most Muslims. Engaging in such labeling is un-Canadian and runs directly counter to Canadian values of tolerance and respect. Of course, among those refugees from Syria there will be some refugees who do not share in our values of gender equality which Canadian immigration officers will be unable to detect, especially given their focus on security issues. Trudeau trusts that Canadian values are so powerful and so winning that, even for those who do not share the Canadian values of gender equality, over one or perhaps two generations, given past history, and given Canada’s excellent multicultural and integration policies, even most of those will incorporate those values into their cultural praidentity, valuesctices.

The lesson about Canadian values encompassing respect for the Other goes even further. I will illustrate this by a story which I hope I have not written about before. When I was in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion in 1982 auditing the number of residents made homeless by the war, I was traveling around in a Red Cross vehicle. We came across a woman sobbing in the middle of the road. She was covered in blood and fresh blood was still seeping from her head wounds. The Red Cross vehicle stopped and bundled her into the back. A long interrogation and conversation proceeded in Arabic as her wounds were being treated.

Not understanding Arabic, I presumed that the woman was somehow a casualty of the war that had primarily moved up to the Beirut area. While the woman was being treated in the back, the Red Cross vehicle first drove to one location from which it received directions to another. We arrived at a home with posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first supreme religious leader of Iran after the overthrow of the Shah, plastered all down one wall on the side. [As a total aside, and a bit of the good news coming out of Iran, his reform-minded grandson, who was initially vetoed by the Supreme Religious Council in Iran, has had his candidacy reinstated.]

No one explained to me why we were not at a hospital. I presumed we were at the home of a Hezbollah leader given the posters. I had to move over in the front seat and a gentleman joined us and chatted with the driver and with the woman and her attendant in the back as we drove to another village. There at a house we dropped off the woman and the man we had so recently picked up after a brief discussion with the Red Cross driver before we proceeded on our way. The driver then explained what had happened.

The woman had been beaten up by her husband. We had gone first to the home of the local religious leader who delegated one of his acolytes both to warn the husband never to repeat the beating of his wife and to live with the family for 30 days to protect the wife, to give daily lessons to the husband and to report back to the Imam on the treatment of the wife over a month. When I heard this I had to admit to myself that although I still regarded Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and as a religious organization that supported the doctrine of the superiority of males over females, when it comes to responding to domestic violence, the organization seemed to have a social system of protection of women light years ahead of our own.

The lesson: do not be complacent and simply dogmatically believe that your practices of instantiating gender equality are by definition not only the best, but had nothing to learn from other practices. Ironically, other practices, from sources one would least suspect, can be superior to your own.

I tell this story because two Canadian values complementary to gender equality are tolerance and respect. They are best taught by example. The intolerant comments of the writer critical of the Canadian Syrian refugee program above in defense of Canadian values, reveals him or herself to be subversive of those values. Further, the writer revealed profound ignorance as well as negative exaggerations about peoples and religion in insisting that the niqab is a “symbol of oppression: the garment’s purpose, after all, is to deprive women of their individuality; to render them invisible in public space.” The writer was. I believe, obviously thinking of the burka rather than the niqab. With respect to the niqab, in my own studies of the controversy in France over its being worn by Muslim girls in the French schools, I learned that it was worn for many different reasons – to protect privacy, as a style statement, as an identifier with one’s tradition, as a religious identifier, as a means of diverting the male gaze away from them, and by two school girls whose last name was Levy and who had a Jewish father and a Muslim mother, as a political statement of rebellion against the arbitrary edicts of the French government in its efforts to ban the wearing of the niqab.

One reproach to Justin Trudeau took place in the context of his comments on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trudeau said:

“On this day, we pay tribute to the memory of the millions of victims murdered during the Holocaust. We honour those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Nazi regime, and welcome their courageous stories of hope and perseverance… The Holocaust is a stark reminder of the dangers and risks of allowing hate, prejudice, and discrimination to spread unchallenged. It also reminds us that silence must never be an option when humanity is threatened… As we pause to educate ourselves and our families on the bitter lessons of the Holocaust, we also strengthen our resolve to work with domestic and international partners to continue defending human rights and condemning intolerance.”

Many took umbrage at the statement – not for what it said, but for what it left out. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is not Human Rights Day. Holocaust Day is specifically intended to commemorate the deliberate murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during WWII. Yet there was not one mention of Jews in the speech. Instead, Trudeau said that, “We honour [all] those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Nazi regime.” The day was reinterpreted as a day of remembrance for all victims of the Nazis.

