Syria and the Parliamentary recall

The UK shouldn’t be involved in military action against Syria, no matter how horrific the original use of chemicals was. And here’s for why:

  • The responsibility to protect is not the responsibility to punish. Leave that to the ICC. The war crimes commission can act in due course. That’s of course unless the government wish to give the Russian and Chinese government the press release that says ‘the west doesn’t give a monkeys about international process’.  The same should be the case for the need to secure UN resolutions.
  • The unintended consequence of action is to alienate those within the regime who might have been sought out to negotiate. Or who might have been alienated by the use of the chemicals in the first place. All action solidifies the resolve of the regime.
  • You might hit Russian advisors. That would be ill-advised.
  • You might get dragged into something expensive and difficult (and let’s not forget that the Syrians have decent kit). There’s no will of the people to engage. The Iraq legacy persists. Scepticism about evidence and nice rhetoric also persists.
  • You shouldn’t want anything other than a stalemate here. The analysis done on the ‘rebels’ doesn’t make them look particularly friendly/acceptable to the west. So, don’t do anything to radically tip the balance, and remember Egypt just went bad. Syria will be way worse and less containable.
  • Our military is no longer geared for this. The SDSR did not provide for us to Libya (not really) and it certainly does not provide for this. Put the battle charts down, warm the diplomats up and leave it to someone else.
  • Attacking Assad is likely to have consequences for the UK. Let’s not invite on consequences. Instead, let’s read Baroness Manningham-Bullers’ evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry and conclude that she was a wise sage, with transferable advice.

On the less edifying end of the scale:

  • We’re just coming out of recession. Don’t rock the international oil boat. Don’t spend money we don’t have. It’s bad enough giving huge quantities of international aid money away, when the food bank in my local church is over-subscribed. When people cannot get the treatment for health problems that is a clinical need because there’s no money and when the schools have to beg for contributions from parents.. Our national security is currently not found in Syria. Don’t invent connections when there aren’t any.
  • We are no longer a global policeman. We are no longer a medium sized power. We are a key component of a European security community. Let it be for others to lead.

So, on Thursday, when Parliament is recalled, I hope they put the battle maps and the war drums away. Patience, influence and other tools are required here.

Of course, they will do the complete opposite.. and then there will be a cottage industry in writing and broadcasting about why it was such a complete cluster….. plus ca change?

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11 thoughts on “Syria and the Parliamentary recall

  1. Mike Timofiiv says:

    Good post. I believe that, to further your point, a lot of these are also transferrable to the United States as well. I would also like to add that if humanitarian grounds are truly what is leading to this “intervention” for the NATO-aligned governments, perhaps they should look at many of the other even more brutal conflicts around the globe today.

  2. Pingback: Syria intervention | Barking at cars

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  5. Elliott Killick says:

    I think the assertion that Britain is no longer a ‘medium-sized power’ is a ridiculous one, frankly. The military rightly warns us about how cuts cannot continue without losses in capability, but Britain spends some £34 billion on defence yearly – it is the fourth highest in the world according to SIPRI. That number is higher than India, and also higher than Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Brazil. It’s unrealistic to assume that Britain can’t operate as part of a multilateral operation with French and U.S. support. And unlike in Libya, this won’t be a British and French-led operation, it will be led by the U.S. – this statement that ‘someone else’ should lead is in fact occurring and Britain will be operating in a peripheral role.

  6. Rob Dover says:

    Elliott, none of the countries you cite are likely or mooted to take part. Why? Because it’s not in their strategic interest. We’d do well to listen to and copy them. Even if I were to accept that we’re still a medium power a’la 2003 (which I don’t) it still doesn’t mean we should take part. Which we shouldn’t.

  7. oldreem says:

    Excellent analysis by the OP. If it weren’t for Obama’s ill-advised “red line” statement it’s less likely that the war drums would be beating. But it’s Obama’s red line – not Cameron’s, not Hollande’s and certainly not Putin’s (remember the Moscow Theatre Siege?). As today’s Telegraph cartoon suggests, Cameron is in danger of morphing into a Blairesque combination of selective moral indignation and US poodledom. If Saddam had been left alone in 2003 (having rightly been put back in his box in 1991) there would still be some sort of regional balance of power vis-a-vis Iran.

  8. Elliott Killick says:

    Rob,I do agree that perhaps it would be difficult to justify to an Indian or Japanese public the necessity of intervening in Syria. But ask any one of the governments I mentioned if a world without chemical weapons is in their strategic interest and absolutely every single one would agree. The reason that they don’t involve themselves in these limited airstrikes arguably isn’t because it is not in their strategic interest to do so, but because it is not in their public’s interest – the two simply do not correspond. Just because strategic interest can’t be acted on without public interest in the democracies mentioned doesn’t mean you can conflate the two.

  9. Jon says:

    “The responsibility to protect is not the responsibility to punish. Leave that to the ICC. The war crimes commission can act in due course.”

    Can it? Will it? I’m not convinced by this part of the argument.

  10. davidbfpo says:

    It is far too early in my opinion to conclude what the repercussions of last night’s stunning parliamentary vote are.

    What I missed in the public debate before the vote was any government explanation that an attack would alter the situation in Syria – where a desperate, bloody civil war is under-way. Was it only retribution to maintain our, external credibility in declaring ‘red lines’? If so, that was very wrong.

    No alternative options were presented by HMG. There are far more options than bombs and missiles. Some of which are found in an American article: http://nationalinterest.org/print/commentary/plan-syria-8924

    Rory Stewart, MP, has a good article: http://www.rorystewart.co.uk/syria/

    No we wait to see if the USA, with the French, will launch an attack – neither intend to have a parliamentary vote.

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