This week the U.K. voted to go to war against the terrorists in Syria. It doesn’t seem to be a popular cause in the U.K. or perhaps it is simply that its opponents are more vocal as it is hard to admit support for a war. Of course there is no easy solution and none guaranteed to make everyone or even most people happy.
I wanted military intervention back in 2011 when President Assad started firing on the crowds who were peacefully protesting for their freedoms but as usual governments didn’t want to know just as they didn’t want to know in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and several other places until far too many people had been killed and by then it is almost too late and infinitely harder to resolve.
Many people say we shouldn’t join in the war due to fears of being misled over the Iraq War and the uncertainty over whether the war in Afghanistan actually solved anything. I’d say that just because we tried and didn’t succeed 15 years ago, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help now, so long as we do it properly.
By doing it properly I don’t mean simply bombing from the air and muddling through. We haven’t done things properly for a while now, not since the SAS in Sierra Leone in 2000 and The Falklands War in 1982. Part of doing it properly involves the military being given the freedom to do what it has to do without political considerations and cost-cutting. It involves already having a plan of how to run and repair a country after the fighting stops and not fleeing before the mission is complete in every way.
Despite the best efforts of politicians, I’m not actually afraid in any way of terrorists in London or in Paris and if someone wants to buy me a train ticket to go to Paris then I’d be really very happy to accept. What I am sick of though is politicians telling me I should be afraid and trying to claim extra powers for themselves. They used to always say that we mustn’t give in to terrorists and we won’t change our way of life. My way of life doesn’t include incarceration without proof of guilt, having my communications intercepted, being filmed by thousands of cameras every day or my civil rights being reduced.
Like millions of other Londoners and others around the world, I’ve spent my whole life with terrorism. I went to university during the most destructive and deadliest years of the IRA bombings. At times it was a regular occurrence. Bombs in bins, bombs at train stations, bombs on buses, bombs 200 yards from other bombs to catch everyone running for their lives. One day I was a few minutes late to a tutorial and my professor actually remarked that having two bombs go off in the vicinity was not sufficient reason to be late for class. He was only part joking and I only partly disagreed. Life just went on as normal and no-one was unduly scared.
Even when a bombing or shooting is successful, the numbers of people involved are tiny. Something like 1 in 18,000 people in Paris were at risk of the recent terror attacks there. In a military sense, it is less than a drop in the ocean.
Having studied Middle East History & Politics for 4 years, this is one of there very few areas in life I can claim some sort of professional qualification. Sadly the politicians of almost every country seem to ignore those of us who could forewarn them of their mistakes but all the events that are happening today seem pretty predictable to me.
Personally, I don’t think aerial bombing is going to achieve that much. At the end of the day you need people to occupy territory and to eliminate the bad guys if necessary. The politicians should be open about it rather than muddle through, I’m sure many would support such a plan if it was done on a sufficiently epic scale.
For those who think the U.K. shouldn’t join in the war then it’s quite simple. Do you think the terrorists should be stopped? If not, that’s ok. If you do think they should be stopped then when. If not now, then when? If not by us then by whom?
The real situation won’t be resolved until Assad is removed from power. Russia has started bombing the people “we” were relying on to do our dirty work and remove the man who has the blood of 100,000’s on his hands.
Russia always picks the losing side in the long term, as do China. They can only ever support the dictator, the oppressor of people. No one ever aspires for the life-style or Russia or China or tries to adopt their culture. People starving in Africa, fleeing from wars, those rebelling against tyrants or suffering from a natural disaster always beg and reach out to three countries in particular. The UK, USA and France because as messed up as we are, we’re still able sometimes to put ourselves out to do the right thing and not always, solely for our own self-interest. If I were in Syria or indeed Paris then I’d like to think they would help me too.
Russia of course supports Assad as he has been a traditional ally of theirs and has a useful seaport for the Russian Navy. He can do pretty much what he wants to his people and he knows his friend won’t bother him.
Of course Russia and China have issues with any rebellions, revolts, succession movements or international wars. It’s simply because they fear it would add legitimacy to those trying in the almost hopeless task of becoming free in their own home-lands. Bombing a tyrant in the Middle-East for killing his own civilians means that theoretically, it is easy to draw the same line against them. Giving the Kurds their own nation for example must be opposed as other wise Siberia, Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang might get ideas and we might support them too.
