Yesterday our parliament had a rather long debate on if we should extend our bombing operations in Iraq into Syria to join the multinational effort to tackle Da’esh. There’s been an awful lot said about this both before and after the vote so I’m afraid I’m unlikely to add any massive insight, but for what it’s worth here’s my rambling take on matters.
Whilst Mr Cameron did make a bit of an idiot mistake in casting the “terrorist sympathizer” comment a bit wide, it is sadly true that both Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell have track records of sympathizing with terrorist. This probably wasn’t the time to bring that up – especially as it meant that a fair chunk of the debating time was wasted by people demanding an apology, one call for an apology would probably be enough. On the subject of terrorism it seems that an awful lot of people are confused about what that actually means, for instance the state of Saudi Arabia may be a brutal medieval pathetic excuse for a state that sponsors terrorist actions but it is not a terrorist group. Likewise with Russia and every other example I’ve seen being used to say that Mr Cameron also is a terrorist sympathizer. He isn’t, he may be a horrible human, he may get far too close to abhorrent regimes, these regimes may even sponsor terrorism but that isn’t the same thing as sympathizing with terrorism/terrorists. Should we demand he takes a stronger line with these regimes? Of course but that is a separate question. I’m not quite sure where the supporters of Mr Corbyns new gentler kinder politics fit in with their threats of violence made against politicians that disagree with them, I suspect just “idiots”. Though it may not be that far from idiocy to violence and terrorism, as the tweeted threats pf death and violence and the protest outside an MPs house tends to demonstrate.
Did the vote represent the views of the populace? I have no idea and quite frankly neither does anyone else. No one is in the position to say that the majority of their constituency didn’t support it or the majority of the population don’t. On the constituency level only the MP and their staff know what communication they have with their constituents, on the national level we have polls but as the last election showed you can’t exactly trust those. So yes the MPs may have voted against the will of the majority of the populace, or they may not we’ve no idea. It was a free vote so the best we can hope for is that they had done their research, paid attention to the speeches made (many of which by some accounts were very good) and then weighed everything up and made the best decision they good taking into account the present views of their constituents. Perhaps not all of them did, perhaps some of them voted for vested interest and self advancement; but we don’t know. I’m against people being charged for crimes of thought and speech so it only seems fair to extend the same courtesy to our representatives, after all many of them do more than enough to let us condemn them by their actions. If you disagree with the way your MP voted ask them to explain themselves.
That aside the vote has been taken and we’re extending our operations, that it is an extension of operations explains why the RAF were able to conduct an airstrike on oil infrastructure so quickly after the vote – no need of conspiracy theories there. Was it the right vote, for my money I think it was. It’s not the complete answer but it is part of it. As has been pointed out before the various airstrikes commenced there was fears that Da’esh would soon over run all of Syria, today they hold less land than they have done and seem to be very much on the back foot. That they’re on the back foot may well explain the increased attacks outside of Syria; they need headlines and “victories” to support the myth of their success and the legitimacy of their claim to being a state. No one wants to join a bunch of losers that are being slowly bombed and fought out of existence. Which is another point to remember, whilst the countries conducting the air strike may not have any official boots on the ground (as the term goes) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people on the ground fighting. It is to be hoped that those on the ground fighting Da’esh get more benefit from us dropping bombs on Da’esh positions than we cause problems. On that note it has also been pointed out that if we were hitting schools and hospitals we can be fairly sure that there would be videos showing such things, they get out videos of beheadings and throwing people of buildings after all so photo’s of civilian casualties and blown up schools should be no trouble. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence but in this case it does suggest there likely haven’t been huge numbers of civilian casualties.
It could be argued that with so many people dropping bombs on Syria the skies are getting crowded and we’ve no need to join in, again I find myself disagreeing with this. This isn’t a case of joining in because of peer pressure and “everyone’s doing it”. This is more a case of standing shoulder to shoulder with the other countries that are standing up to a group which is a threat to anyone that isn’t part of Da’esh. This is an international “I’m Spartacus” – telling Da’esh that they don’t have to worry about just the latest people they’ve attacked but that we’re all going to stand against them even though it may carry the cost of attacks on our own soil. This of course is where we need to have some very strong words with some of our so-called allies and ask them what they hell they think they’re doing. Countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to be given to understand in no uncertain terms that just as in previous wars allying with the enemy means you will face direct consequences.
Which brings us to the next thing to be considered many people have said that we need to disrupt Da’esh’s cash flow, oil production and other supply lines, well the first RAF strike seems to have done a good job of doing just that. In fact air strikes are a well-tested tool for disrupting infrastructure. So as a tool of disruption to assist people already fighting on the ground, air strikes really aren’t the worst plan. The other argument against us getting involved is that it will radicalize people. I will admit this confuses me because we’re repeatedly told that Da’esh has nothing to do with Islam, so why would attacking Da’esh cause Muslims anywhere to turn against the countries they live in. I’m sure some people would claim that it’s the civilian casualties that are what are causing the radicalization. Well lets assume that’s the case, you’re angry about Muslims being killed in Syria, so do you join Da’esh which has nothing to do with Islam and is also killing Muslims in Syria or do you join one of the many other groups in Syria fighting Da’esh – or maybe even a humanitarian group which isn’t fighting at all. I’m sorry but if we must persist in claiming that Da’esh has nothing to do with Islam then “western” attacks on Da’esh can’t cause the radicalization of Muslims any more than it would cause radicalization of Buddhists.
Finally as some people are starting to realize and as Archbishop Crammer explains so well this is not just a military issue but a clash of cultures and if we won’t stand up for secular western enlightenment values then we have lost no matter what else we do. Every time we say “we’re no longer the good guys”, or make allowances to those that won’t follow the rules of the country they’re in because of their “culture” we send a clear signal that we don’t believe in the values we espouse. Just consider your hypothetical disaffected youth looking for a cause and meaning on the one hand:
Da’esh: “We have a superior culture that we’re prepared to fight for, here are our values that we are prepared to fight for, we are the good guys in a heroic fight against over whelming odds to bring about an enlightened world”
Many-in-the-west: “Our past is full of atrocities we must apologize for, our behavior is terrible and we’re no longer the good guys. We must allow other cultures to trample over our rules and mores lest we cause offense as who are we to say we’re any better”
Which one do you think sounds more convincing. On the other hand we could be standing up telling a story of all the amazing things the west has achieved, the number of people lifted out of poverty, the advances and freedoms gained since the enlightenment. we could be standing up to the sniveling bullies that are Da’esh and say enough of this crap our culture is better than the shit you’re peddling and we’re prepared to fight you for it both in debate and with force to defend it. that message doesn’t hold water if we let our politicians remove our freedoms of speech, association and thought under the pretense of defending us from those that would do the same. In conjunction with military action we must have political, philosophical and social action celebrating and strengthening the freedoms and values of the enlightenment that so many have fought so long for – and if that offends the idiots in Da’esh and their supporters then all the better.
So no dropping bombs isn’t the complete answer, and there will no doubt be a lot of work to be done until Da’esh and all of their ilk (I’m looking at you Saudi Arabia) have been dealt with properly, and the damage they’ve caused has been fixed. However much like any other infestation of pests the longer we leave it the harder it will be to get rid of them and the more damage they’ll have done.