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editorial

Dillon Hillier, left, standing a Kurdish peshmerga fighter after the attack of Tal Al-Ward, Nov. 26, 2014. Dillon Hillier, 26, a former Canadian solider who has gone to Iraq to help the Kurds fight ISIS. Photo courtesy Hiller family.

It's not every day that Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Hezbollah find themselves on the same side of an argument. And yet here we are.

The atrocities perpetrated by the expansionist Islamic State are drawing widespread condemnation from a bewildering array of quarters, not least from other Muslim hardliners. Not even the unapologetic Shiite extremists of Hezbollah can abide the medieval brand of sharia espoused by the Sunni ISIS. That may have something to do with the fact that ISIS militants consider the world's 200 million Shiites to be apostates to be slaughtered.

The group's apparent incursion into Libya is a worrying development for the international coalition that is trying to suppress ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It should also prompt a re-evaluation as to the best way for those countries, which include Canada, to proceed against a unique foe.

An exhaustive analysis of the Islamic State's guiding theology in The Atlantic magazine depicts a literalist religious ethos centred on an upcoming apocalypse – the magazine presents it as an Islamist version of David Koresh's Branch Davidians. Or, in Mr. Kenney's formulation, "a vicious death cult."

Because of ISIS's pretensions to constituting a modern-day caliphate – a term with far-reaching resonance in the Muslim world – it's reasonable to expect that ISIS will continue to win over the fealty of many lesser terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

That Egyptian warplanes bombed ISIS affiliates in Libya in retaliation to the mass beheading of Coptic Christians this weekend – they had left Egypt, a majority Sunni country, in search of work – is inauspicious, to say the least.

Western armies and their regional allies face a distinctive, multifarious threat from ISIS, one that requires serious thought and debate to address. Some of that discussion should be taking place in Canada. So far, however, there has been little in the way of serious public debate.

The Conservative government's fudging of the financials concerning this country's involvement in suppressing ISIS in Iraq is unbecoming a government that has placed the security agenda at the centre of its brand – Mr. Kenney has suggested that the so-called incremental costs have run to $122-million so far, but the Parliamentary Budget Office says the figure may be as high as $166-million. No one really knows.

For weeks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeated that international jihadists have "declared war" on this country, among others. The remark has taken on a partisan ring. It would be a welcome change for Ottawa to approach its response with the solemnity and seriousness it deserves.