Saturday, 28 November 2015

Is bombing ever 'a good thing'?

How have we, the inhabitants of the supposedly civilized Western world, come to a position where it seems right to kill people for political expediency? Especially when to people like me, the unimportant ones, the ones who have no influence, it seems obvious that the more people we bomb and kill, the more chaos will ensue, the more hostility we will generate, the more refugees will flea to Europe. And furthermore, our position as bedfellows to some very nasty people will be consolidated.

I suppose it’s all part of the ‘big picture’. As a person I find all this aggression extremely hard to accept, but perhaps if I was a politician, particularly one of rank, my priorities would change, and my focus would be on expediency and keeping on the right side of allies. Must all politicians leave their humanity on the back burner?
Judging by the actions of the UK Government since May, this must be true of many of our politicians; but I believe that loss of humanity is only one half of what I perceive to be the problem. The other half is an almost complete lack of imagination — an inability to think outside the box (a fatal flaw, I believe, in any political leader). After all Isis have apparently unlimited access to fuel, to arms, (how many of these are British made I wonder!), to cash. If those supply lines were cut, the movement would surely crumble. An alternative, difficult action, but surely achievable and effective.

It became clear to me, in the recent aftermath of the tragic events in Paris, when I watched the newscasts showing our Prime Minister standing cliché to cliché with President Hollande, that contrary to what he claims, force is the preferred option. The similarities between the Cameron approach and the Blair approach before the Iraq invasion are inescapable. Can we trust the secret briefings? Can we trust the claim that there are 70,000 ‘good guys’ on the ground in Syria? On balance, should I believe that the world would be a better place if we increase the number of bombs by a small percentage? Can I seriously accept that the complicated scenario which exists between Syria’s Government, Syria’s rebels, Turkey, the Kurds, The Russians, Iran and the so-called coalition led by the USA will be enhanced by a few British bombs? Statements lead us to believe that we have a capacity for accurate targeting unavailable to our allies: I find that hard to believe, but if true, would that minimize civilian casualties or diminish the risk of retaliatory actions? Information on civilian casualty numbers arising from our recent drone strikes, and bombings in Iraq, do not appear in a press widely supportive of the aggressive approach.
So many questions, so few answers!

For sure those extra bombs would get a few brownie points with Messrs. Hollande and Obama, but only until the next time! After all, how much long-term damage was done to the ‘special relationship’ by Harold Wilson’s refusal to join in the Viet Nam debacle?

The narrative offered by the pro-bombing lobby seems to me to be incomplete, and that is being kind. It seems that rather than dealing in firm and unequivocal facts it leans towards emotional blackmail and some kind of pseudo-patriotism. It would be immoral to rely on the activities of other nations to protect us from the threatened horrors of Isis. (Surely this is an almost identical approach that Tony Blair took in the run up to the Iraq invasion.) David Cameron has stated in terms that we are entitled to attack in Syria in self-defence; but we would only be defending ourselves against the retaliatory actions of those we seek to bomb. He says that it would be illogical to continue striking in Iraq but not in Syria: I agree! We should not be bombing in Iraq, but in the words of some sage or other, ‘I wouldn’t have started from here’.

There are many wise people out there who believe that to launch air strikes in Syria would be a mistake. There are many MPs who feel the same. My hope is that, for the sake of humanity, they win the day.

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