Further, the statement took place just a few days after Stéphan Dion, our Foreign Minister, said that Canada, as a steadfast ally of and friend to Israel, “calls for all efforts to be made to reduce violence and incitement and to help build the conditions for a return to the negotiating table.” This was said in the context of the intifada of the knives. Though very occasionally Jewish extremists have killed innocent Palestinian civilians deliberately, those rare occurrences have been deplored by political authorities in Israel. In contrast, the now almost daily terrorist attacks against civilians by Palestinian extremists may be criticized as an inappropriate tactic by Mahmoud Abbas, but at the same time, the perpetrators are celebrated as heroes. Further, the various practices of the IDF as an occupying army of a civilian population antithetical to that occupation, such as demolishing a number of Palestinian homes “illegally” erected on land reserved for the IDF for military practice, may be deplored, but there is no equivalence whatsoever between the deliberate attempts of Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians and the unacceptable and deplorable practices of the Netanyahu government.

Since Justin Trudeau misspoke about the Holocaust in leaving out any reference to Jews that followed Stéphan Dion’s mistaken equation of Palestinian violence and Israeli political practices which may separately be worthy of extensive criticism, the government received a number of criticisms from various quarters, especially Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), but Fogel also noted that in each case the government issued an immediate apology and corrections. Dion made an explicit clarification which pointed at the exclusive responsibility for the intifada of the knives on Palestinians themselves and pointing to the ways in which they followed incitement by Palestinian leaders. Trudeau addressed the issue of the connection between the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

There are two lessons here. The first arises from the pattern and propensity to make such mistakes. Secondly, there is the willingness to immediately apologize and correct the errors. The first is not just a case of being careless, thoughtless and insensitive. In Otherwise than Being, Emmanuel Levinas dedicated it, “To the memory of those who were closest among the six million assassinated by the Nazi Socialists, and the millions on millions of all confessions and all nations, victims of the same hatred of the other man, the same anti-Semitism” (my italics) Though Levinas did not make the same error of simply putting a generic face on the singularity of the Shoah by omitting that the Nazis targeted Jews most specifically, he also wanted to universalize the lesson to all cases of racist thought. This, I believe, is what lay behind Trudeau’s misstep. The error was not in the effort to draw universal lessons, but in the omission of reference to the specific victims from which the lesson was being drawn. This is also true of the erroneous equivalence – the tendency to universalize, to apply to all patterns of injustice, but at the expense of forging false equivalences.

The willingness to correct the errors, the way they were corrected and the speed with which the corrections were made speaks to the strengths of the Trudeau government value system and its willingness to amend whenever it gives way to sacrificing the particular and significant differences to convey a universal message. What has this got to do with the Canadian decision to not to renew the deployment of the CF-18 Hornet fighter planes in the Middle East? I know analogical reasoning is the weakest form of argument and in many quarters is unacceptable, but it is my belief that this young government has a proclivity in general to such errors. In its desire to enunciate and give witness to universal values, there is a propensity to get the particulars wrong.

The government should, and I believe it might, demonstrate that it recognizes that it cannot combat evil only with giving witness to universal values. It can, and, in my mind, should continue to insist that upholding those values is the best bulwark against creating conditions for homegrown terrorism to flourish and grow. THIS MUST BE THE FIRST PRIORITY OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE BATTLE AGAINST TERRORISM. It is well exemplified in Canadian policies to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. It is well exemplified in the unwillingness to target Islam as a religion because of the small number of terrorists that are spawned in part from that religion. But first priorities are not to the exclusion of other priorities down the line. The Canadian government must also engage with and combat that evil on the ground and in the air that is flourishing in the Middle East and even Africa.

What do I expect the government to do?

  1. Announce that it has not had enough time to reconsider its overall policies and plans for combatting Daesh (ISIS);
  2. Until it completes that reconsideration and review, it will extend the mission of the six CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft for another six months;
  3. Nearing the two-thirds mark in that extension, the government will announce that, out of consideration for its responsibilities to the mission and its allies, out of consideration of the continuing threat posed by Daesh, the deployment of the six CF-18 Hornet fighter planes will be renewed for a further six months;
  4. That the government will enhance its contribution to the fight against evil in a number of ways, including going beyond a combat role and offering advice to the Iraqi government on how to implement multicultural practices that uphold the values of rights, respect for others and minorities and reinforcement of democratic institutions;
  5. That, in the meanwhile, Canada will continue to take in more refugees and to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve, thereby offering the most important lesson through witnessing in combating terrorism.

