Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still has CF-18 fighter jets supporting the anti-ISIL campaign but he's made it clear this is only a temporary measure. He plans to withdraw the fighters and deal with the Islamist threat through non-military means -- medical aid, help for refugees, training of soldiers. He believes we can accomplish much through diplomacy.
That's the Canadian way, the peaceful way, as his statements since taking office indicate. But his approach reveals a misunderstanding of both Canada and the current emergency.
The Islamist progress across the globe resembles the wave of poisonous totalitarian beliefs that swept across Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, first conquering the continent under Hitler and later subjugating eastern Europe for half a century under the Soviet empire.
The Nazis and communists had the great advantage of an industrial base to provide armaments. The Islamist totalitarians, on the other hand, have the advantage of a religious fervour that attracts supporters among some fellow Muslims as far away as China and Indonesia.
In defending democracy in the 1940s against the Nazis and the communists, Canadians played a direct and costly part. They did not hope that the dictators would be handled by diplomatic means. The Canadian tradition is to use military means when necessary, as it was in the past and appears likely to be in the current onslaught.
We love to see ourselves as peacekeepers but forget that Canadians have often been warriors. Jack Granatstein, the distinguished historian, has claimed for years that we have ignored our military history while over-emphasizing our claims of keeping the peace.
It's important to know that Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for inventing the UN force in the Suez crisis, was also among the inventors of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in history. Islamists constitute a fierce, angry and intensely savage element in politics. A UN report this week said ISIL has about 3,500 Iraqis, mainly Yazidi women and children, "currently being held in slavery." The Yazidis, a non-Muslim minority in northern Iraq, are considered devil-worshippers by ISIL.
Francesco Motta, head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, said ISIL seeks to "eliminate, purge or destroy minority communities. The intent seems clear - genocide." The report said doctors, teachers and journalists opposed to ISIL ideology have been singled out and murdered. Motta also described the use of children as young as nine being forced to give their blood, compelled to operate as suicide bombers and drafted for armed combat roles.
The jihadists have learned to fight with car bombs, sending them in waves against their targets. They use small drones for reconnaissance. They impose what they consider correct sexual morals with horrendous fury. Videos show ISIL soldiers punishing homosexuals by throwing them off seven-storey buildings in Syria. One victim, who somehow appeared to survive the fall, was quickly stoned to death by the watching crowd below.
This is no longer a question limited to the Middle East, and it reaches far beyond ISIL. It is now a global problem, a form of spiritual and military colonialism that reaches into every corner of the planet. Just last weekend, six Canadians engaged in African humanitarian work, including the building of a school, were killed in a Burkina Faso hotel attack by al-Qaida terrorists. On Wednesday Singapore arrested 27 Bangladeshi construction workers as Islamists.
Islamists, while by no means unified, share the belief that much of Muslim civilization has fallen into heresy and drifted away from the Qur'an, adopting alien practices from the West. They hope to reconstruct society according to their definition of "pure Islam" by killing heretics or forcibly converting them.
Waves of would-be jihadists have come to the Middle East to take part in this movement or have set themselves up as foreign emissaries who can act out Islamist violence at home, anywhere from Indonesia to Canada. They all claim to be heading in the correct direction but so far ISIL, with its claim to embody a Caliphate to rule the world, appears to have the most attractive reputation. It's possible that the U.S.-led coalition will defeat ISIL (it already shows signs of weakness) and kill its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (also known as The Caliph Ibrahim). But the Islamist ideology is strong and infectious enough to revive itself and remain a menace to the world for decades. If most of the democracies consider this movement an imminent danger that must be opposed, Canada should not stand by and watch.