Making the right decision on Syria

In some ways, the decision on whether to back the Government’s proposals to bomb Syria is one of the hardest the party has ever had to take. I’ll be honest, I don’t think that the case has been properly made in either long term strategy for Syria or in protecting the innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children. That is not to say that I can’t be persuaded. This is no Iraq where for months beforehand I just instinctively felt that it was the wrong thing to do. It’s a very complex set of circumstances and it’s very much a case of making a judgement call on the least worst option.

This piece is not about the rights and wrongs of the situation, though. It’s how we reach our position and how we conduct ourselves before, during and after. There have been things that have impressed me in the past few days, and things that have set off a few alarm bells. Tim Farron has not, I think, put a foot wrong. His reasoned approach with his five tests give credibility and authority and, unlike any other party, has given the government serious questions to answer. He has also been seriously engaging with people on Twitter and offline too.

From what I can see, the Liberal Democrat members seem to be pretty evenly split on whether to support airstrikes. There are sincerely held and well-argued points of view on both sides. So how do we get to a decision we can all live with? There are a couple of things that I think would help and a few things creeping in occasionally that certainly don’t. 

Stick to the facts of the situation

The first thing we need to do is stick to the facts. As I said, Tim Farron’s five tests are sensible and credible and recognise that the horrendousness of Daesh can’t just be resolved by chucking a few bombs in Syria. They don’t just exist in Syria. They are a well-funded global network and part of the solution means cutting off the money that goes to them from countries with whom this country has some relationship.  Saudi Arabia issuing a fatwa against them might be progress, but it’s action, not words that matter.

It is really important that we try and make the government close the gaping holes in its case. That’s what we’re for. Someone has to do it while Labour is devouring itself. Who, for example, are those 70,000 fighters on the ground? Are their leaders going to be capable of forming a stable post conflict Syria? What happens with Assad and how is the reconstruction effort going to be managed? Is Cameron’s billion going to be given to private western companies to go and “fix things” or is there going to be real input from local communities to create something sustainable that meets their needs?

Our decision should be solely about the facts and the situation on the ground in Syria, not about any other war or set of circumstances. We need to try and stick clear of emotive arguments that doubt the motivations of the other side. You can reach either side of the argument from a liberal perspective. I’m just aware that discussion on social media and elsewhere is at times polarising and heading in unhelpful and disrespectful directions. There is also some disquiet among some Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords that emotive rhetoric is being used by some in place of reasoned argument and that concerns about action are not being treated with the respect they deserve.

Tim Farron has done pretty well so far in his leadership in bringing the party together behind him. On this one, though, whatever decision he makes will disappoint the members who wanted him to tale a different view. I have no doubt that he will deal with this with sensitivity and will set an example that we should all follow.

I feel that, whatever way we go, we will need a detailed explanation of why the five tests have or have not been met and that even if our MPs decide to vote for action, we have to reserve the right to speak up if things do not proceed along the principles set out in those tests. I guess we also have to be aware that the MPs will have had briefings that we haven’t. As much as we want them to listen to us as members, we also need to listen to them, too and trust that they have made their decision for the right reasons.

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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54 Comments

  • Well said, Caron. My main concern is that there doesn’t seem to be very much substantive progress on a concrete plan for what to do afterwards. The “interventions” in Iraq and Libya, and to an extent Afghanistan, were undone mainly because of the lack of a coherent strategy to deal with the long-term issues by non-military means. As things stand, the Syria situation is an order of magnitude murkier than either of those, and if anything, a credible long-term plan seems farther away than any of the previous three actions. A great deal of time and effort needs to be expended to nurture and develop a credible counter-ideology to the nihilistic Wahhabism of Daesh and Friends, and currently that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Just bombing Raqqa risks playing into Daesh’s narrative and further alienating marginalised elements at risk of radicalisation in Europe (and I note that all of the identified Paris attackers were EU nationals). Securing the Turkish border, preventing Turkey from continuing to frustrate Kurdish efforts against Daesh, cutting off the Gulf state lines of funding and supply to Daesh, massively increasing support for refugees both in and outside the region and working to rally moderate support in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan would all be very helpful indeed, and little of Cameron’s plan seems to address any of these issues directly. Tim’s 5 tests go some way towards this, but my fear is that too much of the focus is on the short term.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '15 - 6:21pm

    This is a good article. I started off the debate being polite and respectful, but then I started to panic as it became clear that Cameron might not win the vote. Although I think I’ve managed to restrain myself most of the time.