Will the Canadian government do what I expect? “Expect” is an equivocal term. On the one hand it means setting standards for a party to live up to. On the other hand, it is a prognostication for the future. I leave it to the reader to decide whether I mean the first or the second or possibly both.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

Corporeality III: Trudeau and ISIS

Corporeality III: Trudeau and ISIS

by

Howard Adelman

Inspired by the failure of the international community to intervene in the Rwanda genocide in 1994, in the beginning of the twenty-first century, Canada was the major initiator of the doctrine: “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). The Liberal Party of Canada when Lloyd Axworthy was Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Jean Chretien had given birth to that doctrine that endorsed military intervention when a state failed to fulfil its responsibilities and war crimes, crimes against humanity, religious cleansing and even genocide were all rampant. We do not hear much about R2P anymore since it was endorsed by the United Nations unanimously just over ten years ago because R2P proved to be both hypocritical in its passage and inapplicable in practice. The doctrine presumed that sovereignty was not absolute but rather a delegated authority by the international community and could be breached by that same international community if a state failed in the primary duty if it was either unable or unwilling to protect its citizens from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

The passage was hypocritical because countries like China voted for R2P as long as it observed the principle of the absolute sovereignty of a state and military intervention was permissible only with the permission of that state. R2P was inapplicable because, when military intervention was most needed in failing states, powerful states suspected one another of practicing power politics and interfering in the domestic affairs of another state for their own political interests.

In the case of Iraq, was this not a perfect instance for the applicability of humanitarian intervention, especially since the government of Iraq had itself invited that intervention? In Syria and Iraq, minorities were under constant attack – the Yazidis and Chaldeans ae a few examples.  Further, the United Nations itself had endorsed such intervention in the fight against terrorism. On 19 September 2014, the UN Security Council, as it welcomed the newly-elected Iraqi government, did not simply endorse but urged international support for the Iraqi government’s fight against ISIS (S/PRST/2014/20). This was followed up on 19 November 2014 with a statement of the President of the Security Council, endorsed with the full authority of the SC, that called for international cooperation in combating terrorism and the threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters, violent extremism, Al-Quaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). One year later on 20 November, the UNSC called on its member states “to take all necessary measures on the territory under the control of ISIS to prevent terrorist acts committed by ISIS and other Al-Quaida affiliates.”

The Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau had assumed office in Canada at the time that the last UN resolution was passed. Given its past and current policies of renewing Canada’s traditional record of engagement in the international sphere and with the United Nations, one might have expected that the Justin Trudeau government would step up its involvement in Iraq in the fight against Al-Quaida and ISIS. But that did not seem to be the case.

It was not as if Canada had been totally immune from attacks by Islamicist terrorists on Canadian soil or had not been used as a transit stop for terrorists heading for the U.S. On 14 December 1999, Ahmed Ressam had been arrested as a result of a very alert American customs guard when Ressam tried to enter the U.S. on the car ferry between Victoria and the U.S., a car that was packed with explosives intended for use in a plot to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve as part of the planned 2000 millennium attacks. In 2006, in Ontario, Canadian counter-terrorism forces rounded up 18 al-Quaida-inspired terrorists to attack and set off bombs at the CBC in Toronto and the parliament buildings in Ottawa with the intention of capturing and beheading the Canadian Prime Minister and other political leaders. In August 2010, Misbahuddin Ahmed was arrested and subsequently convicted for his involvement in facilitating terrorism. In 2013, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were arrested for their involvement in a plot to derail a Toronto-New York train. In July 2013 in British Columbia, John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Korody were arrested for planning to plant pressure cooker bombs in the provincial legislature.

Canadians were not always lucky in avoiding actual terrorist acts. In a ramming attack, not uncommon in Israel but rare here, Martin Couture-Rouleau, a recent Muslim convert, struck two members of the Canadian Armed Forces and killed warrant officer Patrice Vincent. On 22 October 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, another recent convert to Islam, gunned down 24-year-old Corporal Nathan Cirillo standing guard at the War Memorial in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and might have done considerably more damage if he had not been killed within the building by the head of the Parliamentary Security Services.

