Monday, February 29, 2016

Milking the 2% contribution

Sometimes our CF-18 bombers are really in tents.

When is 2% a thing, and when is it not? The right-wing media in Canada can’t seem to agree; while the rest of us happily accept 2% milk as real milk, pundits seem to either exalt or dismiss Canada’s 2% contribution.
In the war of words over the war we are waging against our atmosphere, Sun and Post columnists have consistently dismissed Canada’s role as insignificant: we only contribute 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the fact that we are only .5% of the world’s population and are thus polluting at 4 times the global rate, our “small contribution” is their justification to deny the influence we might have by cleaning up our act.
Yet this week, it turns out that our 2% contribution is a significant factor in another air war: bombing raids on terror group Daesh (not their self-styled title of “Islamic state”, as they neither represent a religion nor deserve statehood). Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets comprised a whole 2% of the air strikes; if, as we have been told for years, 2% isn’t enough to matter, then how is it such a wanton act to withdraw from this campaign? If the point is that our participation is more symbolic than numerical, that doing our part matters more than how big our part is, why doesn’t this same logic apply to other dire global threats, like climate change? It would seem that 2%, statistically 4 times our share of population, is either punching over our weight or it isn’t, in both cases.
So let’s assume that our role matters, in both ways. We must then ask whether our actions can truly improve things or are just futile. While those pundits have argued that climate action is a waste of our effort and instead urge us to boost a tar sands industry that itself is less than 2% of Canada’s GDP, they insist we will be judged by the world on our contribution (or not) of 2% of the bombing raids going on over Iraq and Syria. While they are patently wrong on the first point, I must agree they are right on the second, yet that leads me to support the opposite policy.
You see, Canada should play our role in international military actions, when the mission is both legal and just. We luckily stayed out of the illegal invasion of Iraq, which created the failed state that spawned Daesh. We shamefully took part in the illegal war in Libya, moving beyond protecting civilians and instead taking sides in a civil war, leading to another failed state providing support and weapons to Daesh. Now we are part of a bombing campaign that has killed over 1300 civilians in Iraq and Syria, deaths which are a key recruiting tool for Daesh to refill their ranks and raise funds.
Are we taking the side of brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, who only a few years ago we condemned for using chemical weapons against his own citizens, who is now propped up by Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia? He has already murdered more Syrians than Daesh ever has. Or are we siding with the Kurds, who have reportedly been ethnically cleansing the areas they capture from Daesh, to expand their own land base? Or with our NATO ally Turkey, whose interest in the area seems mainly to suppress the Kurds rather than Daesh? As Russia’s contribution to the bombing campaign destroys hospitals and schools, how could our own role be clear to the victims on the ground? All they will know is that foreign jets are bringing death from above, and Canada is part of that campaign. Or were – our 2%, significant or not, was in the wrong place and has been rightfully withdrawn. We can find better ways to address conflict and terror than by fanning the flames of someone else’s sectarian violence.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "There are better ways to battle conflict and terror"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is the vice president of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the insight. While my heart goes out to the civilians who are suffering unspeakable terrors, and endorse all that can be done to provide humanitarian aid, I can't see any moral reason to engage in the war.