Canada’s NATO profile grows with Libya mission, but is there a long-term benefit?

Canada's involvement in Libya is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the country has in a short period of time boosted its international reputation and thus, its influence among the leaders in NATO.

"(Canada's contribution) is a very big effort for a military that still has a major presence in southern Afghanistan," a senior NATO officer, who was not authorized to be quoted, told the Globe and Mail.

Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also heaped praise upon his country's northern neighbour.

In a speech at a NATO gathering in Brussels, he commended Canada for being among a handful of members that has "managed to punch well above their weight" in a transatlantic alliance that faces a "dim" future due to American belt-tightening and European indifference.

The international community is undoubtedly paying attention.

But, as the stalemate continues and the number of civilians killed continues to rise, Canada risks being part of an increasingly unpopular conflict.

Internationally, there are already some dissenting voices.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Monday civilian deaths pose a risk to the NATO-led military alliance.

"NATO is endangering its credibility; we cannot risk killing civilians," he said.

Ahmed Ben Helli, the deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, echoed Frattini's comments.

"When the Arab League agreed on the idea of having a no-fly zone over Libya it was to protect civilians, but when civilians get killed this has to be condemned with the harshest of statements," he said.

To date in Canada, both opposition parties back the mission, as does the majority of the public, at least in earlier opinion polls.

Without a quick resolution, however, Canadians' support for the mission will likely wane.

(Reuters Photo)

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