LibLink: Nick Clegg: Britain should stick to diplomacy if it really wants to help Syria

Nick Clegg has been writing in the Evening Standard about how he think the UK can best help Syria:

The impression the Conservatives seem to give is that they wanted to take military action all along but were thwarted in doing so by the Labour Party — or because they didn’t have a majority in Parliament of their own.

This is not true. The decision not to bomb Syria was taken by Cameron and myself and discussed across both sides of the Coalition. The logic was simple: there was no coherent ground campaign in Syria to which air strikes could usefully contribute. While we were, of course, aware of the parliamentary constraints we faced, the overriding reason we did not push for air strikes in Syria was that dropping bombs on a country without a workable military approach on the ground made little strategic sense.

On the substance on which we based our collective decision in 2014, nothing has changed. If anything, the evolving circumstances make air strikes less justified. All there is on the ground in Syria is chaos, blood and anger. We would simply be throwing more bombs into a furnace.

And in the skies we have an increasingly precarious, unpredictable situation as US and Russian fighter jets operate in close proximity with two very different strategic objectives.

Where Britain can help the people of Syria is by piling on the diplomatic and political pressure to secure a lasting settlement — working with unlikely partners from Iran to Russia — providing humanitarian relief and playing our role in giving overt and covert advice and support to the Free Syrian Army and other moderate forces within Syria. Cameron said this a year ago. It was the right approach then and it remains so now.

Yesterday, Tony Blair rightly said that we should ensure that any final peace agreement in Syria has our imprint on it, and not just Russia’s. But playing catch-up with other people’s bombing raids is hardly the most effective way of doing so.

He went on to add that it would be easy to drop bombs on Syria to be seen to be doing something – a line echoed by Tim Farron on Question Time last night.

You can read his whole article here.

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6 Comments

  • A Social Liberal 9th Oct '15 - 12:53pm

    . . . . . and yet, and yet.

    Clegg voted to bomb Syria less than 12 months earlier and indeed advocated it. He voted to bomb Libya earlier in the parliament and indeed not only voted to bomb Daesh in Iraq but said, “Just because you can’t do everything, it doesn’t mean you should do nothing.”.

    Whilst I agreed with his stance on all three votes I do not agree with his rewriting of his opinion in this matter.

  • Some of what Nick Clegg has to say is sensible, but the there is a basic problem with the notion of moderate opposition. Firstly actual how moderate is civil war. If say group of republicans decided that they were going to remove the unelected queen or demolish the house of lords by force and could prove they had a degree of public support would we describe them as moderate! Then there is reality that the Assad Government has mostly ruled as a secular entity, whilst most of the rebel opposing them are Islamist in nature and foreign backed. The US spent millions training 4 or 5 moderate repels then told them to join with Jihadist for safety. So what do we even mean by moderate.
    To me reality is that some people have just got themselves into a confused unworkable mind set where trying to remove leaders we don’t like by force has become a knee jerk reaction. What’s worse is that it morally all over the place because of our affiliations with other regional leaders who are in some cases worse than the people we’re told are the bad guys.
    I agree that we need diplomacy, but I really think we need to stop meddling and admit to the monumental failures of the last decade or so.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Oct '15 - 4:00pm

    I’ve read it and I don’t really agree with it. This reluctance to use military force seems to stem from the likes of Neil Quilliam, the head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. The directors of Brookings are slightly less dovish and are basically recommending a continuation of the Obama doctrine which has just failed and failed and personally after reading several reports I’m still not convinced.

    It all seems to stem from the idea that lots of Sunni Muslims in the region are sympathetic towards ISIS, but I don’t buy it. Neil Quilliam actually thinks if we bomb ISIS it will make ISIS more attractive because it will strengthen Assad. I fail to see that a group getting bombed by several countries is going to be an attractive proposition to join.

    I’m not a “defence hawk”, but I’m now reading reports from more hawkish think tanks. I think the current security establishment have failed and the leaders of ISIS need to be chased down. I just don’t sense any passion and people are talking about it as though “it would be a nice thing to stop ISIS”, but I sense no urgency in it and that is how they are losing me.

    Regards

  • ……………………….The decision not to bomb Syria was taken by Cameron and myself and discussed across both sides of the Coalition. The logic was simple: there was no coherent ground campaign in Syria to which air strikes could usefully contribute. While we were, of course, aware of the parliamentary constraints we faced, the overriding reason we did not push for air strikes in Syria was that dropping bombs on a country without a workable military approach on the ground made little strategic sense……………

    Is this a complete re-write of what actually happened? If my memory is still working I seem to recall that Clegg actually spoke, supporting military action, in the debate prior to the final vote….

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Oct '15 - 5:13pm

    In the New York Times today it says the White House is ending the program to train Syrian rebels, just as Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrats are talking about continuing to arm them.

    It doesn’t look like the left hand knows what the right hand is doing when it comes to the West’s policy on Syria. We need a new approach.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/world/middleeast/pentagon-program-islamic-state-syria.html?_r=0

  • Bill le Breton 9th Oct '15 - 5:19pm

    For an idea of where people stood back in August 2013, try reading this thread, the post it answers and a couple more pieces published before the Commons votes. http://www.libdemvoice.org/syria-a-reply-to-stephen-tall-35962.html

    The former leader too often played fancy free with the record, which is why he got us into so much trouble.

    Ones Liberalism is not challenged in dusty debate, it is challenged when you have power and when you are called on to vote on or decide what to do with that power.

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