Monday, October 06, 2014
Harper's War: Churchill Moment or Swan Song?
It was the night before Canada officially goes to war, and no doubt in his command bunker Stephen Harper must have been in a state of feverish delirium.
No doubt believing that Harper's War will make him look like a Great Strong Leader, and that he'll be able to destroy the ISIS hordes AND the opposition.
That this is his great chance to save his old and tired government.
With six planes and no boots on the ground.
Or as Michael Den Tandt calls it, his Churchill moment.
This may be, paradoxically enough, Stephen Harper’s finest hour. The man who admires Lincoln, Churchill and Thatcher, at last has his opportunity to lead as he imagines they did, with unyielding conviction and no care to the political cost. Hanging in the balance are Harper’s fourth term, and his legacy.
For the Conservatives now have the ultimate differentiator between themselves and their opponents; an open-ended, aspirational foreign war in which they stand alone, guardians of all that is good and true, while the “wets” of the New Democratic and Liberal parties natter from the sidelines.
But of course this bombing for votes strategy has its risks.
The wrinkle – the wild card that makes this a Hail Mary pass, in political terms – is that it all may go so very badly wrong. In effect Harper has relinquished a large measure of control over his political future to luck, and the U.S. air force, and the ability of Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites to first, cobble together a stable new polity in the midst of civil war, and second, defeat and/or contain Islamic State, in some way that is recognizable, before Canadians go to the polls next fall.
And sadly for Great Churchill Leader's legacy, it's already going horribly wrong.
US-led air strikes in northern Syria have failed to interrupt the advance of Islamic State (Isis) fighters closing in on a key city on the Turkish border, raising questions about the western strategy for defeating the jihadi movement.
The bombing campaign isn't working. And for a very good reason.
For while it may be satisfying to see an ISIS pickup truck being blown up by a missile fired by a British warplane...
And I must admit I enjoyed that one immensely eh?
The problem is the missile cost more than the pickup truck, and the truck was probably empty. Because as in every other war the forces on the ground are adapting to the situation.
Isis has adapted swiftly to the new situation. Vehicles and equipment are scattered, fighters disperse as soon as western jets appear in the sky. These multi-million dollar warplanes have often been reduced, it seems, to blasting single pick-up trucks and the like with ordnance worth 10 or 20 times the value of the targets.
The CF-18 fighters Canada is deploying are not the ideal weapons.
Modern war planes move very fast and fly very high, most of the time. They miss things, waste their bombs. Those under attack dig in, they move at night, they go to close quarters with the enemy to deter attacks in which the other side would have to risk killing its own people. They move next to civilian communities, because they know the attackers want to avoid civilian deaths.
And it's only a matter of time before the cries for boots on the ground become almost deafening.
Which will leave Harper trying to explain why he's not answering the call to duty, if ISIS is such a monstrous threat to Canada.
It will force him to defend a failed and very expensive bombing campaign.
Or explain why he is exposing our pilots to the risk of being captured and beheaded. For nothing.
Or why he's jumping into bed with the notorious Saudi beheaders.
While making it MORE not less likely that terrorists they created and finance could attack Canada.
I mean with friends like Churchill Harper who needs enemies eh?
Which is the way the opposition needs to attack him and his Cons at a time when many Canadians support this doomed mission. Strongly and unapologetically.
So all those Canadians understand this message:
The bombing mission is useless. It risks the lives of our pilots, and the lives of Canadians here at home, and all over the world.
We could have done something more useful and more Canadian to help in the fight against ISIS.
But we didn't because all Stephen Harper wanted to do was look like a Great Strong Leader...
To try to boost his sagging popularity.
And he didn't care how many Canadians he KILLED.
And the good news?
Harper's War is already starting to look less like Churchill's V-for-Victory moment, and more like the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Or the charge of the Con Brigade into the hornet's nest.
Iraq is a hornet’s nest, in other words, into which this country is now thrusting itself, with no apparent strategy beyond shoring up alliances. Monday will be Stephen Harper’s “some chicken, some neck” moment. Conservative MPs will be hoping, as they watch the headlines between now and election day, that it’s not their swan song.
And he will get stung. It will be his swan song.
He will wear this war like a shroud.
And it will help destroy him...
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