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The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - John Capobianco, Marit Stiles and Bernie Farber - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.

Bernie Farber:

I have always been of a number of minds when it came to participating in a war in this very hostile region.

On an emotive level we all want to see the end of monsters such as ISIS.

Yet in order to see its end, we have to make common cause with other monsters who do much the same thing to their innocent citizens. Yet we simply close our eyes to the atrocities.

Simultaneously I am struck with the government’s apparent duplicity in trying to deal one hand while playing another.

Had the Prime Minister been honest with us in the first place and explained our potential role in this conflict, I might have more faith in his motives. However, his ploy has made me suspicious of their intentions, and unclear as to any end result.


Marit Stiles:

I agree with Bernie: lack of clarity is absolutely a key issue here, and something Mr. Mulcair has been expressing from day one. This is a mission lacking in clear objectives and a clear strategy.

Furthermore, we have a Prime Minister who appears to have misled Canadians about details of the mission, vowing last fall that no Canadian solider would accompany local troops to the frontline or direct airstrikes.

So much for that commitment.

At the end of the day, there is so much more we could and should be doing on the humanitarian front, as well as here at home in countering the radicalization of youth.

But I suspect those issues don't bring in the dollars in Conservative Party fundraising appeals in quite the same way airstrikes against terrorists will.

Call me cynical, but with an election mere months away, it's hard to see this move as anything less than a crass attempt to appeal to Conservative core supporters.

And with so many lives at stake, that's a helluva a dangerous gamble.


John Capobianco:

No wants to send our troops to dangerous territory without there being just cause to defend our country and our citizens.

I am not sure what more by way of threats the Opposition needs to understand and to show that we live in times were there are some extremely bad people who don't like us and want to inflict pain on us.

Sending troops anywhere is a difficult decision for any leader to have to make,  and this PM couldn't be clearer in his desire to protect us from further attacks — by breaking down ISIS and ensuring it is further degraded and disrupted in its attempts to plot attacks.

As well, the PM understands fully the need to continue providing humanitarian assistance — the two are not mutually exclusive.

We need to have a honest debate on the issue and not hide behind the convenience of making this political, as we have seen from Mr. Trudeau, who one days opposes inaction against ISIS, speaks favourably about stopping the terrorist threat, and then opposes any action as presented by the PM.

We cannot protect Canadians or our communities by ignoring the threat against us.


Bernie Farber:

John, perhaps Mr. Trudeau is of the same mind as most other Canadians, who are not convinced that ISIS is behind the very few tragic events of recent times.

Lone wolf operations here cannot be solved by military intervention in Iraq and Syria. It seems a desperate attempt to kill a fly with a cannonball.

Frankly I just find myself confused. How is it that we rightly condemn ISIS and use that trigger as our entry point into this conflict?

What is the endgame here? Virtually no third party has been successful in a Middle East conflict. How will our small number of fliers and military tacticians have any real effect?

And honestly, can someone really explain to me what victory even looks like?

Is it back to the status quo of a fascist dictator in Syria, the brutal Bashar al Assad, and his continuing slaughter of his own people?

And what of the fledgling state of Iraq itself? Would not our help be better spent trying to work with its government in promoting democratic values?

I feel like the “Push-me-Pull-you” from Dr. Dolittle when it comes to this war. Yes, I want to protect Canadians, but I also want to understand the ramifications of such actions, as well as the motivation and chances for any real honest success.


Marit Stiles:

There are so many more questions here than answers.

Where's the clear plan for what Mr. Harper hopes to accomplish? How and when is success measured? Where does this all end?

We know he wants parliament to approve an extension of our involvement beyond the next six months so he isn't faced with an inconvenient debate, again, on extension of the conflict — right in the midst of an election.

Now we are looking at as much as another year of sending Canadian soldiers to Iraq and Syria.

And how do we, in good conscience, expand our airstrikes to the benefit of Bashar's regime?

The PM has to make a case that it's worth bolstering Bashar and putting Canadians at further risk, to ensure our security.

I'm absolutely opposed to our role in Iraq and now in Syria. No question.

But even those Canadians currently willing to entertain the notion that perhaps Canada should have a role on the ground in this conflict will be scrutinizing that role over the coming months.

PM Harper has to be thinking about his legacy as the federal election approaches. I'd urge Harper and his government to think long and hard about the implications of this expansion of our role in the war and how many more young Canadian lives they are willing to expend in this effort.


John Capobianco:

This mission and the motion that is being proposed and forwarded by the PM is to extend and expand Canada's military contribution to the global fight against ISIS. It's important to note that this mission is part of the US-led coalition including over 60 countries.

From the sounds of my two friends on the opposing side, you would think Canada is doing this alone and that the PM is simply playing politics.

He would never play politics on an issue this serious and especially one where he feels he has a responsibility, nay a duty, to participate in his capacity as PM to do what he can to protect us from real threats.

Doing nothing, or just providing humanitarian assistance as the NDP suggests, will not make this go away.

ISIS cannot have a safe haven to commit acts of violence to recruit and train future terrorists.

The current mission and the proposed extension is to stop that from happening, and Canada will be an important part of the global coalition this government believes in, and so do Canadians.

About The Salon

John Capobianco is a former CPC candidate and long-time party activist in both the federal and Ontario Conservative parties; Marit Stiles is a federal and Ontario NDP strategist; Bernie Farber is a former Ontario Liberal candidate and one of Canada's leading human rights experts.
Posted date : March 23, 2015

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