Can Trudeau’s foreign policy withstand allies’ determination to bomb ISIS?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

By now everyone in the entire world has heard about the shocking Paris terrorist bombings that occurred last Friday night – that is unless they live under a rock.

The terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short, claimed responsibility, and also vowed to carry out more terror attacks on many targets in the western world. There even seems to be a threat made against Canada, in a recording that singles out the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada as targets.

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, in a move to defy the Harper government’s foreign and military policy stance in the Middle-East, had vowed to pull Canadian fighter jets that aided in the military fight against ISIS during his election campaign.

Despite recent events, Trudeau is sticking by his stance. During the G20 meeting of world leaders in Turkey on the weekend, Trudeau rejected the idea to keep the Canadian fighter jets where they are, in a coordinated effort to militarily fight ISIS after the Paris terrorist attacks.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said at the G20 International Summit that: “We have committed to bringing back the CF-18s.” He added that: "But in the broader context we remain absolutely committed to the coalition."

Still, other countries have vowed to step up their military efforts against ISIS. U.S. President Barak Obama has vowed to double efforts to eradicate ISIS in Syria, and force them to abandon plans to carry out further terrorist attacks. Obama swore he would work with France to hunt down those who planned the Paris attacks.

Obama had described the Paris attack as an “attack on the civilized world”, and urged other countries to be more pro-active in the fight against ISIS and “show their military commitment.”

Though the G20 discusses mainly world economic issues, the Paris attacks overshadowed economic talks during the summit, with many world leaders pledging to do what they have to, to fight ISIS.

European Council President Donald Tusk urged countries, even those that are not particularly fond of each other, to coordinate efforts: “"It should be our common aim to coordinate our actions against Daesh (IS) and for sure the cooperation between the United States and Russia is a crucial one.”

Trudeau told Canada’s allies’ at the G20 summit that Canada will definitely still play an important part in the coalition combat against ISIS, but less as a military presence. Yet, at a time when world leaders are urging military intervention, this may be a problem.

Both France and the U.S. have militarily lashed out against ISIS in retaliation for the Paris attacks. France launched massive airstrikes on ISIS’ capital in Raqqa, Syria on Sunday night, which destroyed a training camp for terrorists. Similarly, the U.S., launched airstrikes against ISIS today, hitting oil trucks used by ISIS to smuggle oil into Syria. It is being reported that the U.S. managed to destroy about 116 trucks, thus cutting off vital oil supplies to ISIS.

In the face of all of these military responses to the Paris attacks, Trudeau is being urged to reconsider his stance.

However, Trudeau is not just facing pressure from world leaders to abandon his plan to pull the fighter jets out, but he is also facing great pressure at home.

Back in March of 2015, Global News conducted a poll which showed that about 66% of Canadians were in favour of extending Canada’s military mission against ISIS.

Now the Conservatives, under newly elected interim leader Rona Ambrose, are urging Trudeau to “immediately” reverse the decision to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the U.S.-led combat mission against ISIS. Ambrose told reporters: "The fight against ISIS requires a strong humanitarian response, but also a military response… It's important that we remain resolute and support our allies."

Even the premiers of Saskatchewan and Quebec, Premier Brad Wall and Premier Phillipe Couillard respectively, urge the federal government to continue the combat mission. Says Couillard: “We have to be part of an international coalition, an international movement and play the role that our partners want us to play.”

One has to question whether you can fight a terror group like ISIS without using at least some hard-hitting military means. The reality is that we are facing a global threat from ISIS and we cannot rule out that the military has a role to play in helping to defeat them. How large a role remains to be seen.

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