Syria Mirror 16 November 2015
So, here’s the question.
Does the shocking blood and carnage on the streets of Paris mean that four British war planes should join the Western led air armada attacking ISIL bases in Syria?
Surely this is the time to show solidarity with the people of France in their moment of pain?
It is and we should in every way we can.
Except where this would delay the ending of the even greater carnage and horror on the streets of Syria and the seemingly endless stream of human misery fleeing for refuge in Europe.
Syria is now the fourth successive disaster of Western intervention. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. The central reason for all these failures is the same. Our obsession with high explosive as the only of instrument of foreign policy.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying all military action is useless. I am not a pacifist – how could I be as an ex-Royal Marine who has seen service in three conflicts on behalf of my country?
But that experience taught me that military force only works in the context of a diplomatic strategy. Since Iraq and George Bush Junior’s “Shock and Awe”, the West reaches for war first and never diplomacy. We see a problem in the world and our first instinct is to bomb it – and if that doesn’t work, bomb it more. And then we fail. And leave behind a country, often more wrecked than when we started.
20 years ago, with the Dayton agreement, we built peace in Bosnia through an international treaty which involved the neighbours and was under-pinned by the great powers. Then we deployed military force and successfully stabilised an enduring peace. In Iraq and Afghanistan we made the neighbours enemies and lost. We did it again in Libya and lost the peace. And then again in Syria three years ago.
And so we left an opening for Putin. If bombs were the game, with aircraft on the ground he could do it better than us – and has.
But Putin has now over–extended himself. His wrecked economy cannot afford such an expensive war; he is finding his bombs are no better at destroying ISIL than ours are; instability is spreading into Russia, especially the Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya. He is discovering as we have, that getting into quagmires is easy; getting out is not. Vladimir will be looking for a ladder to climb down soon.
Instead of being provoked into mindless bombing in Syria we should, these last three, years have been putting together an international agreement – like Dayton – involving Iran, Turkey, moderate Arab states – and Moscow too. Then we could have surrounded ISIL the better to strangle them. Then we would have had a diplomatic framework, in which military force made sense.
At last this is happening, as American Secretary of State Kerry in Vienna tries with the Iranians and others, to put together a agreement which, much more than bombing, offers the best chance of ending, if untidily, the long nights of misery in Syria – and of horror, as last Saturday, in Paris.
The “Coalition” air-forces bombing Syria are not short of explosive. They have mountains of the stuff. Their problem is not bombs to drop, but finding targets to drop them on. Many planes return with their weapons unused.
Sending our aircraft in might have some purpose as an act of solidarity. But it has absolutely none, militarily. It is not wise to go to war for a gesture – especially with peace talks in progress.
So here’s the choice.
Add our widow’s mite of bombs to the mountain already waiting to be dropped (or not as the case may be)?
Or throw our weight behind diplomacy to give us the best chance of beating ISIS and bringing some kind of peace to Syria – and balm to those fleeing from her horrors.
Seems a no-brainer to me.