Last night (2/12/2015) as we are all aware, the UK government passed its motion of military action in Syria. This action is meant to be solely directed at the internationally recognised terrorist organisation. The self-proclaimed Islamic state.
As I sat there responding to this historic motion, a few things deeply troubled me. One of these was the apparent cheering and jubilation at this motion being passed. This left a sour taste in my mouth and frankly, it itself was laughable. How could the people assigned to govern our country laugh at the fact they were again sending British forces into harm’s way in the Middle East, off to fight a noble crusade sanctioned by the jolly boys and girls club of ex Eton and Oxbridge scholars. Do these so called MPs have any idea of the potential implications this action could have? Not just on us at home but also civilians in Syria.
At this point I would like to point out that I am far from a ‘leftie anti-war do-gooder’. In fact if I had to align myself on a political spectrum, I’d say I have right leaning tendencies, supported by the fact I myself elected the government currently in office. However, regardless of this vote, I felt let down by a government I’d put into office. I felt betrayed and disenchanted in our democratic system, not the first-past-the-post voting system we currently employ, but more the distinct lack of public opinion that was considered before authorising this action. Let me explain.
I felt particularly unrepresented as did many Brits last night. I’m not asking for a referendum on huge decisions like the one last night, however I feel public opinion should of played more of a part. No opinion polls were considered, the general voice of the public was not heard, in fact worse-ignored. A Yougov poll on the 02/12/2015 showed that just 48% of the UK public backed support in Syria, a clear indication of our political rulers ignoring us. A democracy we live in? I am not so sure.
Another issue I feel the need to raise is the cost. At a time of great austerity, with deep cuts to public services the UK government still find the funds to finance an RAF mission in Iraq and now Syria, with the use of £100,000 pound a time brimstone missiles? I back the governments call to spend 2% of our GDP on military, but not for missions that don’t concern us. Have the west learned nothing from our continued meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan? Our intervention usually exacerbates situations rather than diluting them. The Middle East is a hornet’s nest of potential issues, as we have seen from the blowback of our ventures in Iraq over a decade ago.
I would like to clarify, why I am against the strikes in Syria now, as opposed to supporting the ones in Iraq. The case with Iraq is completely a different story to the one presenting itself in Syria, for example we along with our US partners are the culprits for the ongoing situation in Iraq- we helped create that mess, so by all means we should try and resolve it. Also in Iraq we have been invited by the official government- which gives us the authorisation to act within a sovereign state. We have received no such request from Assad’s government, albeit his government is hardly legitimate. The only invitation received has been by the Russians- who seem to be bombing the WHOLE opposition, as opposed to our support for ‘moderate’ rebels. If anyone can define what a moderate rebel is I’d love to know.
A drop in the ocean. That’s how I see the UK’s operation in Syria. Currently we have 8 RAF fighters stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, who fly roughly two sorties per day against Isis in Iraq. This force is to be expanded by a further 8 fighters to assist with raids now on Syria. In total we have SIXTEEN aircraft to carry out raids on ISIS. To me this is not even going to scratch the surface of the problem. As many military analysts have pointed out, it would take ‘boots on the ground’ which is obviously not an option considering our past experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan. I feel many people have overlooked the shear complexity of the problem facing us, unfortunately there isn’t a quick fix to this.
I recognise the fact that we can’t sit back and do nothing in the eyes of this threat. However, I feel we should have adopted a similar approach to our German counterparts, to provide logistical support and fly intelligence gathering operations. I feel our campaign will be limited at best. What effect can we really have in crippling ISIS from our aircraft? This needs to be a multi-pronged attack- starving ISIS of funding from its oil selling operations and punishing banks guilty of allowing money to be laundered through their systems to these terrorists. Also I’d like to point out that the case of the recent Paris attacks really doesn’t give a justification for our intervention. The vast majority of these perpetrators were ‘home-grown’ jihadists who had been poisoned over the internet. More must be done to shut down these channels, and to tackle the real problem here- not ISIS located thousands of miles from us, but the terrorists lurking in our societies at home.
Inevitably an implication of our intervention will be ‘collateral damage’ as our leaders would sugar-coat it; in other words, civilian casualties. It is these that I am truly worried about, the innocents who will be caught up in this war and how potentially we could push them into the arms of the people we are intending to stop.
This isn’t going to be a five minute fix by any means, and no one seems to have the answer of how this problem is going to go away or be resolved. One thing is for certain though, we look like we will be in this for the long-haul.