    Last night I got especially frustrated with the west’s main foreign policy think tanks. I think I’ve spotted a clear liberal bias that is pro immigration, pro free trade and arguably more anti-Assad than ISIS. But I think this kind of liberal thinking is against electoral reality. I think Cameron, Hollande and to a lesser extent Obama are right to develop their own more independent policies. Although I am worried that France is getting too close to Russia.

    I can understand abstaining from the vote, but I would be very disappointed in a vote against. I hate the idea of innocents dying too, but I think all options lead to innocents and people’s loved ones dying.

    As a good thing to do, I think the pressure needs to be on resulting in as few civilian casualties as possible, rather than developing a full peace plan at this stage.

  • My stance remains the same.
    I don’t see any reason to add Britain to an already crowded air campaign or exactly what anyone thinks will come next. I think it’s basically a pointless exercise, .

  • David Allen 28th Nov '15 - 7:26pm

    Yes – it’s a hard decision. If we don’t bomb, we will be turning our backs on our French allies when they ask for our help. But if we do bomb, we will probably do no real good, and we might well do real harm.

    This genuinely is a time when the best thing to do is to temporise – and to say that we want to fight back, but not unless and until we can be confident that we can do something that is going to be effective.

    Why don’t Labour see it like that? Both sides in Labour think it’s an easy decision to make. It seems to be all about infighting inside the party, and treating what actually happens in Syria as mere collateral damage!

  • Mick Taylor 28th Nov '15 - 7:38pm

    No! No! No! We need a peace process, not bombs or troops. The only people who can settle this are the Syrians themselves and that will only happen through a meaningful peace process. We should be supporting John Kerry in his attempt to get peace talks started. The best things we can do are diplomatic, not military. Persuade the people who fund ISIL to stop, stop the purchase of oil from ISIL and stop weapons for both sides. There is no short cut through bombs or troops, only more innocent civilian deaths, and more recruits for ISIL and almost certainly more terror attacks in the UK.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Nov '15 - 7:51pm

    ‘I’m just aware that discussion on social media and elsewhere is at times polarising and heading in unhelpful and disrespectful directions.’

    Well, I’m sorry, but this IS polarising. There is robust political disagreement – so be it. More generally, I think that John Marriott’s point is exactly the right one. It’s very difficult to see this being sorted out by anything other than boots on the ground. In the absence of any Syrian who can hold the show together it’s also difficult to duck the likelihood of some sort of occupation as the result of boots on the ground. What nationality those boots would be is anyone’s guess, no government has the appetite for that level of involvement, at least not at the moment.

    For what it’s worth I also fail to see what the UK can add in Syria (and indeed I’d also ask whether UK involvement might risk weakening UK action elsewhere). I also don’t especially want UK involvement for years in a messy fall out. But in saying all that there’s no point in me pretending that I think a policy of, ‘waiting for something to turn up,’ will do the job. I’m rather glad it’s not going to be me voting on this one.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Nov '15 - 7:58pm

    Mick Taylor – We couldn’t stop flows of funds/weapons/oil/fuel/contraband into the Balkans during their conflicts, never mind this It’s a lovely thought but I suspect that it is little more than that.

    ‘only more innocent civilian deaths, and more recruits for ISIL and almost certainly more terror attacks in the UK.’

    So your argument here is what… isolationism-lite? That would be absolutely fine by me I stress – but the idea that Syria is ripe for a diplomatic solution seems to me to be somewhat fanciful.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Nov '15 - 8:05pm

    LJP: It is possible to disagree robustly with respect for each other.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Nov '15 - 8:15pm

    Personally, I won’t be disappointed whichever ways our MPs vote, if there is a vote next week. It’s a horrendously difficult decision, as other commentators have said, and I don’t feel sufficiently au fait with the facts to voice a personal opinion. The facts themselves are liable to be changing on the ground, and the most knowledgeable can’t foresee yet how Syria can be restored to some stability. I will trust our Leader to search for such expert advice as can be found, and make a judgment based on our Liberal values and the Party’s excellent tradition in facing such grave questions, as I’m sure he will.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Nov '15 - 8:20pm

    Caron Lindsay – And that’s absolutely fine. But there are occasions where I can disagree and NOT respect someone or their stance. If someone wishes not to respect me for something then so be it. That’s life.