These plans and actual attacks, for the most part, may just have been inspired by Al-Quaida and ISIS, but they alone provided sufficient motive for Canada to join the war against Daesh (ISIS) – which Canada did under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Just over a year ago, the Harper government agreed to participate actively in the war against Daesh and in March of 2015 reconfirmed that commitment for another year. The new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau had different plans. In his very first press conference, Trudeau announced the government’s intention of keeping its pledge to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the battle against Al-Quaida and ISIS in Iraq. But he also pledged to stay in the battle, no longer directly, but by using Canadian forces to train Iraqi forces to do battle with Al-Quaida and ISIS.

But how does this square with the historical tradition of the Liberal Party in support of R2P, with Canada’s liberal tradition of involvement with UN sanctioned missions, with Canada’s own self- interest in defeating Al-Quaida and ISIS, and with a fourth source of legitimating Canadian direct military involvement, the call by President Hollande of France following the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 to participate in the war against Al-Quaida and ISIS? Under both the EU and NATO’s doctrine of mutual defence invoked when President Hollande declared war on ISIS. Canada under its treaty obligations was called upon to actively join the direct war effort against Daesh. Instead, Canada seemed to be opting out of the direct combat against Al-Quaida and ISIS.

“What we’re doing right now is working with our allies and coalition partners looking at how best Canada can continue to help militarily in substantive ways that offer real help in a way that is specifically lined up with our capacities as Canadians.” This, in various iterations, has been Trudeau’s explanation for plans to withdraw six Canadian fighter jets from the battle. In what sense has this been working with partners when it has been clear that Canada’s military partners do not endorse the withdrawal? Canada’s allies have not responded well to the Canadian government decision to withdraw the six fighter aircraft. When U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter in an effort to enhance member contributions summoned American allies – including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK – Canada was conspicuously excluded. America responded in diplomatic-speak to queries about Canada’s non-invitation. “The United States and Canada are great friends and allies, and together with coalition partners, we will continue to work to degrade and destroy ISIL.” Three Republican congressmen initiated an investigation of Trudeau for supporting ISIL.

In what sense is the involvement of Canadian fighter jets out of line with Canadian capacities? Is active involvement in such a legitimate war not the best way for Canadian fighter pilots to gain experience in actual combat? Trudeau offered a threefold explanation. Canada should do what it does best. Other alternatives of involvement were better options in the war. Third, Trudeau had pledged to withdraw the fighters in the election campaign and was beholden to the Canadian electorate to carry out what he promised to do. “We do some things better than just about anyone else in the world and looking at our capacity to do that in smarter ways is exactly what Canadians asked me to do in the last election campaign.” It is part of a division of responsibilities and Canada should serve in a role in which it has a competitive advantage. It was an explanation he repeated many times, including statements made to a G20 summit in Turkey just after the Paris November massacres.

The third explanation of fulfilling promises made in an election is certainly valid, but did not the 13 November massacres in Paris change the equation? Did not President Hollande’s call for directly joining the war against ISIS demand an alteration in promises made? Why was it an either/or proposition – training Iraqi soldiers versus the use of fighter jets? Both might be appropriate. Finally, to declare that what Canada does better than anyone else is training foreign military forces seemed the height of conceit as well as blatantly false. Though Canada has Canadian soldiers offering tactical training on the ground – for example 250 in Ukraine – as well as offering financial support and training for strengthening democratic institutions, this hardly seems to be the main priority in Iraq and Syria. Even if the boast about Canadian unique capacities happened to be true, it is not as if Canadians can avoid involvement in combat. In December, Canadians training Kurdish Peshmerga forces were subject to a three-pronged attack by Daesh forces and the Canadian forces became actively involved in the two-day battle supported in the air by two Canadian hornets in addition to other allied aircraft. A ground involvement would not obviate participating in the air war, especially since the Canadian armed forces boast of the successes of its 13 missions in November and its 8 in December. Further, in the light of the casualties taken in the seemingly fruitless 8-year involvement in Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban, Canadians seem more wary of having troops on the ground than in the air.

What about the other parts of Canada’s Operation IMPACT and the Canadian air contribution to the Middle East Stabilization Force (MESF) to halt and degrade Daesh in both Iraq and Syria? Canada boasts that as part of its participation, Daesh has lost the ability to operate freely in 20-25% of the populated areas in Iraq under its control. Daesh has lost a great deal of infrastructure and equipment. In addition to the six CF-18 Hornet fighters, Canada contributes a CC-150T Polaris refueller and two CP-140M Aurora surveillance aircraft.  Nothing has been said that I know of about withdrawing them. But how important would retaining them in the field be if the six Hornets are withdrawn?

