Impeccable timing: Canada has military jets patrolling Libya as we’re about to go to the polls. If our new leader, whoever he turns out to be, needs 10 commandments carved in stone for his breakfast table, here are my suggestions.
1 Don’t go to war for any purpose but the defence of your country’s vital interests, and only if they cannot be secured any other way. Your responsibility is to protect your country and its military allies. It is not your responsibility to police the world or help your allies embark on military adventures, left-wing or right-wing. The much-vaunted doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) is bunk.
2 Don’t hide behind the first commandment to avoid protecting.Don’t hide behind the first comthings that are, in fact, your responsibility to protect. Do go to war, if need be, to defend the vital interests of your country and its military allies. Don’t let Western civilization -the best and most humane form of civilization developed by mankind -perish by default.
3 Do consider any country not currently armed with weapons of mass destruction that attempts to develop such weapons and/or refuses to sign a non-proliferation agreement to be a belligerent state. Seek to have it condemned internationally, to be exposed to all potential consequences of belligerency, from embargoes to ground invasions.
4 Don’t make a fetish of liberaldemocratic values, even while upholding and defending them. Don’t consider all regimes that are based on a state religion, one-party rule, hereditary succession and other types of non-egalitarian or non-Western concepts necessarily inimical to peaceful coexistence with your country, or unable to satisfy their people. Build no nation but your own.
5 Don’t pretend all cultural values are equal, all faiths pacific or deny that some religion traditions and ideologies, notably some within Islam, contain a strain hostile to Western civilization. Acknowledge that a state of belligerency exists between particular strains of Islam and the West, including Arab and/ or Muslim countries whose governments embrace, support or tolerate such hostile strains of Islam.
6 Do acknowledge that terrorism is the chosen tactic of Islamists against the West; that terrorism depends on fifth columnists; that some Westerners of Arab/Muslim background have shown themselves to be susceptible to Islamist recruitment, and that the authorities cannot refrain from targeting them with such measures of profiling, restrictions or surveillance, as may be appropriate under the circumstances.
7 Don’t rely on the possibility, or even probability, that a majority of people within any hostile and despotic country would prefer to live in a democratic system and coexist in peace and friendship with Western nations, and that only a minority support enmity with the West. It’s a grievous error -not because it may not be true, but because it’s immaterial. Majorities do not necessarily decide the course of events even in democracies, let alone theocracies or secular authoritarian regimes. Militant minorities are far more likely to set the tone in any given country, period, or civilization.
8 If hostilities become unavoidable, please let your soldiers fight. Historically, we’ve never conducted military operations with the view that the enemy was merely “the regime” and not the population. When we bombed Dresden, we didn’t try to separate those who voted for Hitler in 1933 from those who voted against him. Though we didn’t specifically target civilians in the Great War (and would have regarded it an atrocity to do so) we didn’t refrain from any military measure available to us because it might have resulted in incidental causalities among civilians. Fighting wars with a hand tied behind our back isn’t only bad for us, but likely to prolong suffering for enemy civilians more than decisive action. Making the avoidance of civilian causalities a rigid priority in war has two predictable consequences. First, there’s reduced military effectiveness and increased exposure of one’s own troops to danger. Second, a campaign may not be evaluated primarily in terms of its military/strategic achievement, but in how successful it was in reducing collateral damage. It exposes a militarily victory to the risk of being judged a political debacle. It increases the likelihood of winning the war and losing the peace.
9 Don’t let the breathtaking impertinence of al- Qaeda-, Taliban-or Hamas-types -who, having deliberately targeted civilians in Madrid or London or New York, or used their own civilians, including women and children, as shields or hostages, still have the gall to complain when Western actions result in inadvertent collateral damage -persuade you, as leader, that Western nations have a moral duty to impose on ourselves extra conditions in addition to standard conventions of war to which we subscribe, such as the Geneva Conventions. We don’t. Antiseptic warfare is no response to asymmetric warfare.
10 Don’t make war, unless you absolutely have to. Make anything but war. Make love. Make nothing. But if you have to make war, make it on the enemy, not on the sons and daughters of the people who elected you. And if there’s an extra tablet kicking around after you have this carved, please make sure it gets passed on to Mr. Obama.