  • If, as Caron asks, we just stick to the facts then it is clear that the Liberal Democrats in Parliament must vote against bombing Syria. Fact 1: Tim Farron has set out five tests. (Sticking to the facts I will not argue whether those tests are right or wrong). Fact 2: Test 2 was that the government should work “towards a no bomb zone”. Fact 3. When our leader questioned the PM on this on Thursday the PM refused to work towards a no bomb zone. Therefore test 2 has not been met and therefore on the facts alone the Liberal Democrat MPs should vote against bombing Syria.

  • John Marriot.
    I get your point, but to me it’s all the more reason Britain should not be involved. I see no sign that the Americans are going to put boots on the ground. So realistically this leaves Syrian and Iranian troops with some Kurdish fighters and if pushed hard enough some Russians. At which point we will find ourselves dragged into supporting another set of Saudi and Turkey backed “moderates” as a counter balance and the whole thing starts again. I think it’s a good time to put a full stop in our involvement in the disastrous military interventions of the last 15 to 25 years. Maybe the most realistic solution is to let natural boarders develop and recognise new countries earlier as we did in the Balkans, but the again the tensions are different. Either way, I just don’t see what direct British military involvement can achieve that isn’t already being done by bigger military powers.

  • Shaun Cunningham 28th Nov '15 - 9:08pm

    Caron

    “Our decision should be solely about the facts and the situation on the ground in Syria, not about any other war or set of circumstances.”

    I don’t believe one can or should ignore the events of Paris, they could have easily been any city in the UK. Should our aircraft which are currently operating over Iraq be extended to Syria, of course, why should they they stop at a border which is a line in the sand.

    The terrorist do not recognise borders so why should we. The way some go on about bombing it is if the RAF just drops explosives and hope for the best. The U.K. has some of the best targeting systems in any airforce, we should have confidence in the training of our military. Any military campaign will evolve over time .

    What we are facing are a bunch of anarchist who don’t believe in the political stage so how on earth can you have any form of dialogue with them.

    IS are simply fanatics who are at war with our the Western culture, values and way of life. I disagree fundamentally with the idea we can just pull up the drawbridge and all will be well and they will leave us alone, do people honestly believe that. What about our fellow Citizens Sitting on a foreign beach enjoying their holiday who are not with us anymore.

    How about that young soldier who was brutally murdered in London, The truth is , we are all a target and we better face up to that fact, all it needs is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s the simple true.

    No one likes conflict but there are times when evil must be taken on. IS are responsible for some hellish crimes against men, women and children. Leadership is about recognised what needs to be done and yes taking tough but necessary decisions.

  • nigel hunter 28th Nov '15 - 9:26pm

    Syria should be sorted out first in whatever form finally agreed. ISIS are not worried about borders they want a world caliphate. Their death means nothing to them, it is what they hope for. Once they are deprived of territory (Syria) contain them in a specified area depriving them of all financial and military assets.

  • lloyd harris 28th Nov '15 - 9:28pm

    Personally I can’t see how bombing is going to get rid of ISIS just like it hasn’t got rid of Al Qidea (?spelling) it is as much about an idea as it is territory and bombing doesn’t stop the ideas.

    The other issue is the fact that large parts of the middle east and even Turkey are constructs of a Anglo-French plan to carve up territory after the first world war and bare little to the ethic make-up of the people on the ground. I can’t see any long term solution without redrawing boundaries, which is never easy to do. However it has come to a point that the downsides of re-drawing state borders is less than the current situation.

