I hope I am wrong


I certainly know that there are many people in this world who know a lot more than I do about the Middle East, about military strategies, about international politics and about the human tragedy that arises through conflict. However, based on what I have I have seen over the last two decades, I do not believe that the UK government has presented an adequate strategy for destroying Daesh.

I believe that the current bombing campaign in Syria will fail to achieve its stated objectives. Throughout my lifetime, I have watched the modern ‘gun boat’ diplomacy fail time and time again in the Middle East and watched with frustration as the region has slipped into deeper turmoil. We now aim to correct the mistakes of yesterday using all of the same strategies that led us to the modern horrors of both a terrorist threat and a refugee crisis in Europe.

I am not a pacifist. I do believe that violent action can be necessary, especially when facing an uncompromising and fanatical enemy like Daesh. I admire those that wish for a world without violence, but I am extremely grateful that we can look to our armed forces to protect us from the greatest evils in this world.

However, given the scale of the problems we face, the current strategy appears to me to be a token gesture. Following the tragedies of Paris our politicians must be seen to act, our media demands it, but instead of presenting a credible plan to stabilise the region and destroy Daesh, we appear to be fixating upon the instinct to strike back quickly at our enemy without considering what others in the conflict zone will experience.

Undoubtedly UK air strikes will hurt Daesh, but will most Syrian and Iraqi civilians get to see these successes? Conversely, when intelligence fails or a missile goes off target, will the innocent survivors ever forget what has happened? Will they find reasons to absolve us of responsibility for the deaths of their families? Will they understand that it was an unintended accident? Or do we risk radicalising more young men and women and only worsening the ever darkening situation?

In its current form, Daesh seeks to destroy our society and will never negotiate for a long-term peace. They therefore must be effectively neutralised as quickly as possible. However this requires more than just arbitrary bombing. We need to cut off their weapons supplies, starve them of any financial support and ensure there are locally credible alternatives for government in the region. We must also seek to address the underlying economic and social issues that has led to such instability. Parliament may need weeks to discuss these issues, but I believe such an important issue warrants more than one day of largely hollow rhetoric.

I fear that the anguish felt from events in Paris and the refugee crisis have blinded us to the complex issues that we must face. I fear that the current UK actions, supported by our own leadership, will only lead to a worse situation. I fear history will show that this government stepped further away from a lasting peace.  I hope I am wrong.

* Jamie joined the Lib Dems in 2014 and was elected as City Councillor for West Chesterton in May 2018.

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  • I agree, I hope I’m wrong too.

  • David Evershed 7th Dec '15 - 5:17pm

    Jamie makes a thoughtful contribution, amonst which he notes “We must also seek to address the underlying economic and social issues that has led to such instability. ”

    I suggest addressing the religious fanaticism of Islam State is the sole cause of the terrorist attacks in the West. How do we deal with Nuslims who believe that they must wipe out anyone who is not a Muslim of the right sort.

    Most of the internal disputes within the Middle East are Sunni muslims fighting Shia muslims.

    We can not hide from the fact that it is the muslim religion which is at the heart of Middle East problems other than in Palestine.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Dec '15 - 7:07pm

    Whilst I recognise that you have grappled with tough issues here, this just seems to be the fashionable cop-out at the moment.

    We need to cut off their weapons supplies, starve them of any financial support and ensure there are locally credible alternatives for government in the region.’

    It’s a lovely thought, and these sort of de facto sanctions/embargos do almost certainly have a place. But this barely scratched the surface in ex-Yugoslavia and there’s no reason to think this would be any the more effective in Syria.

    ‘We must also seek to address the underlying economic and social issues that has led to such instability.’

    Well…sure, but isn’t this sort of motherhood and apple pie.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Dec '15 - 7:09pm

    My honest opinion is that extending airstrikes against IS to Syria shouldn’t be very controversial. A few weeks ago most of the public supported it, seemingly more so than the experts and the media, but then lots started criticising the plan and its popularity dropped.

