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.