It is not as if the Canadian air forces have been underused having, by the end of January, conducted over 2,000 sorties, about two-thirds by its fighter jets, one-sixth by the refueller and one-sixth by its surveillance aircraft. In addition to the air crews, what about the crews on the ground required to support the fliers – the liaison and planning personnel, the logistics people, those officers working in command and control, and the ground crews? The reality is that all Canadian troops overseas in the war against Daesh are combat troops in some sense.

One argument not used at all is the ineffectiveness of the campaign against Daesh and al-Quaida. That is for three reasons. Since Trudeau contends that Canada will continue to be involved in the train-and-assist mission, a revised policy on these lines would be incoherent. Secondly, such a rationale would prompt close examination of the mission and reveal how critical air support has been to the success of the train-and-assist mission. Third, the examination would reveal how successful the air mission has been in degrading and setting back ISIS. The last has a corollary harking back to R2P. The sooner the mission is completely successful, the sooner the people of Mosul and Fallujah will be free of the tyranny of ISIS and the practice of hoarding food for their fighters while the local population is left to starve.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland has stated:

  • The mission has forced the enemy in Iraq to give up terrain, ejecting Daesh from Beiji and its nearby oil refinery and from Ramadi where defense forces were deeply entrenched;
  • The train-and-assist mission has already succeeded in training 17,500 Iraqi troops, 2,000 police with another 3,000 soldiers and police in process;
  • The mission has trained the Iraqis in how to integrate infantry, armor, artillery, air power (my italics), engineers, etc. in coordinated attacks;
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces, including Syrian Kurds, Syrian Arabs and others “have made dramatic gains against the enemy in northern and eastern Syria, while the vetted Syrian opposition and other groups are holding the enemy back along what we call the Mara line in northwest Syria;”
  • None of the above would have been possible “without coalition air support.”

Discount some of these claims as embroidered. Nevertheless the mission has been and continues to be successful. Essentially, Justin Trudeau seems to believe that, motivated by fear, a response to terror with force only succeeds in inducing greater radicalization among Islam’s adherents. The angry extremists and terrorists are out there because of what we Westerners have done in the past. Trudeau has evidently not read, or, if he has, he disagrees with Joby Warrick’s description of the rise of ISIS in his book Black Flags. Daesh did not arise in response to George W. Bush’s terribly mistaken invasion of Iraq, but with the help of the Bush administration that enormously raised the profile of an obscure Jordanian street tough, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He learned that terror, the bloodier the better, was the best means of getting America to sell his message. Zarqawi offered the militant match to Donald Trump’s belief that the greater the quantity of insults shot off with a scatter gun, the more publicity, the higher your profile and the greater your chances of becoming President of the U.S. The jihadists just wanted to create a caliphate over the whole Middle East.

If the argument were left there, we would be stranded, for the arguments on the basis of tactics and strategies leave us bereft of any understanding. Trudeau appears to be left standing on quicksand. But that is fundamentally a decision not to comprehend his position. For in the end he is not arguing about the best tactics and strategies to combat and defeat ISIS, but about identity, Canada’s identity in a world of realpolitik. Canada is a peaceable kingdom with a very successful multicultural policy. What we do in foreign affairs and the defence of Canadian citizens must be carried out with this as the first premise. The use of military force must be a last resort and used only when diplomacy and working to improve government have crashed against a cement wall. Even then the use of military force will be very small.

That approach apparently would not even change as a result of an increase in homegrown terrorism. A successful attack would not change Canadian policy. Responding with a declaration of war is wrong for Trudeau. That is NOT how attacks at home or abroad should affect us – by stirring up our militancy and our paranoia and fear. In the case of the latter, reinforcing Canadian intelligence services would only mean reinforcing the surveillance of those intelligence services to ensure they do not abrogate our freedoms. This is the claim of the son of Pierre Trudeau who introduced the draconian War Measures Act against what was relatively a pinprick by the FLQ.

So how do we assess Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party’s position when placing military and strategic considerations within the context of identity politics? By examining some other miscues of the government unrelated to Daesh, Iraq or Syria we might gain some further insight.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Tomorrow: Trudeau, the domestic body politic and defining the body politic of Canada

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

by

Howard Adelman

In my blog on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, I mentioned, but only mentioned, that Obama had cited that fighting Daesh (which he referred to as ISIL) and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration. “Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.” Since Daesh was and is not an existential threat to the American people, referring to the fight against Daesh as WWIII was a gross “over-the-top” exaggeration that inflated the threat of ISIS enormously. Nevertheless, “Both Al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.”

