The UK should not bomb Syria

I am not a pacifist and I do understand the case for bombing Syria is seemingly compelling. What I dispute is that we have any kind of coherent strategy or long term plan, that we have set out clear and achievable objectives, that we have made a proper, rational analysis of the possible outcomes and that we have any idea of what the end game will be.

Until such doubts are answered I cannot endorse bombing Syria just because we feel the need to do something.

A Russian led and a US led coalition is fighting in Syria, as well as a number of other regional forces, and numerous fundamentalist groups. We must think before we leap feet first into the pandemonium, and consider the risks and severe danger of unintended consequences.

The prime minister certainly made his case with confidence, but he was even more self-assured when he authorised UK participation in the bombing of Libya. Our intervention there has been an unmitigated disaster, helping to turn the country into a chaotic failed state; a cauldron of murder, terrorism and suffering. Libya is now ruled by competing warlords and terrorists, its collapse has destabilised the region and is direct cause of the refugee crisis in Europe.

With the same confidence the PM made the case for bombing Syria in 2013, his strategy then would likely have seen us arming and supporting the rebels that we now know as IS. Since losing the vote, the PM has been nursing his wounded pride with some bitterness, and I believe he is looking to heal this wound and the perception of himself as an important statesman on the world stage.

Now he is asking the country and parliament to believe in his ‘firm conviction’ that it is essential to bomb Syria and that there is a well thought out strategy and political solution behind it. It is imperative that we consider this with scepticism.

The US led air campaign has failed in its intentions. On 15th May 2015 General Thomas Weidley declared that IS was in retreat, shortly before IS captured Ramadi and Palmyra. You cannot win a war from the air, so when we bomb targets in Syria, what troops will capture the territory?

The PM has conveyed an image of the conditions in Syria that is a blend of blind optimism and fantasy.

The assertion that there are 70 thousand “moderate” opposition forces that can fight IS on the ground is risible. Armed opposition in Syria is dominated by the Islamic fundamentalist groups Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-sham, beyond that opposition barely exists; hence why the US spent $500 million in an attempt to create an army and ended up with just four fighters.

So the plan is to work alongside an imaginary army in Syria and an Iraqi army which is in disarray and utterly incapable of staging sustained ground offensives. It isn’t even the biggest army in Iraq anymore, being dwarfed by militia and paramilitary forces. And we refuse to cooperate with the Syrian army, by far the largest military force in the country, or fully back up the Kurds.

None of this suggests we have a strategy worthy of endorsement.

Many times in our recent past such a poor strategy, lack of foresight, ignorance of the reality on the ground, and disharmony between political and military preparations has led directly to failure, defeat and a plethora of unintended consequences. Until we resolved all of these issues, I fear it will do once again.

 

 

Read an opposing view and vote your conscience at Con4Lib.

 

3 Comments

  1. “The prime minister certainly made his case with confidence, but he was even more self-assured when he authorised UK participation in the bombing of Libya. Our intervention there has been an unmitigated disaster, helping to turn the country into a chaotic failed state; a cauldron of murder, terrorism and suffering. Libya is now ruled by competing warlords and terrorists, its collapse has destabilised the region and is direct cause of the refugee crisis in Europe.”

    Quite, but Syria is already there without our intervention, it cannot be bombed into that state, it has arrived there on its own. The time to bomb Libya (not that that is actually being proposed) would be now, to destroy those who would destroy us, if that is what you wish to do. Similarly, it is not proposed to ‘bomb Syria’ but to attack specific targets of a specific group that are in Syria with bombs and missiles as part of a political effort.

    This is not a military campaign, it is a political campaign. Were it a military campaign, Raqqa would now have been a glowing field of glass, and those who funded IS in the Arabian peninsula would have been told that they were next. This is not a serious war, it is theatre. In Afghanistan, there was no effort to eliminate the enemy, in Syria and Iraq today, there is no plan to eliminate the most extreme faction.

    What would a good Roman General have done about the situation, were he to travel in time and find himself running a campaign against that specific group?

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  2. An interesting argument.

    Although in Libya Western air power was militarily effective (not ineffective) – the anti Western dictator fell.

    It is true that the Tobruk government did NOT then come to power – but then the air strikes were called off, so the Islamists groups were not defeated by the more moderate forces.

    An interventionist could argue (rightly or wrongly) that the lesson of Libya is that Western air power should have been used to support the Tobruk government – against the hardcore Islamists.

    Syria?

    Well I doubt the British forces are large enough to make a difference – either way. But I could be wrong.

    And if I.S. is defeated who comes to power?

    I do not know – but it is hard to think they would be worse than I.S.

    A better argument against intervention is the money it will cost – and the RAF lives it puts at risk.

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  3. I am not a pacifist and I do understand the case for bombing Syria is seemingly compelling.

    No it’s not. Not remotely compelling.

    I remember having a debate on Liberal Conspiracy over many weeks at the time of the bombing of Libya with someone who assured me that all their problems would be solved by our helping to overthrow Qaddafi.

    “Why do we never learn from our mistakes regarding intervention in the ME and elsewhere” I would say.

    “But this is different” he would reply.

    It always is….

    He was wrong then and anyone currently advocating military force on any side is wrong now. Fewer people will die in total if we allow these warring tribes to sort out their differences without our “help”. Of course it is correct to argue that many of the problems and flash points around the world are related to our colonial aggression but trying to assuage our historical guilt by attacking more people is not the answer.

    Furthermore the killing of innocent people in the Middle East gives moral legitimacy to the “terrorists” who will subsequently try to kill us here.

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