Job security for those of us in the military has never looked so horrifying as it did these past few days in Paris. Naturally, our thoughts go out to the first responders suiting up and heading out to take care of business. Next, we’re looking for retribution. As odd as it may sound to North American ears, Francois Hollande is a socialist president, but over there that’s not synonymous with pacifism. He has been rigorous in using France’s formidable military in fighting Islamic extremism, especially in North Africa. Late Friday night, he did not disappoint with his response, quite rightly calling the attacks an act of war and vowing to act against the “barbarians” with “all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies, who are, themselves, targeted by this terrorist threat.”
It is a war whether we want it or not. The echoes of gunfire were still reverberating down the alleys of Paris when suddenly trolls everywhere started using the attacks to push their agendas. Salon even published an article expressing that the attacks would put an end to name-calling by the right on liberals, such as the groups suppressing free speech on Ivy League campuses. As if hurling names and and hurling explosives were somehow equivalent. It may seem that we are too, but the difference is that this is our business, it’s what we know, and entirely consistent with what we have been warning about for quite some time. It is a war. It will not stay within its borders. It is here. There is no opting out. At least not if we want to preserve our freedom and way of life.
That may sound extreme but it really isn’t. Some of the pacifist persuasion will argue that this calls for complete withdrawal and capitulation to the demands of the terrorists. While this is a far more legitimate position than equivocating terrorism with debate as Salon did, it won’t win us any type of peace worth having. It will doom us to accepting ever-growing streams of refugees as they flee from a literal state of terror, where boys are educated with decapitation videos and inculcated with the inevitability of their victory over the world. They won’t be happy with their little sliver of territory for long, not after having humbled world powers. Our withdrawal will be inspiring. If a little bit of terror cowed these mighty countries, what will a bit more win them? These refugee streams will be legitimate cause for worry. Will they harbour infiltrators? Are we willing to seal our borders? Expel the refugees and immigrants that are already here? How has that worked for illegal migrants in the U.S.?
ISIS and their ilk need to be destroyed, and not just in Syria, as Hollande knows full well. The insecurity in North Africa is just as much of a factor. This is where most smuggling takes place along the ancient caravan routes. Libya in particular needs to be secured, as its vast stocks of weapons continue to flood the region after Gaddafi’s fall. No security, no peace for the whole region. ISIL is getting squeezed, Sinjar is secure for now, Jihadi John appears to have been taken out by an air strike, but it’s time to pick up the pace. Increase training, but also start putting more SOF boots on the ground to take out the leaders and mentor and accompany our local allies. In Iraq. In Kurdistan. In North Africa. We can’t leave them any place to hide. And we can’t allow a vacuum when we’re done. Let’s not let history repeat itself.
As tempting as it may seem, Assad and Putin are not our allies in this—they have deliberately created much of this situation for their own interests. Russia isn’t hitting ISIL, they’re hitting ISIL’s competitors. Why? So that Assad is the only choice left. His incompetent and barbaric regime is the reason ISIL got any traction in the first place. Allowing him to stay will only repeat the same mistake we made in allowing Saddam to remain in power in 1991, and further alienate us from the people there. Russia has been deliberately pushing refugees through their borders into Europe, including through Murmansk and into Norway through a tiny border crossing in the Arctic!
The refugees are not the problem. These are good people who would rather risk losing everything than support these regimes for another day, to allow their girls to be auctioned off to a foreign fighter as a wife or concubine, or their sons to become homicidal murderers. The diaspora communities from the Middle East, regardless of religion, are not the problem. They are part of the solution. This is their fight as much as it is ours, if not more. If we push them out and do not allow them to become part of the larger community, we know who is waiting to take advantage of the situation. Actionable intelligence comes from within these communities, both foreign and domestic.
One of the main goals of these attacks is to divide us, to make us fight each other. If your eyes are glazing over reading this, stop and think for a second. Think of the guys you served with. Pick out the former refugees and immigrants. I always think of the linguists we worked with in-theater. Soldiers who had earlier been refugees from Iran and Pakistan and later became Canadians were risking their lives beside mine. I think of Marc Diab and his family. They were from Lebanon. Marc joined the military as an armoured crewman and was killed in Afghanistan. His family moved from Toronto to tiny Petawawa to fulfil Marc’s dream of opening a restaurant there, and are now beloved by the community.
This isn’t an argument for swinging the doors wide open—we obviously need to redouble our efforts to screen refugees for threats—but we also need to find people like the Diabs who will make a positive impact on the country. People who consider citizenship an obligation to be taken seriously. Who will help us take the fight to the enemy, and will provide an example to their community of what real warriors are, and what true honour is.
Our new sunny, positive prime minister did extremely well in choosing our defence minister. He’s exactly the type of person I’ve been talking about. An Indian immigrant, he’s an experienced cop who worked in the Vancouver gangs unit for years, and served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, including as a senior intelligence advisor. Let’s hope our prime minister listens to those who know, and keeps Canada in the fight.
Balance and compassion will be required, but right now it’s time to cry havoc.
(Featured image courtesy of businessinsider.com)