Further, he refused to conflate Daesh with Islam. “We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are  —  killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.” What strategy was he following to accomplish that goal? “For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.” Once again he repeated his plea to Congress to authorize the use of military force against ISIS.

There are a number of puzzles about the war on Daesh as the top foreign policy agenda item for the U.S. First, why was it his top priority? Why not John Kerry’s since the strategy involved creating a broad coalition? Why not the Secretary of Defence since this was also a military mission? Because, in the U.S. system of government, the U.S. President is also Commander-in-Chief. In the Torah, Aaron the High Priest was not only foreign minister but commander-in-chief of the Israelites’ defense forces, not Moses. In virtually all Western democracies, the Prime Minister is NOT the head of the armed forces.

But before I offer an account trying to explain that anomaly, let me clarify why, since Paris and San Bernardino, Daesh has become the outstanding military enemy of the U.S. I want to help understand the body politic of these jihadist terrorists. The answer in one sense is simple. Obama gave it himself in a speech this past December. The Daesh attacks “shook Americans’ confidence in the government’s ability to protect them from terror groups.” The Assad regime was demoted. So even though normally the enemy of my enemy is my friend, in this case, this is not true. For yesterday, when ISIS led three coordinated attacks using a car bomb aimed at a bus and two suicide bombers aimed at the rescue teams in the suburb of Sayeda Zeinab Southern Damascus (the site of Shi’ites’ holiest shrine) killing 35, mostly Hezbollah fighters in the bus that was transporting them (at a cost to Daesh of 25 of their own), the U.S. and her allies did not cheer.

Further, in Iraq, there is a huge dam located in territory captured back from Daesh and once again controlled by the Iraqi military only 18 km. from Mosul. The dam is fundamentally weak. Given the fighting, the weakness of the dam and the difficulty in repairing it under such circumstances, its bursting would send a wall of water down on Mosul, a Daesh stronghold, Iraqi’s with the help of Americans, however, are evaluating the weakness of the dam and helping to take restorative measures to ensure it does not collapse. America’s war is not with Muslims, not with ordinary Iraqi civilians, nor even with Hezbollah Shi’ite fighters allied with Assad when they are targets of Daesh terrorism. America’s war is with Daesh and its terrorist look-alikes.

Why is Daesh so formidable even though its bases and leaders have been attacked with over 10,000 air strikes, even though it is under retreat in Iraq because of America and its allies reinforcing the Iraqi and Kurdish armies, and even though it is in retreat in Syria because of Russian and Hezbollah reinforcing the Assad regime? After all, there is little evidence that Daesh is a cohesive terrorist network. In that sense, it is even weaker than al Qaeda was. The sensationalism and repetition of its terrorist attacks have been invaluable in recruiting. However,   Daesh does not follow the examples of African warlord rebel groups who recruit mainly through terror rather than ideology and indoctrination. Daesh does, however, retain its adherents through precisely the same system of terror when the recruits discover how totally disappointing, ruthless and un-Islamic Daesh really is. So it is not surprising that 15-year-old Younes Abaaoud, the partner of his much older brother Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist and mastermind of the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, though he vowed revenge for his brother’s death, also became the target of a Daesh hit squad when he admitted to colleagues that he thought the attacks had gone “too far.” Daesh is not powerful structurally, strategically or even ideologically, but it is vicious in its terrorist practices.

Daesh is powerful as the best advertising agent for Islamicist terror, but wants to keep its reliance on terror to keep its recruits in line secret. Daesh is also powerful because it plays on specific weaknesses of America’s allies, weaknesses which a leading Republican candidate for the presidency wants to replicate in the U.S. States like France attack the wearing of the hijab by girls in schools in defense of their secular religion of laicité for absolutely no valid political reason and, at the same time, populates its suburbs of Paris, the infamous banlieues like Saint Denis, with 25% unemployment among the Muslim youth, with its deteriorating school system and medical services, with foreigners. France is just terrible in its multicultural policies of integration. Britain is almost as bad as MI-5 tracks an estimated 3,000 homegrown jihadists, but the U.K.’s weakness are somewhat different.

