Kilian disposes of the arguments of those, including several Liberals, who see a "moral imperative" in our air war against ISIS.
It's a very selective morality that attacks the Islamic State in Syria while not attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria, or Russia in Ukraine, and attacks no one at all to protect the millions slaughtered and raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and other failing states.
The media and academic war pimps have generally fallen into line with Harper, while dutifully and objectively reporting the opposition's views far down the story. They have no truck with moral imperatives; they just want to speculate on how Justin Trudeau is handling this.
Legally, of course, Harper is jumping into the proverbial quagmire. Foreign Minister Jason Kenney on Tuesday said our current bombing of the Islamic State is at the invitation of the democratically elected Iraqi government. Then on Wednesday Kenney claimed the right of self-defence under the UN Charter's Article 51, which states:
'Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.'
The Security Council, of course, isn't authorizing air raids on Syria -- it's the member state under armed attack, not Canada. A U.N.-sanctioned war, in theory, is the only kind a U.N. member state should engage in. In practice, even those wars tend to end badly (remember Libya?).
...The way to sell a war, they found, was to brand it as an abstract struggle between good and evil somewhere far away. The casualties would be droves of foreign evildoers and a handful of heroes, who would get their pictures on the front page when they died. Those who came home merely screwed up or maimed could be safely forgotten.
This strategy got Bush re-elected, and his successor failed to indict him for war crimes (or to shut down Guantanamo). Stephen Harper must hope that a similar strategy will get him through a perilous spring and summer and then safely home with a second strong, stable, majority government.
How else could he sell himself to the voters? He's touted himself as the guardian of our economic interests, while running up our deficits and promising a balanced budget real soon now. As viceroy of the Oil Patch, he bet the country on exporting expensive oil, and now the Oil Patch is drowning in its own product. We get endless warnings about a housing bubble, job growth has been at record lows for over a year, and the available jobs are crappy part-time ones.
With no end in sight, the economic downturn would demolish Harper and the Conservatives in the next election. But with a sanitary, low-casualty, far-away war to distract people, and Bill C-51 to silence critics, he might just scare enough voters into giving him four more years of the same -- while also running up as big a deficit as he likes.
Meanwhile the Islamic State will be happy to cooperate, whether it inspires our mentally ill or sends its own terrorists. Each outrage will provoke more Canadian response, and damn the cost and the balanced budget. Muslim Canadians will serve the same purpose as the Japanese Canadians after Pearl Harbour: a convenient target for racist bigotry.
But it will all be just entertainment, something to watch on TV or tweet about. We'll ignore the fact that we've become a rogue state, flouting international law. We'll ignore the puzzled looks our allies give us; after all, we were among the key framers of that law after World War II.
Having bet the country on expensive oil and lost, Stephen Harper is now doubling down and betting it on an election-winning war. It's an enormous gamble, and he must know how easily it could blow up in his face. He must therefore also know how bad the economy really is, and how it will worsen by October. Sooner than face certain defeat, he prefers to gamble Canadian lives and honour on a far-away war.