Under the hazy shadow of Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons on civilians earlier this month, Western powers are being unavoidably dragged into yet another Middle East conflict.
And if they’re not careful, it may well be more bloody and costly than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Syria is one of the few countries in the world that have not joined the United Nations’ Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control agreement that outlawed the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. The CWC was initiated in 1968, but only came into force as binding international law in 1997.
But as The Economist pointed out this week, Syria is party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol that bars the use of chemical weapons in war time. And what is happening in Syria is decidedly a civil war by any definition.
As Reuters reported Thursday, more than 100,000 people have been killed in two and a half years of civil war in Syria.
The U.S., France and Britain made the case this week for armed action against the Syrian government, with President Barack Obama attempting to cajole a war-weary American public by dismissing comparisons with the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Washington’s response to chemical weapons use in Syria would be “limited,” he said.
And for the time being, it seems, Canada’s Conservative government seems content to act as cheerleaders for Western allies.
On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters that his government has no plans to implement a Canadian military mission in Syria. Canada, he said, “has been a very reluctant convert to the idea that there needs to be some western military action regarding the Syrian situation.”
Harper does not have to call back Parliament in order for his government to act — or not act as the case may be. That remains a cabinet prerogative.
But whatever this country ultimately ends up doing, whether offering a supporting role following a military strike or even moral support to Western allies, it would be given more credibility if the matter had been debated by Parliament.
And there is still time to do so. We suggest the prime minister reconsider his unwillingness to bring the issue back to our elected officials before any military strike is made against Syria.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 30, 2013