Mark Collins – Quasi-Pacifist? Justin Trudeau vs the Jihadis: All You Need is Love, Part 2

Further to this post, the conclusion of a piece at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s blog The Forum:

Canada is Back” – Part 2: Trudeau and the Use of Force

If the CF-​18s are withdrawn, and if there is no new combat role to replace them, Canada’s contribution will then be entirely non-​lethal, in the sense that Canadians will no longer be taking the fight directly to the enemy. That heavy lifting—the defeat of the enemy by actually seeking to kill them, disperse them, and expel them from their territory—will be left to others: either local forces on the ground or Canada’s other military allies in the Global Coalition.

In short, Trudeau’s ISIL policy suggests that Canada may be “back” in a less laudable way: “back” to being a country reluctant to use its armed forces. Trudeau’s reluctance to use force is certainly reminiscent of the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien, which had such an antipathy to the use of force that it would often refuse to even acknowledge when the CAF used force: for example, by purposely hiding a lethal engagement between Canadian and Croat forces in the Medak Pocket in 1993;…and not even acknowledging the record-​breaking performance of CAF snipers in Afghanistan in 20012002.

If antipathy to the use of force is indeed a prime driver under Trudeau fils, this certainly would be very much in keeping with the dominant self-​perception that Canada is a “peaceable kingdom,” a peacekeeper rather than a war fighter. In a revealing 2008 poll commissioned by the Department of National Defence, an overwhelming number of Canadians expressed the view that the proper purpose of the Canadian Armed Forces was not to use force in world politics, but to engage in humanitarian operations such as disaster relief. Indeed, when a focus group in the same poll was asked about its image of the CAF, one participant responded: “I do not picture a Canadian soldier carrying guns.”

The prime minister has given every indication that he too does not picture a Canadian soldier carrying guns. If that is so, then Canada may indeed be “back.”

Kim Richard Nossal is a professor in the Department of Political Studies and the Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen’s University. His latest book, co-​authored with Stéphane Roussel and Stéphane Paquin, is The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy, 4th edition, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in November 2015

Draw your own conclusions.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

5 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Quasi-Pacifist? Justin Trudeau vs the Jihadis: All You Need is Love, Part 2”

  1. Especially the lethal one I guess:

    “Canada can’t agree to all allied requests in ISIS fight: Stéphane Dion
    Canada’s bombing mission into Syria will end, but Liberals won’t say when”

    Meanwhile why the Netherlands is included in the “core” group vs ISIS:

    “Netherlands to join US-led air strikes in Syria: official”

    And will we do anything at all vs ISIS in Libya?

    “Italy says West prepared to take on Islamic State in Libya”


    “Back to Libya’s Shifting Sands: Western Action vs ISIS?”

    Mark Collins

  2. Some Canadian honesty here:

    “Michael Den Tandt: Truth is, little will change in Canada’s anemic foreign policy

    …Canada is a middling power that chronically underspends on defence and foreign aid and tags along symbolically with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies when doing so is politically convenient. In return for this valuable service rendered to the world, Canadians expect leaders of serious countries — the United States, the United Kingdom and France, to name three — to invite us to their summits and include us in their parleys. Their eye-rolling we perceive as irritation due to dust flecks, or something…

    The reality is that, excepting a brief burst of uncharacteristic internationalism between 2005 and 2010 — expressed in hard terms as defence-spending increases, military hardware purchases and substantial aid to Afghanistan — Canada has punched below its weight in foreign affairs since at least the early 1990s, and in some respects much longer. The Tories, despite their bellicosity, held defence spending to one per cent of GDP — half the recommended NATO standard.

    New ships for the Royal Canadian Navy are years from completion. New fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force are in limbo. This, de facto, has been Canada’s foreign policy. So it remains. The adjustment under Trudeau and Dion’s stewardship will be tonal — which is another way of saying trivial. As in the past, Canada’s allies will be too polite, or too embarrassed, to complain — not to our faces, at least.”

    Mark Collins

  3. A friend responds:

    “I’m not sure that pacifist is the correct label. Pacifism is an honourable position. The PM and most Canadians on the other hand just don’t want to get into combat for reasons of self-esteem and distaste–while allowing that someone has to do the dirty work but simply not us. Deeply dishonest.

    If we were really pacifist, we would withdraw from NATO and have a military for constabulary roles only; and perhaps with the NORAD commitment to keep the US out of our skies.”

    Quite, though a true pacifist would not even defend one’s own country: cf. Gandhi in World War II:

    Mark Collins

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