Sometimes it seems that democracy has some built-in escape clauses for those in the official "opposition"....
In the United States, (not a parliamentary democracy) the Republicans spent more than two years criticizing the Obama health care proposal, without ever offering one of their own, even though the Obama plan was a direct derivative of the one established in Massachusetts when Republican governor Mitt Romney was in office.
This week, as the Canadian government pondered, debated, discussed and even "leaked" some proposals for their entry into the conflict with ISIS in Iraq, and potentially in Syria, neither opposition party did more than split hairs over the details of the government's plan.
There is a significant difference between "cross examination" a process which the leader of the Opposition, Tom Mulcair has mastered, and governing, a process which he and his party hope to be able to do following the election in 2015. This is a moment in history when it could and would be important for the leader of the Opposition to design, and to offer to the country, a unique plan that would characterize the way his party would govern, if given the opportunity.
Focussing on the cost, length, and scope of the government's plan, while useful, is no substitute for a complete plan of his own, with which to compare the plan offered by the government.
Is the NDP prepared to enter the combat with ISIS, or would it restrict its engagement to the admittedly monstrous humanitarian need of the millions of refugees that now have overwhelmed Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon? While the Canadian public may have fresh memories about how good they felt when then Prime Minister Jean Chretien turned down the request from the then President of the United States to join the "coalition of the willing" to fight Saddam Hussein in 2003, it is important to not that this is neither 2003 nor is the fight with Saddam Hussein, regardless of the scandalous motives of Dubya at the time. This is 2014, and the fight is against a far different enemy, the Islamic extremists who not only promise revenge on the western countries but who also promise to raise their ominous flag over the White House, while also promising to take over Buckingham Palace, leaving the royal family two choices, to convert to Islam or to leave the country.
Of course, the government of Canada, along with the president of the United States, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of France, along with the Saudi, Bahrain and Qatar regimes cannot offer an end date for this conflict. And no one, especially the official opposition should expect or demand one, no matter how resonant the question may be in the public domain.
Neither can any of the parties currently engaged provide a scenario for how this conflict will unfold, including the potential engagement of Iran, Russia, and both Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is time for the official opposition to face the fact that we are in unchartered waters, in vessels of state that are without both radar and trained "readers" of the intelligence signals that are being delivered from this enemy.
ISIS is like no other enemy we have faced, save the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, or Al Nursra or Al Shabbab; we are in the process of learning how to deliver the most deadly and most efficient blows to the terrorists, and anyone who thinks he or she has all the answers, is delusional.
Furthermore, the call for a UN or a NATO endorsement of this conflict is unlikely to bring any positive response from those organizations, the meeting of the Security Council chaired by the
U.S. president to solicit support and endorsements from the member countries, and to bring the spotlight to the dangers being the most likely end of the exposure in that venue.
The world is "flying blind" in a horrendous storm, and ducking out when the danger is most pressing is hardly what we want from our current or our future leaders.
Clearly, Mr. Trudeau is in "way over his head" on this issue, and so far his party has shown no indication of providing a substantive plan to replace or to be compared with that of the government.
The NDP, while traditionally a "dove" party, is positioned nevertheless, to offer to the Canadian people a comprehensive, cost-calculated, defence and intelligence supported strategy, at least for the Canadian people to digest and to compare with that of the government, plus an aggressive and compassionate humanitarian relief proposal that goes far beyond a dollar estimate, to include food, shelter, medical supplies and personnel, along with the open door of an immigration proposal for as many refugees as we can effectively support. This could and should be a national non-partisan initiative, and the Canadian people are ready, willing and able to listen to the calls for sacrifice, provided they have the confidence that our leaders are working together, albeit in the dark, to discern the next steps in this period of history.
If there is any doubt about the severity of the situation, one has only to watch the streets in Germany now filled with Muslim immigrants shouting anti-Semitic rhetoric the like of which has not been seen since 1938....to garner an appreciation for the dangers that the Islamic terrorist pose for the whole world, especially when linked to the already fomenting anti-Semitism that according to one researcher comes more from the middle class educated people in Europe than from those without an education and living in poverty.
We all need to take stock of the situation in all of its complexities, and the Canadian Official Opposition is positioned to do its part to lead in this "learning and acting" moment in history. If the New Democrats are indeed serious about taking power in 2015, they will not only have to deliver on sound social programs like a national day care, as well as worker protections in a marketplace addicted to the absolute power of the board room, at the expense of workers, but they will also have to govern on the foreign affairs file, the most complex and most troubling, and also the file most fumbled by the current Harper government.
Now is the time to pull Paul Dewar off the national airwaves, unless and until he and his party can and do offer a comprehensive and substantive and credible plan not only to address the humanitarian crisis, as well as the diplomatic offensive to which they are already giving voice, but also to the question of how to "decapitate" the Islamic monster....a process no civilized person wishes to engage in, but one necessary to the survival of our way of life.