Yes, I still oppose British military intervention in Syria
10th April 2018
The moral case for intervention in the Russo-Finnish War of 1939 was equally strong. Hitler’s ally, the Soviet Union, issued an ultimatum to democratic Finland and invaded. It was proposed that the UK should send troops — an Anglo-Finnish expedition was prepared.
Both are daft ideas, one is forgotten now almost totally, and one will be.
The end of the cold war, and the illusions of uni-polar power, led to the restoration of war as an instrument of policy in the Middle East: clean war, limited war, surgical war and all the other delusions.
It was said of Stalinism: “we can see the broken eggs, where is the omelette?”
British Foreign Policy since Iraq has not attempted to learn the lessons, to overcome the delusion of Western puissance. Mostly it has been an attempt to roll the clock back to 2002, to get permission to break some more eggs.
“To get the sort of military presence in Syria that the UK had in Northern Ireland in 1972 would require 1.6 m troops — the ‘debate’ in this country has been about sending a handful of aircraft to join the long line of other countries bombing Syria.”
Sinn Féin’s triumph in Ireland stemmed not from 1916 and the executions, but the abandoned Irish Conscription Bill of 1918. With the near civil war of 1913 still raw, Ireland was exempt from conscription at first. By 1918 conscription was an anathema.
On the shooting of Padraig Pearse, Cathal Brugha became the soi-disant President. After he was released from internment he took the boat train to London and wandered around the Commons to see how many gunmen he would need to kill the Cabinet in the lobby — on the evening they voted for conscription.
These ghosts, armed with a hail of ballots now, haunt those lobbies still. We sing songs of Diet War in our Disney Valhalla.
By contrast the first levies born after September 11th are already fighting in Afghanistan, their Iraqi cousins join them next year.
This is a regional war, with the Iranians, the Lebanese, the Turks and the Saudis making the running, the Assad regime retains considerable support. It is not in the gift of the Americans, or the Russians, or us — unless we want conscription, boots on the ground, and Cathal Brugha.
It seems clear that the Syrian’s happy broadcast of their use of chemical weapons is related to the ‘success’ of the attack in Salisbury — success in moving thresholds.
Putin’s regime is not the Soviet Union redux — it is not as strong as say, the Iranian regime. Its main players, including Putin, have such little confidence that they squirrel their money away in the West, or London if you prefer.
What is needed is not virtue signalling in the Fertile Crescent — but hard action against Putin where it can hurt him.
Firstly, against his money launderers, his cronies, to staunch the great flood of dirty money being cleaned in London.
And secondly by supporting Ukraine — which is actually taking him on, helping it at war, and to bring it into the European Union. The UK, with the US and Russia, was a guarantor of Ukrainian territorial integrity, not that you would know it now.
The old post-war institutions are collapsing, in particular the UN.
Trump and Bolton, ‘nuff sed.
That particular broken egg will not be put back together the same way: the UK will never get back its leadership role it had in the last world war.
The UK currently doesn’t even have a foreign policy — Brexit has subsumed all points abroad. England doesn’t even have a domestic political agenda — the Brexit double Queen’s Speech crowds domestic English legislation out from Westminster entirely.
Westminster, this congested parliament, remains England’s only parliament.
The Syrian War is not a ‘new’ war, its a phase in an existing war. It exploded when the refugee population from Iraq surged into Syria — reaching 10% of the population. Palestine in ’67 to Jordan in ’71 to the long hell of Lebanon in the mid-’70s: we have seen this film before.
Syria cannot be separated from Iraq, or Libya or Yemen, or the new swelling wars south of the Sahara that we are drifting into fighting.
I will support any positive measures to contain these wars, to bring them to and end, and, if possible, to bring better government in their wake.
As the Nuremberg Judgement said:
“To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
War is the evil, and evil things flow from it, always and without exception.
Peace is required, albeit not at any price.
But peace will come by somebody winning.
Peace is made with enemies.
The current demands for ‘intervention’ won’t bring victory.
The everybody-Hitler rhetoric precludes peace. Nasser, Khomeni (with Saddam as a good guy), then Saddam (with Assad and Ghadafi as good guys) then Ghadafi and now Assad again. All the Hitlers: Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Quaeda (before it became in part the noble Syrian opposition).
Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, endless war, endlessly unfought. Berlins uncountable unstormed, no voters’ sons conscripted.
Israel only ever made peace with the Nazi-flecked Islamist Anwar Sadat.
British foreign policy in the Middle East has long not been about victory, military or political, it is not even about fighting — it is about virtue signalling, and playing the role of a great power long since lost.
You may find this view makes me repulsive, so be it. But then you must find the Britain that disdained the plucky Finn repulsive too.