In the blink of an eye, Canada is, once again, at war.
It was surprising to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper say Canada would be sending a half dozen CF-18s to take part in the no-fly zone over Libya, right after the UN Security Council passed the resolution. Huh? What? Where did that come from? First we send a ship to park off the Libyan coast (fairly innocuous), and now Canada is sending in fighter-bombers?
Perhaps the HMCS Charlottetown was dispatched to the Mediterranean not only for evacuating Canadians, but also for maritime search and rescue of downed pilots?
To be clear, our presence is token at best. Six fighters is only half a squadron. While not nothing, it's about as close to nothing as you can get. Sure, they might do a few patrols, and drop a few bombs, but it's not like we're going to be shutting down Libya.
It seems other allies in this cobbled-together coalition are also contributing just a little more than nothing.
Italy announced Thursday it was dedicating four Tornado fighter-bombers and another four F-16s. Italy, however, is in the unfortunate circumstance of being the closest NATO ally to Libya. They also have this history of having conquered Libya under Mussolini. Italian cars burn a lot of Libyan oil. Italy couldn't say no to its allies in providing air bases, and has gone so far as to offer seven bases for use. But so far, when it comes to the pointy end of the stick, its military contribution seems minimal at best.
The resolution took a long time to come to a head in the Security Council, long enough that the tide had distinctly turned against the rebels. Apparently the Arab League pushed for this war, although within a couple days of its beginning, it was already waffling.
Now Qatar is sending four planes. For a small nation, that's a lot, but again, still not much in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, it's symbolism is significant.
The United Arab Emirates and Jordan are also expected to take part.
Saudi Arabia is the best armed nation in the Middle East besides Israel. They've been pouring money into American arms factories for years. They have enough AWACS and F-15s to enforce the no-fly zone themselves, provided they could base their aircraft in Egypt or Tunisia. But wait, both of those nations recently overthrew their oppressive governments and just might turn into democracies. Saudi Arabia is the definition of repressive.
Indeed, if Saudi Arabia does contribute, the irony will be rich beyond words. They just invaded Bahrain to quell pro-democracy protests, and now they're going to bomb Libya for repressing a similar uprising?
It is into this Quagmire Canadian airmen will now fly, and sailors will sail.
If Canada is going in, we should be serious about it. If our cause is just, as Harper feels it is, then we should go in full force: squadrons of fighters, numerous ships, and foot soldiers preparing for an invasion. These half measures are going to wind up with Canada involved in yet another mess, for something we were never serious about in the first place. If not, we should
Lest anyone forget, we are still in Afghanistan. Nine and a half years later, we are still in Afghanistan.
At the time, it seems like we were freeing a people from an oppressive regime. Geez, wonder how that went.
- Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at email@example.com