On Target: Assad is still a bad guy, but he is not the worst guy

By: Scott Taylor

Those fighting Assad are not doing so in the name of democracy; rather, they are Islamic fanatics.

Those fighting Assad are not doing so in the name of democracy; rather, they are Islamic fanatics.

It was back in the heady days of early 2011 that a series of violent revolutions across the Middle East was gleefully dubbed the Arab Spring by western pundits. This was to be the grand awakening of oppressed Muslims, overthrowing their vile dictators in a quest for democracy.

First, it was Egypt overthrowing and arresting president Hosni Mubarak. Then Tunisia chased president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, followed by armed revolts in Libya, Syria and Bahrain. We were told democracy was on the march, and this was a good thing until the majority of Egypt voted in the Muslim Brotherhood. That was a bad thing.

When Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi rallied his loyalists and battled back against the rebels, the West, led by Canada, applied the full weight of NATO air power to assist the democracy lovers. It was only after Gadhafi was apprehended and brutally executed in the street that we began to examine closely who comprised the Libyan rebels. Turns out they were not freedom lovers at all. They were a desperate collection of Islamic extremists and violent criminals.

Rather than deploying ground troops to disarm the murderous thugs of the weapons we had supplied them in the first place, the NATO-led intervention force turned its back on post-Gadhafi Libya. As the former Libyan rebels turned on each other and plunged that nation into total anarchy, western leaders redirected attention toward the ongoing civil war in Syria.

With absolutely no reflection on the enormous foul-up they had just created in Libya, the West openly cheered for the Syrian rebels. “Assad must go!” shouted Canada’s leather-lunged former foreign affairs minister John Baird. Of course, as the Syrian conflict dragged on — it has now been raging for almost five years — the true nature of the rebels once again came to the fore.

As in Libya, those fighting Assad are not doing so in the name of democracy; rather, they are Islamic fanatics. The most effective force was an al-Qaida section known as the al-Nusra Front. However, this group of jihadists has been eclipsed on the evildoer list by a new organization known as Daesh. Their stock-in-trade is mass beheadings, which they turned into slickly produced video clips aimed at scaring the bejesus out of the western world.

All of a sudden, despite years of demonization in the western media, poor old battered Assad doesn’t look like such a bad alternative to the Daesh extremists. Russian President Vladimir Putin has openly thrown in his military might to prop up Assad, and many of the anti-Daesh western allies see that the remnants of the Syrian administration may be the only hope for establishing an interim peace plan that would allow for the eradication of the Daesh caliphate in both Syria and Iraq.

In other words, Assad is still a bad guy, but he is not the worst guy. Last week, Assad loyalists were finally able to regain control over the strategic city of Homs, which has been a hotbed of the revolt since it began.

Back in Libya, completely ignored by western media, there is not even a faint glimmer of a peaceful resolution. Canada, along with most other nations, shut down embassies in Tripoli in the summer of 2014. With no independent observers inside Libya, the armed anarchy, human trafficking and ethnic cleansing that continues to rip the nation asunder is monitored from neighbouring Tunisia.

Last week, Canada’s ambassador in Tunis, David Sproule, told the media that terrorism is the number 1 threat in Libya these days. In Sproule’s opinion, Libya “has the potential to become a sanctuary for terrorists.”

Given that Libya currently has two self-proclaimed and equally impotent governments, dozens of independent warlords with their own private militias and an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Daesh fighters based there, Sproule’s assessment is akin to stating that Justin Trudeau has the “potential” to be elected prime minister.

Libya is de facto a terrorist haven contributing to Europe’s refugee crisis, and has exported violence to destabilize neighbouring Mali.

Given Canada’s lead role and self-praise for leading the allied assault to oust Gadhafi, let’s be the first to proclaim Libya a failed state. It will require a United Nations resolution to deploy a ground force of international troops to restore order and eliminate Daesh and the other extremists, and Canada has a responsibility to lead that effort.