Monday, 23 November 2015
Bombing Syria - Just say "No!"
The British media seem to be softening us up to approve our involvement in the bombing of Syria. We are told that Mr Cameron is increasingly confident of parliamentary support, and is to present us with convincing arguments on Thursday.
A balanced discussion took place on Radio 4's "The World this Weekend" yesterday and is worth a "listen again" at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06psb63 (The discussion of Syria starts about six minutes into the programme.)
A retired major general, Tim Cross, spouts macho phrases about using "hard power" to "separate out" these "brutal killers" and urges that we "take on these guys", though even he admits that this won't actually solve the problem. Others are even more cautious. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a retired diplomat, points out that what Isis actually want is a "great battle," that control of a territory is essential to their concept of a caliphate, and that bombing itself will not actually get them out of their territory. The Green MP Caroline Lucas points out that Isis, and part of the Muslim world, regard US military intervention as an attack by "Crusader West," that the Middle Eastern States have progressively withdrawn form the present "coalition" and that the US bombing has done little to reduce the number of jihadist recruits - probably the reverse.
In a different context Jeremy Corbyn speaks sense when he claims that there are other ways of combating Isis, in particular a concerted international effort to cut off their supplies of money and arms. A letter to the Guardian has aroused my memories of "Bomber Thorpe" by suggesting that one way of doing this would be to bomb their oil pipeline. An innumerable number of commentators point out that military retaliation by the West is exactly what Isis is trying to provoke, and that it helps them to recruit further deluded youngsters who are brainwashed into thinking that they are doing God's will.
There is almost universal opinion that this is a problem for the Middle Eastern states themselves to solve, a problem within Islam, arising from and exacerbated by the the schism between Sunnis and Shias, and that Western involvement is almost certain to make matters worse, as has been amply demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The problem will be solved, or at least ameliorated, only when other Muslim powers themselves take ownership of it.
It is difficult to avoid that view that Tory anxiety to add to the air-strikes (but not the ground war) is to be seen among the "big boys," to "walk tall" alongside the US and not be out-flanked by France as "number one chum." I also wonder if US involvement , and UK anxiety to join in, is not so much motivated by the a quest for a solution to the Syrian problem as to prevent Russia and Iran from becoming the dominant powers in the area.
If Britain wishes to walk tall, we could use our diplomatic "soft power" to promote the necessary involvement of the neighbouring Muslim states, and give yet more help to those countries hosting the refugees on Syria's borders.
If we must involve our army, we could sent it to Calais to set up field kitchens, latrines, Nissan huts and other facilities to provide civilised conditions for all refugees there, whilst preparing to welcome those with a right to settle in our own green and pleasant land.
I sincerely hope for a solid "No" from eight Liberal Democrat MPs if and when the matter comes to a parliamentary vote, and that the bulk of the Labour party will put triangulation behind them and follow their leader.