  • Some years ago, the British Government refused to negotiate with the IRA and the IRA continued to carry out fairly indiscriminate acts of terrorism. Many said then, as I am saying now, that the only way to peace was to negotiate without preconditions and eventually, many unnecessary deaths later, that’s exactly what happened.
    It may be that at the moment ISIL don’t want to negotiate. Is that a reason not to gather together as many of the warring groups as possible to talk peace? I don’t think so.
    I don’t think there was serious intent to stop funds and weapons in the Balkan conflict and so far greed is triumphing as arms dealers vie to sell weapons to all sides in the Syrian conflict and avaricious oil companies continue to buy oil from territories controlled by ISIL. I accept that it would require a serious and united attempt to get this going, but if a few arms dealers and oil purchasers are jailed for lengthy sentences, the rest will fall into line. What is lacking is the political will to take action. Instead, Cameron seeks to be a war leader and to try and take short cuts, by bombing Syria – killing many innocent people in the process = and whatever people writing on this thread think that will not defeat ISIL and it will not lead to peace. What is necessary is to isolate ISIL and cut off their money and weapons and not give them the excuse to claim that they are simply striking back at ‘evil muslim haters’ in the West.
    The actions by the West have not succeeded in defeating Al Qaeda, the Taliban or ISIL and military action only gives them more willing recruits. Those who think otherwise are sadly putting their fingers in their ears and shrieking ‘I can’t hear you’.

  • there are a number of points here. Firstly the border is literally a line in the sand. It has no logical purpose being based on the idea of two early 20th century incompetent muppets. Then there is strategy and tactics. Manned flights are expensive of limited duration and if away air to air refuelling not always on station. drones are far more effective. air strikes can only achieve removal of weapons dumps training camps and other fixed installations. ground requested drone strikes can remove some of their command and control but the bulk of the fighters are going to be difficult to target from the air.

    In reality RAF ground attack aircraft are not going to contribute much. The drones might. The real problem is stopping recruitment and access to weapons and money.

  • A Social Liberal 29th Nov '15 - 12:12am

    Mick

    You are a Quaker and a pacifist, these colour the positions you take on military action. I accept and respect those positions. However, the assertions you make in your last post above have to be countered.

    First, on the Provisional IRA. The reason that PIRA came to the negotiating table is that they were forced there by our military intervention. The British Army wore them down until they were unable to adequately prosecute their murderous intentions, due to the fact that they were unable to recruit. Thus they went for negotiation through their weakness, our strength. It wasn’t the case that the government ‘gave peace a chance’, PIRA surrendered.

    On Da’esh not wanting to enter peace talks. Do you honestly think that peace negotiations in which only one side takes part will work? It might well work with Relate (although I have serious doubts) but for the various factions on one side sitting round the table whilst the one faction on the other is still intent on mayhem and murder, at the best it is in the best Chamberlain tradition and at worst lemming-like.

    finally, your assertion that arms dealers are vieing to supply weapons to Da’esh. Really? If it were so we would see a smorgasbord of weaponry, at the moment the most exotic we have seen Da’esh use is 1970s Wombats which were shipped from Libya (we had supplied anti Gadaffi troops with them) by the Qatari government – thus there were no arms dealers involved. The usual kit seen is either that captured from the Iraqi army or the usual soviet era kalashnikov/RPG type stuff which is awash in the Middle East and probably comes from the Arab/Isreali wars.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Nov '15 - 1:18am

    Mick Taylor – there were strenuous efforts at imposing restrictions on money/weapons etc the Balkans. That’s not to say, of course, that we shouldn’t try it in Syria but experience leaves me very doubtful that such approaches would have a lot of success. And I certainly don’t see the situation with the IRA as having anything other than the most tenuous of associations with the situation in Syria.

    Look, if you want to dismiss me being a bit thick and as having my fingers in my ears, that is your look-out. But simply looking for reasons to shoe-horn in as much blame as possible on, ‘the West,’ is at best misguided and at worst is taking away agency from those in the region. I note that you make no mention of the Sunni/Shia split – for a starters that is not the west’s fault and seems to me to be reasonably important. Similarly terror attacks in the West pre-dated events in Syria, and indeed Iraq.

    As I said earlier, the most positive I can be about UK involvement is to say that the jury is to my mind out. But I’m not going to sit around blaming the UK state, its society or its alliances for what is a regional conflict, nor am I going to blame it for not trying solutions that are doomed by definition to fail.

    If there is an answer in Syria it’s not obvious, that’s for sure – none of us here has it. Just I for one am not going to indulge in a bit of internet virtue-signalling (apologies for the neologism).

