Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, has raised the possibility of Canadian soldiers taking part in an invasion of Muslim North Africa.
Needless to say, this would be a really terrible idea, and even our bellicose Prime Minister's Office was quick to insist "we will not deploy boots on the ground in Libya." Still, the Postmedia News story published early this week definitely had the sound of a flag being run up the pole to see if anyone is foolish enough to salute.
This kind of talk was predictable, probably inevitable, as the so-called North Atlantic Treaty Organization's mandate to bomb Libya continues to slip away. This is especially true since its attempt to implement regime-change-from-above in that unhappy country has been revealed as an abject, pathetic and divisive failure.
If it ever was actually intended as an effort to protect the Libyan people from the excesses of their unsavoury dictator, NATO's bombing campaign has now deteriorated into little more than a bumbling and transparent effort to assassinate Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi so that someone friendlier to Western interests can occupy his office.
After close to 15,000 "missions," about all NATO's deadly airborne ineptitude has achieved is to remind us that most air force generals are delusional liars whose bombs do nothing but unite their adversaries against them -- and us. At any rate, they seem to have managed to leave Gaddafi relatively unscathed, although they have killed plenty of his countrymen and a few members of his family.
As an army officer, Natynczyk deserves a little more respect than his equals in rank among the Gang That Couldn't Bomb Straight, even if he's not an infantry guy. But there's no way a NATO land attack in Libya would be the effortless waltz across the sand he suggests. Oh, Gaddafi's conventional forces would be easy enough for the West to smash, but the insurgency that came after would not be so simple to defeat.
You'd think our soldiers would have figured this out a decade after the "rout" of the now-resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. Didn't anyone at the Royal Military College teach them how to spell "quagmire"?
Of course, any such invasion would also invite trouble here in Canada, because one of the perverse effects of our campaigns in corners of the Muslim world that are no threat to us is that while they are sold as protecting the homeland, they actually increase the likelihood of terrorism at home.
However, even though some of our soldiers and politicians may not get this elementary connection, their counterparts in Europe are obviously starting to, which is why this politically incompetent and militarily inept bombing campaign in Libya is threatening the unity of NATO.
Even if by some "precision-guided" miracle they manage to assassinate Gaddafi, NATO's air farces will have united the Libyan people against the West, and in particular against southern Europe. As recognition of this reality sinks into European skulls, the unity of the increasingly pointless alliance suffers.
How? Well, first, at least some Europeans realize that even the rag-tag Libyan rebels that the West has been trying to support without actually risking any troops will soon forget all but the tragic loss of life and destruction of infrastructure wrought by NATO's bombs. This goes double, of course, for ordinary Libyan citizens, no matter how much they may privately despise Gaddafi.
Moreover, even if NATO manages to knock off the unlikable colonel, significant numbers of Libyans will continue to oppose whatever puppets the West manages to put in power, sewing disorder and danger in the oilpatch of North Africa. If Gaddafi hangs in there, as he has quite nicely since March 19, not to mention the previous four decades, so much the worse.
Presumably this is why the French and the Italians, to the distress of those NATO allies who live far enough away to make bellicosity a risk-free pastime, would like to sit down and start talking with the colonel.
Having been involved in ugly fights on North Africa's stony ground before, and having seen not much good come from it, both countries have realized that one result of the incompetent bombing campaign is likely to be that whoever ends up in power in Libya can easily get their revenge on Europe. How? Merely by standing back and allowing millions of African economic refugees to pass through unmolested on their way north. Certainly Gaddafi will do no less if he manages to cling to power, which without Natynczyk's boots on the ground, he just might!
This may not be apparent to turmoil tourists like John Baird of Benghazi, Canada's blustering foreign affairs minister, playing soldier on Libyan soil far from the front lines. But it sure as heck should be to Europeans who live just across the Mediterranean Sea.
Given Gaddafi's apparent ability to hang on with the tenacity of Fidel Castro, only without allies and with snappier uniforms, if the Americans and their Canadian lapdogs continue to insist that the dictator must go no matter what, they will drive a wedge into the heart of NATO.
It's not entirely clear whether this would be a good or bad thing. On one hand, eliminating a military alliance whose raison d'etre has disappeared and that only seems to exist to advance American imperial projects would eliminate one major source of destabilization from the world. On the other, it always makes one a little nervous to imagine just what Europeans might get up to on their many borders without NATO to keep things orderly.
On balance, if the Euro-Zone monetary union can survive the flames lapping at the edges of the Balkans, the world would now probably be better off without NATO.
For the moment, though, we will have to listen to Postmedia's drivelists telling us that "the NATO mission in Libya has dragged on longer than most had expected" -- utter bunk if anyone was paying attention to anything other than Postmedia's and the government's propaganda.
We will also have to listen patiently, of course, to the likes of Natynczyk telling us "the challenge in any of these campaigns is having patience."
The problem with this campaign has been that we've had too much patience. If we'd been paying attention, and treating the campaign and its advocates with the patience they deserve, we would have joined the French and the Italians in calling for, as Winston Churchill put it, more jawr-jawr and less war-war.
Boots on the ground? God help us!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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