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Opinion Canada’s role against IS must be more than just military

It is always tempting to take "the process gambit" as a way of avoiding an issue of substance.

Stephen Harper makes that even easier because of the appalling way he manages Parliament and attempts to manufacture consent in the country. Paul Calandra's tears notwithstanding, the smearing of the opposition has become standard fare, as has Mr. Harper's refusal to be clear with Canadians on what he plans to do in Iraq and Syria, why he plans to do it, when he plans to do it, and how he plans to do it.

But Mr. Harper's stealth will come to an end at some point, and then the opposition parties will have to decide what to do with the resolution he puts to Parliament. Obviously their decision will partly depend on the wording of the resolution, which is not yet public.

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But the broad issues of policy and decision are clear enough. It is now apparent that the forces of radical violence have metastasized, and that Islamic State represents a clear and present danger to the people over whom it rules, to any minorities around the area, to the region and potentially to the world.

There are some who quite mistakenly compare any decision to engage militarily against IS with the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This is hardly the same issue. The government of Iraq has asked for military assistance. The regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan has done the same. The Kurdish, Christian, and other minorities in northern Iraq and Syria are under siege. To equate this with the invasion of Iraq over a decade ago is wrong.

Some also say that what is happening in the Middle East is essentially a battle within Islam itself, and that those opposing violent extremists should simply be encouraged to band together. This is a little too easy, since the threat to security doesn't fall within such simple boundaries.

This is not a holy war, nor is it a crusade. It is about providing tangible help to people and governments who need it. Will it happen elsewhere ? Almost assuredly, yes, because this kind of violence is always testing the resilience of democracy.

This is not about "peace" versus "war". This is about something different – the collective capacity of governments and international institutions to deal effectively with perpetrators of violence. In some distant future, the rules of engagement and enforcement may be clearer, the capacities of international police forces may be stronger. In the meantime, we have to deal with the worst examples, and the greatest threats. The rule of law requires nothing less.

Ideally of course, local governments would have to ability to deal with these threats, and stronger regional actors, like Turkey, would take a more decisive role. We don't live in such a world.

Canada's role should be more than just military, and its diplomacy and its dollars need to match its rhetoric. This is not about positioning or posturing. This is about understanding the long term, enduring interest of our country in peace, order, and good government, for ourselves and for the world as well.

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