Thursday, July 07, 2016
Chilcot's Freebie Lesson to Canada
As I've pored over press reports and analysis of the Chilcot report into Britain's bungled invasion of Iraq, I can't get Stephen Harper out of my mind. Had he been prime minister at the time, Harper would have eagerly deployed Canadian forces to the campaign. He was all about "standing shoulder to shoulder" with our traditional (i.e. white, English-speaking) allies - the UK, the US, Australia.
Chilcot has exposed the Blair and Bush regimes as a gaggle of incompetents. Their Iraq War was FUBAR before the first tank crossed into Mesopotamia. There's been no peace in that country, or that region, ever since. If anything, the Crusaders have provided the petri dish in which have flourished al Qaeda, ISIL, al Nusra and the larger Sunni v. Shiite conflict waiting to break out.
The message, to me, seems clear. When America, or American-led coalitions (including NATO) come knocking, ask questions first. Don't just say, "okay, I'm in." These people are bunglers.
If the massively violent history of this new century has proven anything - persistently, repeatedly, conclusively - it's that All the King's Horses and All the King's Men are not enough to win militarily and politically significant victories. Look around. The bombing campaign to liberate Kosovo (NATO). Check out Kosovo today and you can call that a failure. Libya (NATO)? Failure. Afghanistan (NATO Plus)? That was more than a failure. It was a defeat. We lost. Canadian forces were defeated. For what? Iraq, now Iraq/Syria? We claim victories, that ISIS is getting pushed back, driven out. Remember when we had the Taliban run out of Afghanistan? How long did that last?
Fighting wars is easy. Winning is the tricky part and, these days, there are plenty of supposed leaders keen on waging wars without a clue how to win them.
So, what's the lesson for Canada from Chilcot? How about this? The next time the phone rings and it's the White House or NATO looking for warplanes or troops for this place or that, assume you've got Tony Blair on the other end of the line after he's spent an afternoon with a bottle of Bristol cream sherry. Don't ask them about the fighting. Ask them what they've got in mind to win it. How? When? What is the exit strategy? If they haven't got convincing answers to those questions, tell them - politely - you'll have to get back to them.