  • John Roffey 29th Nov '15 - 4:54am

    I received this tweet from Tom London[ @TomLondon6] – another Thomas Paine admirer – which seemed to sum up the situation concisely :

    14 years of the War on Terror with the end nowhere in sight.
    Our leaders seem to have learnt nothing at all from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.

    Apart from killing innocent men, women and children and destroying infrastructure – one Hellfire missile costs $70,000 which Cameron/Osborne seem happy for us to fire on the Syrians at random – whilst at the same time being prepared to undermine the UK’s role in the Paris climate change talks after Osborne’s last-minute decision to axe the government’s £1bn support for a scheme to capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from power stations.

    Coupled to this Osborne had already made major cuts over the past year in renewable energy programmes, including solar power, wind energy and home insulation project – apart from clearly intending to force fracking on councils if he can.

    Professor Stuart Haszeldine concludes in the article that “Among the lessons from this disastrous reputation failure, and time-wasting and money-wasting failure, must be that energy policy and infrastructure delivery is too important to be left to short-term politicians,”

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/28/cop21-carbon-capture-uk-climate-change-george-osborne

    I hope Lib/Dems can prove him wrong!

  • Jenny Barnes 29th Nov '15 - 8:47am

    The trouble with CCS, apart from the fact that it’s difficult to make it work, is that it uses about 1/3 of the energy you have just generated to cool, liquefy, and pump the exhaust gas into underground reservoirs. So you’ve just generated 33% mor CO2… and it has to be kept in these reservoirs for at least 1,000 years for it to be worthwhile in climate change terms. Typical MTBF of well containment is 20years, so something clearly needs to be done about that too.
    CCS for those of a non-engineering disposition seems to be a way of waving the hands and saying “we’ll just keep calm and carry on” . Flue gas desulphurisation is nowhere near as hard or expensive, and the cost of that is, I understand, a big part of the reason for shutting down the UK’s remaining coal fired plant.

    As to the ME situation – apart from Iran, historically Persia, pretty much the entire area of what was the Ottoman Empire at the time of the first world war is or has been recently a problem of one sort or another. Terrorism clearly works in terms of propaganda value – many more people die on the UK’s roads each year than from terrorist attacks, but we won’t even give up our collective freedom to exceed the speed limit to cut those deaths.

  • For those interested in the UK’s long term strategy on Syria a picture is worth, as they say, a thousand words….. I recommend Chris Riddell’s cartoon in the ‘Observer’….” Corbyn and Cameron agree on Syria”….

  • John Roffey 29th Nov '15 - 9:30am

    Jenny Barnes 29th Nov ’15 – 8:47am

    Although I do agree that CCS does seem to be an unlikely way of reducing CO2 emissions in the long-term, particularly in the islands of the UK where the various forms of marine power seem the obvious, reliable and long-term solutions – no doubt commercial interests played their part in becoming the choices. However, the point of the article, I think, is to demonstrate how the political ambitions of Cameron & Osborne have dominated the judgement on how the budget has been amended – and that the issue is not one to be directed by politicians with relatively short careers.

    Also that Murdoch and the rest of the Tory MSM have ignited and daily fan the flames for revenge in a media which is dominated by a handful of extraordinarily rich individuals – who would rather see the conflicts enhanced and have the money spent directed to the already overflowing coffers of the ‘Masters of War who build the big guns’ – than towards helping solve the over-ridingly most important issue of our time and will be for some decades to come.

    I take you point on road deaths – each time ‘shock & horror’ is expressed over the deaths of a few hundred people in these incidents, although regrettable and extremely sad, my mind does immediately compare the numbers to the number of road deaths.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov '15 - 10:43am

    I am sure that we all want to see the eradication of ISIS. If they were lined up in a room and there was no risk to innocent bystanders, or of increasing the risk of backlash against innocents, I would shoot them myself.

    It is not for Mick Taylor to make the case for not bombing Syria, it is for those who are in favour of doing so to make the case for doing so, and in my view the case is weak.

    To those of us who are seriously concerned and as yet unconvinced, reading up on every article from Patrick Coburn to Robert Fisk, the Oxford Research Group, the views of the of Foreign affairs Committee to name just a few, I am appalled by the tone of some posts.

  • As I said above, I suspect that the way to convince many of those who are skeptical of bombing is to demonstrate a credible, robust plan for the aftermath. That duty lies firmly on those who are in favour of bombing.