    But even a day after the vote, a Chatham House analyst said that even though the plan isn’t perfect, it was still the right thing to do. Neil Quilliam has said extending airstrikes is unlikely to make us less safe because they were already targeting us due to Iraq. Where were these voices before the vote? In my opinion not enough spoke out in favour of it before it happened. Hilary Benn’s speech wouldn’t have been so powerful if he came across as a fence sitter. We needer more people like that in the run up. The same with Hollande. His approval rating has gone up by at least 20% whilst the west seemed to be criticising him calling him jingoistic and Rambo. I’d take a bit of sneering for 20 percentage points. Some have said it went up by 30%, but I’ll take the lower estimate.

    Of course there are valid concerns about airstrikes, but doing nothing would have been a big diplomatic blow and our allies probably would have started cosying up to others more willing to use military action in response.

  • I agree with Jamie.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Dec '15 - 8:43pm

    Jamie Dalzell | Mon 7th December 2015 – 4:15 pm “In its current form, Daesh seeks to destroy our society and will never negotiate for a long-term peace.” Using the word “never” implies an ability to forsee the future, which most of us lack. It is therefore a word which is rarely used in politics. if the current UK government has been saying this they should not be trusted.

  • “In its current form, Daesh seeks to destroy our society and will never negotiate for a long-term peace. They therefore must be effectively neutralised as quickly as possible.”

    I suspect that is really the whole extent of the government’s ambitions, and its supporters know it. Tim Farron’s speech in the Commons debate seems dishonest to me. He knows full well our actions are not going to end the war and relieve the suffering of refugees.

    Targeting IS is fairly sensible as a purely military objective. The longer they are allowed to hold large swathes of territory, the more credible and appealing they will be to would-be jihadis, and the more they will be able to train people like the Paris attackers. It’s a difficult calculation, but I suspect Cameron is right that simply allowing IS to its own devices is ultimately going to radicalise far more young Muslims than a well-targeted bombing campaign. I just wish the government would be more straight with people about its intentions.

  • I would, like Jamie, say that I do not have extensive knowledge of the Middle East. I did live there briefly, many years ago, and learnt a few things, no doubt, but I am no expert. However, I would say that David Evershed is categorically wrong in his generalisations, both of the reasons for attacks in Europe, and for conflict in the Middle East. Of course Daesh / IS is a) fanatical, and b) violent, but its religious zeal is not at the heart of all attacks – a feeling that people in the Middle East are under attack from “western” policies also drives an attempt to gain revenge,and it is an acknowledged cause of “radicalisation” – although Governments often wriggle like mad when this is suggested! (no wonder).

    As for the reasons for conflict in the Middle East, they are multifarious. They do include Sunni / Shia rivalries, which have, I am sure been stirred up by the changing power balance, and outside approach to them. After decolonisation, and the rise of secular non monarchical systems in Iraq and Syria, there was for years an interesting power balance in the Ba’ath Parties in the two countries. In Iraq, the leadership was from a Sunni background with a majority Shia population, whereas in Syria, the reverse was true. Many in the Region will be feeling deprived of power and influence in post-Saddam Iraq, and the feeling in Syria, I am sure, is that the outside world seems to be supporting Shias much more strongly. In Syria, the Assad regime (two generations) have an even more fearsome reputation than Saddam if that is possible. So the Civil War had deep social as well as religious roots – many urban Syrians were brought up as pretty secular. Immediate causes have been prolonged drought and high bread prices – a traditional source of discontent and riots. Across the Middle East other political causes eg freedom in Tunisia and Egypt, have caused turmoil.

  • Where there is war there is brass. That is what it is all about.

  • The whole situation is a mess. I’d much rather some of our MPs hadn’t voted in favour of starting bombing in Syria, but I tend to doubt it is possible to make things much worse than they already are. The balance in Tim’s speech about supporting refugees and working harder in many other ways was needed.

    Let us very much hope that these attacks will NOT harm any innocents, through extreme care in targetting. Lets at least give those that need to some safe and welcoming places to go to.

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