The UK is going to war again. When is it ever not at war?
The House of Commons voted 397-223 to join France, Russia, the US, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar (and Assad) in bombing Syria tonight.
The result was expected. The margin less so.
It is a tale all too familiar in our recent foreign policy ventures in the Middle East.
In hindsight, they said the war in Iraq was ill convinced.
In hindsight, they said the government’s case for war wasn’t justified.
In hindsight, they decried going to war with no clear strategy on what comes next.
In hindsight, they said the war in Iraq destabilised the region and led to the growth of ISIS now.
What will hindsight tell us about Syria I wonder?
Six RAF typhoons will be leaving Scotland as early as tonight to head to our bases in Cyprus.
Their first target will likely be Raqqa.
Here’s some sobering reading:
Syrians in Raqqa tell of ‘insane nights’ of air strikes
Voices from Raqqa: ‘We can’t hide from your bombs. Tell MPs to say no’
Life in Raqqa: ‘We are starving and face death from all sides’
The coverage of this has been so soul destroying. From everyone. From every medium.
This isn’t about the infighting in the Labour Party.
This isn’t about Corbyn.
This isn’t about Hilary Benn’s speech.
Or Tim Farron’s speech.
Or making a gesture to the French.
The Prime Minister made the case for war to protect us, our “national security.”
To “degrade and denigrate” ISIS.
Will joining the list of countries bombing the group in Syria achieve these aims?
Or are we making the same mistakes of our all to recent past?
This vote, our participation in the bombing, will be largely symbolic. To us. To our allies. To Daesh.
But to those in Raqqa?
Intervention in Syria is a complex issue and no one has the right answer. But it seems disingenuous to me for Tim Farron to say that he couldn’t criticise the PM’s poor record on taking in refugees on the one hand and not support these strikes on the other.
ISIS does not have sole responsibility for the refugee crisis.
Nor is it the largest killer of Syrians.
The Assad regime is, always has been, and will continue to be the single largest killer of Syrian civilians in this conflict.
As Marwa told me when we discussed this war: “The Syrian regime forces, they owned the sky.”
Why did we not impose a no-fly over moderate rebel-held areas in Syria? Why are we letting barrel bombs rain down on Syrian civilians and then pointing our fingers to ISIS and saying, ‘you know what will help? Let’s bomb them.’
Military intervention can be necessary. But intervening in the wrong way can have disastrous results.
Time and time again our foreign policy towards the Middle East shows a lack of basic understanding of the situation and power plays involved there.
And by and large, it’s not us who suffer as a result.
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