  • I wish people would realise what a powder keg the whole Syrian Issue is.

    If Turkey shoots down another Russian plane – then what ? Do we get dragged into a war by proxy to defend a NATO ally ?

    Easy to be gungho and ‘patriotic’ – much more complicated to keep well out of it.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Nov '15 - 12:47pm

    RIght, some more reasons why we should bomb Daesh in Syria:

    1. We are already using drones and aircraft with strike capabilities for surveillance, so it seems mad to then call in others to launch the strikes.
    2. If we don’t help France in this moment in time our allies will go elsewhere for military protection, possibly to Russia, which won’t help the region and just boost Assad. France and the United States will be the new diplomatic leaders of Europe.

    Britain’s soft power is partly built on its hard power. We have a big economy, but you don’t get far by writing angry letters alone – you need to be able to launch economic sanctions and military strikes.

    People aren’t brought to the negotiating table often via angry letters, it is military and economic power. Without military action Britain would just be seen to be trying to take the diplomatic glory without sharing the military risks. People would ignore us. I wouldn’t listen to Britain much if I was a world leader – why should ? What are they going to do about it? Have a debate in parliament and say some nasty things to me?

    Arguably, if we don’t strike Daesh in Syria we should cancel orders for a lot of our new military equipment. No point having a big military if we are not going to use it and people seem to think only boots on the ground, other people’s boots, are good military strategies.

    If we don’t strike then Britain should possibly lose its place on the UNSC too. Can’t just ride the glory of the WW2 forever, it needs to be backed up by a willingness to take action.

    It might seem unpatriotic to say so, but I see myself as European and a human as not just British and I wouldn’t care too much if Britain paid diplomatic costs for this because we would deserve it. The public back airstrikes by over 2 to 1 according to YouGov too.

    This point about the aftermath too: our responsibility is the defence of ourselves and our allies. The peace is dependent on others and will involve getting tougher on Russia.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov '15 - 1:30pm

    @ David Raw,
    I agree.

    David Cameron cannot rely on his own majority of MPs to vote for his proposals. David Davis ( I hope that ,unlike when typing Patrick Cockburn’s name, I have not mistyped the spelling), has also put forward an argument against bombing , because there is no clear political end game, or military plan to achieve it.

    This is not a party political issue , and people across the political divide are refusing to be bounced into accepting arguments that are little more than wishful thinking.

  • The way that Britain and France handled the defeated Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War was a betrayal of the promises we had made to Arab leaders to get them to support us and certainly still has repercussions all these decades later. We can’t know what sort of nation states would have emerged in the middle east had we left well alone, although a Kurdish state would almost certainly have been one of them and probably still should be. Ottoman rule was not always benign but at least it was exercised by people with a cultural and historical understanding of the area. Our heavy-handed involvement in the area has meant that the only way that the ethnic, cultural and religious groups which comprise the artificially created nation states can be held together is nationalist dictators backed by strong military forces. Remove them and the pluralist civil societies, albeit not of a western liberal kind, that had developed during the previous eighty or ninety years inevitably explode into factionalism and ethnic cleansing. We got it wrong in Iraq and we are getting it wrong in Syria.

  • Eddie’

    Germany manages without using it’s military for the sake of using it., France doesn’t need our military protection it has more aircraft, more troops and more carriers than Britain. Also our joint action with France in Libya has been a colossal disaster. This is about two things. 1) Cameron’s failure to get a mandate for regime change. 2) A desire to be seen to be doing something even if it is pointless, has no end game and creates more refugees. This is before you take into account Turkey buying oil from ISIL and providing a route for its fighters, The Gulf states, it’s ideology and umpteen years of inept interventions in the ME. On top of which there really aren’t that many targets because the area is enormous and the enemy just moves to avoid the bombs!

    As for the argument that we should cancel new military equipment unless we use it here! What a bizarre idea. It’s like arguing that we shouldn’t have armed response units unless the police are willing to get trigger happy on more crimes.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Nov '15 - 2:03pm

    Glenn, Germany is increasing its military use against ISIS in response to Paris: http://time.com/4127969/germany-isis-france/

    it’s not about being trigger happy, it is about not buying stuff you are unlikely to use. Britain will soon be a third-tier power and mostly of our own making.

