A Week is a Long Time in Politics

Soon after the Syria vote was announced in the House of Commons, many politicians resigned themselves to the result and have largely moved on. To the media’s credit they have stayed with the story, however it must be said that this is because of the ensuing political gossip. It’s only been about a week since the vote but let’s see how things are going.

According to a report by Amnesty International that was released in the last few days, small arms and assault weapons that Britain and the US sent to Iraq in after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq are now being used by ISIS. This is the kind of thing that happens when people ignorant of the past legislate on the future. When the Soviet Union propped up the then Afghan government, the CIA sent arms and money to the Mujahideen. After the Soviets left the Mujahideen splintered into many wonderful groups including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Yet in 2013 David Cameron tried to arm the Syrian rebels in order to fight the Assad regime, most of whom were actually in Al Qaeda or would later become ISIS. This Amnesty International report once again shows that flooding a highly unstable region, that also has a history of sectarian tensions, with weaponry doesn’t end well. So to those on the Right who refuse to acknowledge that ‘the West’ has any culpability in this I simply say: open your eyes.
In 2003, although many could speculate about what would happen, it took a while for Tony Blair’s premises to be disproven. For example the idea about WMDs was disproved in 2005, well after the occupation began. It’s been a week and, as was pointed out in the House of Commons during the debate, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said that he doubts the accuracy of the 70,000 Syrian ground troops. In a column in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson said “the figure may be exaggerated” and it may include groups that “are not ideologically different from Al Qaeda”.
So one of the premises of the bombing, that British involvement will provide cover for the 70,000 ground troops to fight against ISIS, is clearly untrue. As if this point hadn’t been made before, which it definitely has been, the RAF are now providing air cover for jihadis we hope will fight other jihadis who are largely in ideological agreement.
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A bombed out Syrian house. (Freedom House via Flickr)
When the Syria vote was going on many MPs that supporters of the campaign said that France had asked for Britain’s help and that this would be an act of solidarity with a military ally. Just because allies ask you to do things doesn’t mean they have to. For example Britain and the US asked French President Jacques Chirac to join them as coalition partners in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. France declined because they didn’t see it as appropriate (remember Freedom Fries). To say that Britain must support France’s inane military action now because we are allies means that France should have supported Britain in 2003.
Another one of Cameron’s premises is now being undercut as well. Cameron repeatedly said that the purpose of British involvement would be to get rid of ISIS and also the Assad regime. If we ignore the fact that Cameron is essentially arguing for a proxy war against Russia, this is automatically problematic as was demonstrated yesterday.
The Assad regime has claimed that a US air strike had killed three of its soldiers. Although the United States government disputes this, many organisations, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, say that the aircraft in question was part of the US-led coalition. The fact that nobody knows what is going on surely screams ‘don’t get involved’ but apparently Cameron is determined to look decisive.
Revenge is a powerful emotion and after the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Ankara, many people around the world felt a burning passion to throw caution to the wind and attack ISIS. Now that some time has passed we can think logically. Cameron said that Britain would be supporting 70,000 ground troops with air cover. Not only is this figure wrong, but what part of Turkey, France, Canada, the US, Russia, Jordan and the Assad regime dropping bombs constitutes a lack of air cover?
Cameron has previously said that we need to arm the rebels, but many reputable sources, and Boris Johnson, have said that would involve giving weapons to Al Qaeda. And finally Cameron said that air strikes would be used in order to defeat ISIS as well as the Assad regime; this is clearly insanity as then Syria would become a client state of the rest of the world that Britain would have a responsibility to stabilise. In life it takes a brave person to admit to people that they’re wrong, but it is always a commendable action. Britain must reconsider and stop the bombing, now.
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