Friday, 27 November 2015

The vote on Syria

So David Cameron is pushing for strikes in Syria. And I have to wonder, why? 

I get the press release, that ISIS was linked to the Paris attacks and so bombing ISIS = helping the French. But why the obsession over boming targets in Syria? If the UK removed that restriction then yes, it makes it easier for an overall commander to guide the strikes because now UK assets can be made available to hit targets where ever they might be needed, but that's really not a good justification at this stage for hitting targets in Syria. Everyone, even people who know little about defence, seem to appreciate that the way to beat ISIS is on the ground. The air strikes are supportive of that effort. And Syria is currently not the place where the ground effort is proving the most fruitful.

That would be Iraq, the place where the UK is already carrying out air strikes. I basically do not buy David Cameron's line that bombing inside Syria will make the UK safer, which is the suggested reason for doing it. What it will do is attract more attention on the UK, while having a minimal impact on the influence of ISIS vis a vis home grown terrorists in the UK. It makes no sense from the angle of justification that David Cameron is using. The quickest way for the UK to aid the fight against ISIS is to concentrate air efforts in Iraq, where the local ground forces have a more realistic chance of pushing back ISIS and denying it space, money, equipment, and influence. 

Once ISIS is back near the Syrian border, then we can talk about authorising the use of force in Syria. But as things stand, the UK makes a fairly modest contribution to the counter-ISIS efforts and if a target of immense value in Syria becomes known to the UK, the best bet at the minute is to hand over that information to the US who have a much greater presence. The UK should be sticking to the age old military principle of concentration of effort and confining itself to helping out in whatever way it can on the Iraqi front, rather than getting sucked into the murky quagmire that is the Syrian front right now.

Perhaps what's more worrying is the number of MPs who seem to have bought all of Cameron's rubbish hook, line and sinker. Even many Labour MPs, who should be reading up on their history about a certain Tony Blair, seem to have been sucked into the farce. I understand that everyone is outraged by what happened in France. Naturally everyone wants to show our immense solidarity with the French people. But this is not the way to go about it. This is a token gesture. Worse, it's a political gesture, one that looks good but ultimately doesn't help the situation. While it's been quite eye opening to hear members from all parties over the last few days talking about the first duty of the state being to protect its people, seemingly having woken up to the importance of defence and security, it's also worrying how many have been led down the garden path on this one. The comparisons between this latest push for airstrikes in Syria and the information war that took place prior to Iraq have chilling similarities. 

I fear this will not end well.

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