The same basic problems remain now as they did in the late 1990’s when I studied the Middle-East and whatever happens in Syria over the next few years is only really a sticking plaster on the underlying problems which must be resolved for a real peace to occur and for the reasons of future wars to be removed.
Saudi Arabia – The West has to stop funding Saudi Arabia and treating it as an ally. It is only an ally in the sense that it is afraid of being toppled and when oil and arms sales are involved, our governments are happy to prop up regimes that in every other way are entirely hideous.
The Saudi government has long espoused a very extreme form of Islam and has exported terrorism everywhere from Egypt to England by financing mosques and community centres that all encourage a very tyrannical form of Islam. Treating them like the enemy they are may very well make things worse for several years but that at least will have an end point. Currently there is no end in sight and few other countries have such a negative impact on the world.
Saudi Arabia likes to play us off against Iran but there is no comparison between the two when it comes to exporting and financing extreme religion and terror. Try booking a holiday to either country and you’ll see which one is relatively easy to visit and which doesn’t want you there.
Israel – The West and in this case only really the United States has to stop its huge economic, political and military support of Israel until the country negotiates a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Apart from domestic American political considerations, it doesn’t even make sense in the wider geopolitical world. It’s simply not acceptable for the Palestinians to be kept in the current condition for more than a life-time now. If you want to espouse democracy and state-building then how about treating Israel like everybody else is treated.
Whenever peace-talks loom Israel always finds a get out by doing something controversial to stir up trouble and ruin the prospects of talks. Whether it is Iraq or Syria or Iran, there is always something it thinks the world should deal with rather than itself. Of course a peace treaty was agreed between Israel and the Palestinians but it was scuppered when an Israeli murdered the Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin which led to the same idiot being elected as is in power today and who only won after making deeply divisive and racist remarks. At the end of the day it is always the more powerful group that has to make the running as with the whites in Apartheid South Africa.
Elections – If we want nations to hold elections then we have to deal with the winners. We also have to accept that the people who are elected might not have been who we hoped to elect ourselves. When Gaza held elections, Hamas won power and then almost the entire world immediately shunned them and continued to do so. We all supported the revolutions across the Arab World and especially Egypt but then everyone seemed to be urging the Egyptian military to overthrow the elected Muslim Brotherhood so that years later, we are back to the benign but dictatorial Egyptian military government rather than the elected if unfriendly democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood.
Kurdistan – The Kurds must be given their own country. Their homelands were carved up a hundred years ago and they have lived in occupation for far longer. Massacred by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, murdered and discriminated against by Turkey and now targeted by Russian planes. Despite all that, they are by and large the most moderate people in the area. Their self-ran areas of Iraq are quiet and prosperous and their reputation for bravery continues with their being the only ones successful in fighting ISIS on the ground. Kurds are also not Arabs, they are no more Arab than the Japanese or Danish.
Iran – Should stop being continually treated like some sort of evil sub-human race. They were civilised before almost every other nation on earth and have a history, culture and language richer than almost any other on the planet. You don’t hear about Iranian terrorists. They are ostracised for political reasons but at a time when the Arab world is in upheaval, they would be who I base my foreign policy around.
Turkey – I love Turkey, both the kind I eat and the country with its incredible history and culture and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately it is currently being headed by a dictator in all but name who claimed that democracy should only be followed whist it is useful to him and who has authoritarian and hardline tendencies and is doing everything he can to ruin the country whilst also bringing discord amongst the many ethnic minorities in the country. As the Kurds in Syria are getting stronger, he has sympathies with ISIS who he hopes can eliminate them. A peaceful Kurdish area of Syria coupled with one in Iraq will obviously mean the Kurdish area of Turkey gets ideas of its own…. which in any case it should.
Anyway, those are my opinions and as none of them have ever been tried, maybe it would be worth ago even if there is no money, arms or votes in it. As my history professor told me when I wrote my Masters Thesis on the Israel-Palestinian situation, if you get death threats from both sides then you must be pretty much spot on.