The scholarly evidence overwhelmingly shows that states that provide religious security for all their citizens and that have healthy multicultural programs that offer minority youth the same educational and employment opportunities as the native born, do not provide anywhere near the ripe recruiting grounds as states that fail in their multicultural policies. As Patrick Aeberhard, the Parisian-born cardiologist and co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, has said with respect to France, “We didn’t know how to integrate the Magréhbins, who were mostly northern Algerians, who were French, who should have blended right in.” The surprise is that, in spite of some of the virulent anti-Islam rhetoric, only 250 American Muslims have joined the Islamic State, according to a report by the House Homeland Security Committee; 68 of them have been indicted on charges of supporting Daesh according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.

For the evidence on the proposition that healthy multiculturalism is a formidable deterrent to jihadi terrorism, read the academic publications of the Terrorism Research Initiative under the direction of Alex Schmid or the special issue of Politics dealing with terrorism published by the School of Politics, Philosophy & International Studies at the University of Hull under the direction of Raphael Cohen-Almagor. The more Islamophobia in a country, the more fertile the ground is for the growth of Islamicist terror groups. Daesh feeds on Islamic alienation. In the U.S. since 9/11, right-wing extremists have murdered 48 people. Islamicist extremists in 26 deadly attacks have killed 31, including the 14 at San Bernardino. On 15 April 2013, the two bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston marathon wounded 250 people but only killed three.

I want to now go back to the theoretical discussions of French multiculturalism because they reveal a vision of the body politic in which the nation and state are one. Citizens must be assimilated, not just integrated. Since French political theory is so important in the principles underlying the American body politic, it is helpful to explore various aspects of that theory to understand not only Obama’s problem in dealing with terrorism and the French problem, but the body politic of contemporary jihadist terrorism.

Many French philosophers agree that the new immigrants have failed to assimilate into French culture, but instead of blaming French policies of assimilation (versus integration), blame the immigrants for both refusing to assimilate and selling a doctrine of multiculturalism intended to undermine the French state rather than enrich it. Well before the current Syrian refugee crisis, Pascal Bruckner, one of the new French philosophers, joined the right and argued that Western sentimentalism has permitted a mass invasion from Africa and the Middle East that threatened to destroy the foundations of French and Western civilization. (La Tyrannie de la pénitence (2006) The Tyranny of Guilt). He claimed that multiculturalism is a fraud and defended the unifying principles of reason and the Enlightenment and has been one of the rationalizers of the laws against public displays of religious symbols in France rather than the historical development of tolerance and pluralism.

Alan Finkielkraut is another of the new French philosophers. Though Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors, he has attacked multiculturalism arguing that France has always been assimilationist and has never been multicultural (L’identité malhereuse (2013) The Unhappy Identity). Multiculturalism, he argued, was an Islamic plot deliberately promoted by Islam to subvert French ideas and culture. He argued that France was headed for a Franco-Creole-Mahghrebin civilization under the aegis of Islam. “France is voluptuously sinking in the undifferentiated.”

Other French philosophers such as Michel Onfray, take the same path through from a complementary perspective. Following the 13 November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, he withdrew his book, Penser l’Islam because he did not think his attack on Islam to show it celebrated violence and terrorism could have a rational discussion. Nevertheless, from the previews of the book and his other writings, it is clear that he did not assign any responsibility to France, except to its soft sentimental underside, but instead envisioned the deep roots of terrorism to reside in Islam itself.

In contrast, André Glucksmann, the French philosopher of my age who died just three days before the Daesh terror attacks on Paris on 13 November 2015 and who practiced a similar form of philosophical analysis as I do using a detailed analysis of current events to extrapolate and illustrate philosophic principles, wrote: the war of Islamicist terror is not a war of East against West for the prime and overwhelming number of deaths are those who belong to the Islamic faith. It is not that we agreed on most things – he supported the intervention led by George W. Bush. But he was often brilliantly insightful and besides, had a sense of wit I lack. It was André who wrote the terrific 2004 book, The Discourse of Hate and said that, “Maybe violent wickedness can be decapitated, but stupidity has too many heads.”

That is the problem with Daesh. It is not just violently wicked. It is also stupid so it is hard to discern any grand rational strategy in much of its terrorism other than its brilliance in using terror and the internet as recruiting tools and targeting oil production areas for initial conquest to ensure an inflow of money. Daesh is built on a politics of money and blood, spilling the blood of others indiscriminately and forging bonds of blood between and among its adherents and blood flowing in the streets from innocents everywhere. For Daesh, warfare has been reduced to its basest and core foundation stones.

