But the focus on Khadr, his cash settlement, his views on jihad, all obscure a bigger, ongoing problem. Canada has learned nothing from Omar Khadr’s experience. And the proof of that can be found in Syria today.
Let’s boil Khadr’s story down to its barest essence: he was a Canadian citizen, fighting against Canada and its allies as a member of a terrorist group. If he’d been killed in battle, that would have been easy, a clear if violent end to a thorny issue. (This is why so many of our allies see value in killing their terrorist citizens with drones — less paperwork that way.) But Khadr lived, was captured and became a legal nightmare. And the same thing is happening today with foreign fighters, including Canadians, who travelled overseas to fight with the Islamic State.
This is a new normal. It’s been generations since Canada waged a ground war against another nation-state. There were battles, yes, during peacekeeping missions, and the air campaign against Serbia in the late 1990s, but no sustained pitched ground combat against other nation-state forces since Korea. For now and the foreseeable future, Canada is as likely, if not more likely, to be fighting irregular terror groups than properly constituted national armies. And there’s a very good chance that some of those combatants will be Canadians, or citizens of allied nations.