Last week the eyes of the world again turned towards Canada’s new government, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Pictures circled the globe, showing him on hand to personally greet Syrian refugees arriving in Toronto. His critics predictably dismissed this as a feel good photo op. Considering a single heartbreaking picture introduced the refugee crisis to the national conversation to begin with, it is odd his critics are so quick to dismiss the power of an image.
More importantly, criticizing this moment as a photo op ironically misses the big picture. Seeing Mr. Trudeau greet refugees, hug children, and hand out winter coats it would be easy to miss what he was also doing. In the middle of Toronto’s Pearson Airport Justin Trudeau was fighting ISIS in the only way they can truly be defeated.
The Liberal commitment to withdraw Canadian war planes from the bombing campaign against ISIS has been consistently attacked by their opponents before and after the election. Forget that in removing ourselves from our minor role in the bombing campaign, Canadian forces could play a major role in the training of local military. In essence expanding our contribution to the overall mission.
No clearly this decision, according to opponents, was Liberals shrinking from a fight, afraid to face our enemies on the world stage. Conservative MP Kellie Leitch went as far as to say Liberals were making Canada look like cowards. The implication of who she really wanted to make look like a coward was clear. Hint, she probably thinks he has nice hair.
Her assertion may have come as news to the rest of the world, particularly French President Francois Hollande. During a meeting last month with Prime Minister Trudeau and with France still mourning in the shadow of an unspeakable act of terrorism, when given the chance M. Hollande took no issue with Canada’s withdrawal of the CF-18s. In fact specifically mentioning he was “very reassured and happy” by Canada’s continuing deep commitment to the military coalition.
Conservatives, upper and lower case C, are often quick to engage in military conflict. Perhaps rushing in headfirst is easier when it plays well to your base, and it isn’t your head going in first. In this particular case though the bombs away attitude from conservatives in Canada and the US, betrays a stunning and dangerous ignorance of the nature of the enemy.
ISIS are a murderous and barbaric group of terrorist killers. Were military action alone enough to wipe their bloody legacy from the face of the Earth I would happily advocate for it. Unfortunately such action is likely to have just the opposite effect. Every coalition bomb recruits as many fighters as it kills. Ask yourself honestly what the threat of death means to an army of suicide bombers?
I support the role of military action to destroy this vile horde where ever possible. Anyone who wages a war on humanity, decency, their own faith and countrymen will find no tears from me when death comes to claim them. However, what is more important to victory is that we focus on killing their message as much as their fighters.
The message they spread of an Islam hating West, assures them replacements for every terrorist killed. Islamaphobic fear mongering made the GOP debate a veritable infomercial for ISIS recruitment the other night. Every hate crime and act of discrimination against Muslims on the news advances their cause. When racists and bigots are not loudly condemned along with the terrorist fodder they provide the message is clear. ISIS is right, Muslims are not welcome in the West.
Which brings us back to the Prime Minister welcoming refugees. The attention he drew worldwide, included praise from the Arab media. His message for them and the world was loud, clear and a direct contradiction to the hate and fear spread by too many people here, and by ISIS abroad.
We can win this war. To do so, we need to show the world, specifically those terrorists would target for recruitment, that fear and violence will not change us. We are an open society where different cultures, religions, and ideas are welcome, and we are stronger for it. We provide opportunity, education, and a chance to stand free that does not exist anywhere the hands of extremists hold a bloodied blade over a citizenry.
This is a battle of ideology as much as infantry. Our Prime Minister has chosen to take the fight to the enemy in a battle for the hearts and minds of a people. It is the battle that matters most, if this war is to be won.
Like any other battle, it is one cowards are not equipped to fight.