Monday, February 08, 2016

Trudeau and ISIL: some guesses and thoughts

Just watching the press conference about Canada withdrawing CF-18s from Iraq and increasing the number of special forces and logistical support...some quick thoughts.

- Half a dozen CF-18s bombing the odd truck or position every few days is not massive air campaign. I'd venture to guess that there is an oversupply of strike aircraft in the region relative to available targets. Unless a significant ground battle is joined by forces the West supports, news reports suggest allied strike aircraft are largely hitting targets of opportunity. Removing our more charismatic weapons (CF-18s) from the fight will not impact anything other than domestic public opinion. Bombing sounds exciting and less boring than a long slow enabling of local forces, which in turn is more politically palatable that admitting there's no real strategy at work and whatever we do is probably pointless.

- Local forces are whatever they are and are the key to keeping ISIL at bay if not deating them. Supporting key actors there to - for now, to some extent - is probably the only real way to be involved if Canada insists it wants to be involved militarily, let alone any other way.

- Local forces are diverse, often oppositional, and shift in the winds. Some constants are the Kurdish forces who have a territorial base and a coherent mission. Turkey plays an ambiguous role. Russia is present and will largely do as it pleases and backs Assad. Mix in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so on and whatever Canada does or doesn't do, it won't be in any way decisive.

- We're there for show, because all our big showy friends (who made the most recent mess, re invading Iraq 2003) are there. No one knows or has known what they're doing because everything is complex, non-linear, and superpositioned where allies and enemies can be one and the same.

6 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...

Boris, I think you might enjoy reading Stephen Walt's take on our mess in the Middle East

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/29/the-u-s-should-admit-it-has-no-middle-east-policy-obama-cold-war-israel-syria/

Scott in Montreal said...

All of what you write is on the mark, Boris. I am sure JT wishes he could speak the plain truth that a bombing campaign all by itself is mostly counter-productive - particularly in this dog's breakfast that is Iraq/Syria. It is of course rooted in the ill-advised US-UK invasion of Iraq back in 2002.

What I find most interesting is the emphasis on working closely with the Iraqi Kurds, who are perhaps more concerned right now with countering Erdogan's unspoken mission to clamp down on their own internal Kurdish movement. I wonder if we Canadians are being used to aid in a minor proxy fight against our Turkish allies - if for no other reason than to put a little thorn in Erdogan's side on behalf of Obama, who has no diplomatically feasible overt way of countering, or seriously interfering with, our NATO ally. Hence, a more useful role for Canada in the region than a piddling handful of expensive to maintain CF-18's.

Edstock said...

Pretty well sums it all up, thanks.

e.a.f. said...

that is one of the best summaries I've read about the whole mess. Thank you.

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