    Regards

  • John Roffey 29th Nov '15 - 2:10pm

    The polls show that the public are for bombing Syria which, for me, does demonstrate how influential the Tories have become within the MSM – with Corbyn coming under pressure from all angles – whilst advocating the wisest policy!

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/

    UK politics are becoming far too skewed in favour of the Tories – this is going to be accentuated now that Osborne has reduced the short money for opposition parties. Meanwhile the global corporates are more than happy to find ways to to fill the Tory coffers – since their policies are so advantageous to them.

  • Mick Taylor 29th Nov '15 - 2:45pm

    Actually the point I was making about Northern Ireland had far less to do with the IRA than about the British Government. The British Government refused to negotiate with the IRA for years, but of course eventually had to do so in order to get the Good Friday agreement. (Although in fact they had secret talks when they said they weren’t). It’s exactly this kind of logic that prolongs conflicts, when peace talks could take place. John Kerry is trying to do just that and he should be supported.
    As for talks involving one side and not the other, surely the whole problem is that there are a myriad of groups involved in the conflict of whom ISIL is only one. Whilst it would be desirable to have everyone at peace talks, it would be infinitely preferable to have the majority of combatants at them than none.
    As I said before, the pursuit of diplomacy to isolate ISIL and cut off its funding and weapons would do more to bring them to the table than bombing or troops on the ground. Continuing more of the same and adding the UK to the list of combatants is ultimately futile and will only lead to the loss of further innocent lives and in all probability a sustained terrorist campaign in the UK.

  • Eddie.
    As I’ve said before. I think you guys demanding more involvement will get your way and the results will be more of the same for decades. I think it’s basically an Arab sectarian problem .and we should only deal with the bits that directly effect us in Britain. I don’t believe that flatbed trucks and a bunch of AK47s in a dessert a few thousand miles away justifies the action and would rather look at homeland security.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Nov '15 - 4:14pm

    @jedi – “This a freedom available to Germany, as a wealthy and content nation sat in the middle of a collection of wealthy and content neighbours, but i’m pretty sure that Germany’s respects that other responses may be approproate for nations in other circumstances.”

    Your implication that “we have to take military action because we are a discontented nation” may not have been intended, but I think it hits a nail on the head. The public support for intervention does seem to me to have a strong element of willy-waving, inspired by discontent with the reality of our post-imperial “third-tier” status.

  • Jedi.
    Your point sounds li like cod psychology mingling with pseudo sociology. I think our political leaders are just reluctant to admit to terrible military decisions and want to drop a few bombs because it looks like they’re doing something useful with minimal risk of upsetting the British public. Either that or they are just clueless.

  • If we would not bomb Brussels, how can we justify bombing Syria? Civilians will suffer and resentment will be fuelled even further, generating more ISIL fanatics, not reducing their numbers.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Nov '15 - 7:23pm

    Glenn – probably both 🙂

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Nov '15 - 10:59pm

    Mollison – ‘The public support for intervention does seem to me to have a strong element of willy-waving, inspired by discontent with the reality of our post-imperial “third-tier” status.’

    Really? Can you give an example of this? It may be the case, but I have to say that I don’t see it.

    Look – do you not hold out even the slightest possibility that the public can weigh up the issues and make a value judgment on the matter at hand in good faith? Your post seems to basically hold the public in contempt (or at least anyone who disagrees with you). The cynic in me wonders whether you are just drawing the conclusions you just want to draw and lobbing the word, ‘imperial,’ about as many times as you can.

    Anyway, I’ll let you shout at me now.

  • Little Jackie Paper.
    I don’t know about Dennis Mollison, but I do sometimes wonder if our meddling in the ME is just the latest manifestation of the white man’s burden. Sure, there are good reasons for getting rid of ISIL, though I think we’ll just make them move somewhere else for a bit, but really all this talk of Britain’s place at the negotiating table and vital input is a bit presumptuous when you think about it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Nov '15 - 7:26am

    Glenn – OK. Would you have an example of someone who sees a, ‘white man’s burden,’ here?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 30th Nov '15 - 8:22am

