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Thu. Oct 18th, 2018

Canadian troops provide Iraq what money can’t buy

Military organizations are often thought to be most effective when they are cohesive, and homogeneity of troops is one way to achieve this. Realistically, however, few of the societies they serve are inherently homogeneous, so building a unified force needs to depend on a shared sense of unity on national purpose. In Iraq, where sectarian tensions have been inflamed and where the country boasts of being home to multiple languages and ethnicities, and some of the world’s smallest religions, the Iraqi military is far from reflecting its society and a long way off in being diverse.

Leading up to the rise of the Islamic State, Iraqi minorities had plenty of grievances with the pervasive discriminatory practices and policies of the Maliki government in Baghdad, leading in part to the initial welcoming of the Islamic State in place of central federal authority. But most Iraqis soon discovered the tyranny of the group and it was the determination of the Iraqi military under the Abadi government that liberated minorities. To see disgruntled Arab Sunni communities celebrate the reassertion of Iraq’s military control over liberated territories this past year was a great moment of state pride, but this goodwill will slip away soon if the Iraqi military does not embrace diversity and inclusion.

Canada, while not perfect, is seen as a successful multicultural country that believes in diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our society. Yes, we have stumbled along the way to making our diversity real and not just rhetorical, but the effort to bring diversity and inclusion to the Canadian Armed Forces is a worthwhile experience and reality to share with our Iraqi partners. Unlike many partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), we are seen as a positive example of how diversity and inclusion work in practice.
 
 
Bessma Momani is professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, and non-resident fellow of the Washington-based Stimson Center.
 

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