CNS photo/Omar Sanadiki, Reuters

A just response

  • October 9, 2014

In cases of unprovoked violence the use of reasonable force may be justified to stop an aggressor.

Pope Francis made that observation two months ago regarding the barbarous campaign by Islamist militants in northern Syria and Iraq. The world has a duty, operating within international law, to stop an evil rampage, provided it does “only that, nothing more,” said the Pope. 

That view was restated even more clearly in an Oct. 4 Vatican statement that gave qualified approval to military intervention to end the indiscriminate “massacre” being waged by the self-declared Islamic State. Such atrocities “cannot be met with indifference” and “something must be done,” said the Vatican.

Several nations, including Canada, have reached the same conclusion. The world has a moral responsibility to stop the slaughter. The military action announced Oct. 3 in Parliament seems to meet the Vatican’s parameters of a just response to the genocidal tsunami washing over Iraq and Syria. 

Canada will send six fighter jets to join a force that so far includes the United States, six other NATO allies and four Arab nations. The commitment comes at the invitation of the Iraq government and is limited to six months. The mission’s narrow objective is to halt the Islamic State slaughter in Iraq and Kurdish territories and cripple its ability to terrorize other countries, including Canada.

War is never a celebrated option, but air strikes in this case against military targets are a legitimate response to a well-equipped army of zealots that publicly beheads men, rapes and enslaves women and children, tortures clergy and bombs churches. There are obvious risks. War is complex. There is genuine concern that Canada and others could be drawn into a longer, wider, more deadly conflict. But the barbarism of the Islamic State must be stopped. 

Just as clear, Canada’s mission must encompass more than military intervention. There is a corollary responsibility in the short term to increase Canada’s contribution to humanitarian aid and refugee relief, and long term to become an integral part of an international coalition to rebuild the region so people can return to their homes in peace. 

That reconstruction, if even possible, may prove more difficult than stopping the Islamist killing spree. It will require a massive investment of financial and human resources to restore institutions and physical infrastructure and to relaunch a society that can become politically, financially and socially stable. It will take many years, if it is doable at all in a region that is a perpetual cultural and religious powder keg. 

For now, though, the best the world can hope to accomplish is to strip the rampaging militants of their swords. That requires force. It’s not an attractive solution, just the best one available today.

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