The former head of Canada’s Special Operation Forces told Mercedes Stephenson on Global News’ The West Block this week that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria could cause more chaos in the region.
“If America isn’t there, it doesn’t pull other allies in. It doesn’t lead the debate. It doesn’t have an impact on the agenda and as a consequence, there is more chaos. There’s more anarchy and that should concern not just Canada, it should concern everybody,” the now-retired Lt.-Gen. Mike Day said.
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Trump announced last week that his administration would pull half of the 14,000 American troops currently deployed in Syria out of the country.
“We’re talking about sand and death. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about, you know, vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death,” the president told reporters last week while discussing the decision.
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“This is a training mission, so the immediate impact of the Americans leaving Syria I don’t think is going to be felt. I don’t think it necessarily increases the risk to Canadians. I don’t think it increases the difficulty. I’m not saying either of those are minimal by the way. I’m just saying the immediate impact isn’t there,” he explained.
However, he notes that the move is symbolic of the United States’ retreat from its leadership role in the world.
“It’s really the larger message that Canada and the world need to absorb about what we’ve now come to expect from an utter lack of American leadership around the world,” Day said.
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Trump received backlash from Democrats and Republicans for his decision to withdraw from Syria. Former defense secretary James Mattis resigned at the end of 2018 and alluded to pulling out of Syria as a key point of disagreement between himself and the president.
The Pentagon Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeley also resigned this week.
In addition, Stephenson and Day discussed the national security threats facing Canada in 2019.
Day said that while Canada’s geographic isolation has provided protection from physical enemies for quite some time, the increased risk of cybersecurity threats means our location can’t protect us anymore.
“We have a history of believing that we’re somewhat protected. But today, in this cyber world in the domain that where we’re facing threats on an hourly, moment-to-moment basis in terms of the world becoming smaller, I think we have to really cast our understanding of what a threat to Canada is,” he said.
He also cited increasingly erratic weather due to climate change and mass migrations of displaced people as potential challenges facing Canada in 2019.