There are two common themes in understanding the body politic of Daesh. First is the use of terror to forge men into blood brothers. It is no surprise that many of the jihadists were, in fact, blood brothers:

  • 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev who perpetrated the terrorist attack at the Boston marathon by setting off bombs near the finish line
  • Abdelhamid Abaaoud and his younger 15-year-old brother Younes who organized the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris against the Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon cafés, the Stade de France during a German-French football match, and especially the Bataclan concert venue where 130 were killed
  • Chérif Kouachi and Said Kouachi who, on my 77th birthday, 7 January 2015, with assault rifles perpetrated the massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine killing 11 and wounding 11 others, and subsequently killed a French National Police Officer and five Jews in a Parisian kosher supermarket, but then, in the name of al Qaeda rather than Daesh, and the ostensible objective of defending Mohammed from blasphemy using gheerah or protective jealousy.

The contrast between the last two attacks is revealing. The Islam, and Kosher supermarket attackers were professionals who used military gestures, infantry tactics and fired and aimed execution-style single shots to the head. They also had a very specific motive – revenge against Jews and Charlie Hebdo for its controversial satiric pictures of Mohammed. In contrast, the November Paris attacks targeted ordinary Parisians carrying out typical and ordinary leisure activities. The shootings and killings were random with no specific targets at all. And that is where Daesh trumps al Qaeda as a terrorist “organization” – the objective is simply to sew fear whether in the battlefield or in the home turf of the allies against whom it is fighting And look at the response. Two million French citizens and foreigners marched in unison to uphold France’s principles of liberty, equality and fraternity after the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket attack. After the most violent terrorist attack since WWII this past November, Parisians cowered at home, with the encouragement of the government lest masses of French and foreigners become a new target. Prudence trumped public displays of patriotism.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, another French philosopher, has argued that this new wave of terrorism is built on Xerox copycat principles so that even the so-called third intifada of the knives and car rammings in Israel are not so much expressions of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation – though the resentment and frustrations are there – so much as just another expression of a worldwide jihad hysteria. (The Algemeiner, 21 October 2015) Palestinian leaders, particularly Hamas leaders, have encouraged and incited ordinary Palestinians to attack Jews, any Jews, Israeli or non-Israeli, civilian or military, young or old. Take to the streets and maim as many Jews as you can with as much pain as possible and spilling as much blood as possible. Then to hear Mahmoud Abbas call these acts “heroic” simply turns more and more Israelis and Jews off any peace process with the Palestinians. In fact, the resort to the knife in contrast to a Kalashnikov rifle can be seen as a throwback to classic Arab terrorism. Muhanad Alukabi, who stabbed and killed a victim in Beersheba (wounding 11 others) professed his allegiance to ISIS.

Daesh does not need to operate with a head. Certainly all its actions, its prideful displays and its heartlessness attest to that. For Daesh is a cult of blood, knitting its adherents together to constitute them as blood brothers, and aiming at the spilling of as much blood of the enemies as possible. If that is the real enemy, is an Islamic plot to foist multiculturalism on the French polity or the inadequate and incompetent application of multiculturalism to blame, an application which celebrates pluralism and integration rather than assimilation?

Emmanuel Levinas, France’s foremost post WWII thinker and a Jewish theologian as well, has also stood against the French intellectual tide denouncing multiculturalism in Philosophical Perspectives on the ‘War on Terrorism.’ For Levinas, ethics, the norms that govern conduct in society, are rooted in the experience of having to deal with the Other, with the Other’s alterity, whether Moses dealing with the Egyptians versus the Midianites, or Jethro dealing with the Egyptians and the Israelites. Ethics arise out of a face-to-face encounter with the Other as Other, and a demand to respect the opacity of that Otherness. This does not always mean extending hospitality to the Other and welcoming the stranger. For when the Other defines you as wholly Other, as an inferior Other, as a threatening Other, and, therefore as an Other that must be exterminated, then the Other that does so is an enemy. The Other is then not a stranger whom one does not know, but an Other who is all-too-familiar. The Other is not someone with whom one can dialogue and whom one should respect while acknowledging differences. There can be no dialogue with such an enemy. That enemy is owed no respect, only disdain, disgust and a militant defence.

So the problem is fourfold:

Daesh as a terrorist cult dedicated to randomly spilling blood.

Daesh as a terrorist organization that breeds loyalty, not by ideology, but by sharing blood so its warriors become blood brothers.

France is a state with a fundamental ideology that disdains multiculturalism.

France is a state that has misapplied the practices of multiculturalism.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Tomorrow: Terrorism and the Application of Multiculturalism in Canada

Following: Obama: Caught between the Body Politic of France and Canada