    It is troubling that so many are prepared to abandon the most basic principles of morality, just because a situation is labelled “war”. In peacetime, most people would never justify any action that was bound to lead to the deaths of children. Yet the same people are prepared to consider the deaths of civilians in a war situation to be regrettable but justifiable. I am sure most Liberal Democrats are totally opposed to the death penalty, even for those guilty of the most heinous crimes. I am absolutely anti death penalty myself, but cannot understand how people who are passionately anti death penalty are often prepared to justify air strikes, which would condemn completely innocent people to death.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Nov ’15 – 12:47pm……………….RIght, some more reasons why we should bomb Daesh in Syria:
    …………………………….. If we don’t help France in this moment in time our allies will go elsewhere for military protection, possibly to Russia, which won’t help the region and just boost Assad. France and the United States will be the new diplomatic leaders of Europe…………………Britain’s soft power is partly built on its hard power. We have a big economy, but you don’t get far by writing angry letters alone – you need to be able to launch economic sanctions and military strikes………….

    In the wake of 9/11 the USA ‘pressurised ‘ France to show solidarity by participating in the invasion of Iraq…..Have we all forgotten the abusive epithets and even….the ‘French fries in the House of Representatives’ cafeterias will now be known as “freedom fries” as part of a Republican protest at France’s opposition to a war on Iraq.”…

    France was right! If anything they gained stature, and lost none of their young men, by avoiding that conflict….

  • There are too many different agenda to make the bombing of Syria followed by the inevitable ground war a good outcome. There are no moderates waiting to take over, just other extremists.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Nov '15 - 11:12am

    @Little Jackie Paper,
    Of course the public can weigh up the issues and reach a decision in good faith, but are the public in receipt of all the facts? The issue for me, as well as those issues offered by those with a sceptical view, is also one of trust.

    The figure of 70,000 anti -ISIS combatants who could provide the ‘boots on the ground’ , was almost immediately undermined by the Americans in a report that suggested that the number was more likely half of that. When one ‘fact’ is so quickly dismissed, it undermines trust in every other ‘fact’ that one is offered.

    When someone one loves dearly will inevitably , in one’s opinion, be drawn into the conflict as ‘boots on the ground’, when one senses that this conflict will rage on long after one’s own death and it will be our children and grandchildren who will reap the consequences of the outcome of the decision made in the nest coupe of weeks, it would be comforting to accept a Panglossian view offered by some politicians as to what the medium or long term outcome of our intervention ‘might’ be.

    Ultimately for me, it comes down to who I trust most, e.g. David Cameron or David Davis?

    The inference from some, not you, that those who do not share their belief that we should support bombing are appeasers, or in some way immune to the suffering of the people of Syria is beneath contempt. The first consideration of any sensible person should always be, don’t make a bad situation worse.

  • “The polls show that the public are for bombing Syria”

    Yes, and that’s why people who say “bombing is always wrong” will not gain traction. When someone puts forward a view that is wildly different from your own, you don’t really listen. I wouldn’t even try to listen to, or think hard about, the merits of what Donald Trump says. Many people would treat Jeremy Corbyn with a parallel level of disinterest.

    We have to acknowledge that there is a powerful moral case for taking action against Daesh – and then explain that all the while we have no credible ground forces and no coherent plan for winning a war and establishing a peace, we cannot sensibly go ahead with a bombing campaign. We would just be asking for trouble – and broadly the same sort of trouble as the trouble we asked for at least twice previously, in Iraq and Libya!

  • ..This quote from someone who could never be called a pacifist….”Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events”…Sir Winston Churchill

    Have we learned nothing from Iraq and Libya?

  • Jenny barnes 30th Nov '15 - 2:15pm

    Glenn ” a bunch of ak47s in a dessert”
    4 and 20 assault rifles baked in a pie?

    I’ll get my coat

  • Jenny,
    Everyone hits the wrong keys sometimes, I do have poor eyesight and can’t type properly so mistakes can go unseen, well more unnoticed in the vague blur of text to be exact.
    But I I stick to my point. ISIL are not actually really in themselves a threat to the UK. Their military is basically Toyota pickups and small arms. And they are in a desert a few thousand miles away rather than in Lamington Spa. . I’m not convinced these terrorist attacks are really co-ordinated from a secret tent somewhere in Syria or Libya. I think it’s probably a pretty loose network of likeminded religious nuts volunteering their services.
    So I won’t be getting my coat.

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