Opinion: War is hell, but sometimes dictators leave us with no choice

The Mother of All Parliaments, one of the oldest democracies in the world, decided against condemning, and possible military action against, a brutal dictator, who used chemical weapons on his own population. I shall not critique the political fallout and alleged skulduggery or whether or not certain individuals played politics with the issue; my opinion is to express why intervention is required and why Britain needs to lead on Syria.

Assad has terrorised his own population with conventional and chemical weapons. Innocent people have been indiscriminately targeted; entire neighbourhoods destroyed, towns and villages laid waste and countless communities have been massacred. Even a school, whilst children were in class, were not spared from a deadly attack. The BBC report concluded the young students, the most innocent in Syria, were on the receiving end of a napalm-like weapon; it is hard to articulate or even comprehend the barbaric nature, and thinking, of Assad. Yet, the world watches on. In silence, whilst the United Nations, allegedly the  greatest peacekeeping and moral guidance on this planet, is paralysed by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. Moscow and Shanghai fear the Arab Spring; the revolutions and cries of democracy is what scares these two authoritarian governments. And, more regionally, removal of Assad will limit Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East.

But if we care about humanity and desire to protect human life, why should we fear the tyrants in Moscow and Shanghai? Our policy on Syria is about bringing a dictator to justice, not about expanded Western influence within the region. It is about us, as a nation, refusing to tolerate crimes against humanity and systematic slaughter of children. History will condemn the immunity of Assad at the hands of Russia and China.

I take the Jefferson principle, that, the sole foreign policy of a democracy is to oppose authoritarian regimes and tyrants. The British government should not try to appease or accommodate Assad; his regime cannot be reconciled with. Judging by the actions of the Ba’ath party, this concludes peace is not, and never will be, a priority for the regime. It is time we understand, as humans, we are one civilization and it is our duty to protect each other from arbitrary abuse and power. And when a section of our species is being slaughtered, we have moral justification to intervention, by force, if necessary.

In conclusion, the reason I insist on military action is simple: we have to. The values and principles of this nation means Assad has to be confronted and held accountable for his crimes.  The House of Commons has not, and never should, bow her head to a tyrant. There are legitimate risks to military intervention in Syria, some of them might occur even if no action was taken. War is ugly and there is nothing romantic about it; it is not an easy option to suggest and war is always unpopular.

Taking a populist approach won’t save the children of Syria. Whether we like it or not, the decision to act has fallen to us and history hopes Britain makes the right choice. The future of the Syrian people depends on it.

 

* Daniel Furr is a former Liberal Democrat member from Canterbury and blogs here

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110 Comments

  • We have to do something!

    what?

    War, baby, War, wipe that little cockroach assad out, YEAAAA.

    *Explosions*.

    Now what?

    Oh…………………..

  • Ed Shepherd 3rd Sep '13 - 4:33pm

    “I take the Jefferson principle, that, the sole foreign policy of a democracy is to oppose authoritarian regimes and tyrants. The British government should not try to appease or accommodate Assad; his regime cannot be reconciled with.” Following that principle would mean that we cannot appease or accommodate any tyrant or authoritiarian regime. That would mean that Britain would be in conflict with many countries, including not just China and Russia but regimes such as Saudi Arabia and many of the Gulf States plus numerous other states throughout the world. Clearly, Britain cannot follow such a principle or we would be in a state of constant wars that we would eventually lose. Sady, it is usually necessary to appease authoritarian regimes. I don’t fancy getting involved in a war to overthrow the authoritarian regime in China, for instance. After all, we often appeased and accomodated the Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War in order to avoid the consequences of what horrors a conflict with them would bring.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Sep '13 - 4:51pm

    ODE TO FAKE
    Oh but we did nothing
    … and another 100,000 died
    Oh but it can’t have been our fault, we did nothing! …
    … and another 100,000 died
    Oh but the sand looks good from below, and we did nothing while
    … another million became refugees
    Oh but we did nothing, and our self-esteem is intact …
    … while another chemical arsenal was unleashed
    Oh but we did nothing
    … while the Eastern world exploded
    Oh, but it can’t have been our fault, for we did nothing!

  • @ Daniel Furr

    You can cite no proof that Assad has used chemical weapons, only that someone did. Bombing the hell out of the Assad regime will not help the people of Syria, though it will kill many of them. It will not even stop the use of chemical weapons, because if Assad’s back is to the wall why should he not use any weapon he has?

    We have to apply different pressure.

    1. Persuade all neighbouring states to close their borders to all but refugees and humanitarian supplies. Starve the combatants of arms.
    2. Block all the regime’s bank accounts.
    3. Talk to the Russians and Chinese to get them to persuade Assad to the negotiating table. At the end of the day, talking will solve the crisis, not fighting.
    4. Get the Arab League to apply pressure for a ceasefire.
    5. Work in the UN to get a ceasefire and negotiations under way.
    6. Create a no fly zone
    7. Stop airlines flying to Syria except to bring out people fleeing the country or to bring regime members to exile or the international court.

    Military intervention will not solve this civil war. Concerted international pressure will.

  • daniel furr 3rd Sep '13 - 4:58pm

    Creating a no fly zone would mean military intervention, Mike.

    Remember, Russia and China blocked UK efforts for the UNSC to condemn the use of chemical weapons. So, how do you expect them to ‘sit down and talk’?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Sep '13 - 5:10pm

    @mickft

    What happens if actions 1 to 7 don’t work?

    Put another way …

    What happens now?

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '13 - 5:12pm

    Daniel, we are a long way into the debate here, so may I ask, what military action you have in mind? You are not being very specific here.

  • We have to do something, this is something therefore we must do it.

  • daniel furr 3rd Sep '13 - 5:27pm

    The idea of ‘limited operations’ is rather misleading. I agree with Turkey, any military operation would have to include the removal of Assad. US, Britain and France know any operation cannot go ahead without regime change.

    MoD probably desire a strategy to Libya; keep plans for regime change off the table until action occurs.

  • jenny barnes 3rd Sep '13 - 5:38pm

    There probably isn’t anything the “west” can helpfully do, apart from let them get on with it, and provide humanitarian assistance for the refugees. At 800 £k per cruise missile, that would be a better use of the cash. Look at Lebanon. They had a civil war for a very long time, now, they are more or less peaceful. Sometimes, we don’t have the answers.
    Although another possibility would be to split the country, roughly NW corner to SE corner; regime gets the SW half, and the Sunni/ rebels get the NE half, along the Euphrates. Not perfect, but it might be a solution both sides could live with. That’s roughly where the facts on the ground are.

  • Maggie Smith 3rd Sep '13 - 5:45pm

    @Richard Dean

    I hope you wont have to update that Ode after the bombs drop and all hell breaks loose over there.

    @no one in particular

    I’m really not sure who people here think are going to die when the US launches another of it’s “limited” responses., cardboard cut outs? Robots? Characters in some computer sim? Nope, it’s going to be real people again, ordinary people in most cases I guess, the ones who don’t have anywhere else to go. You don’t bring back those tragically killed by speeding up the death count.

    It must be something of an unusual feeling for many Libdems having the same inclination as the right of US politics, that has previously been a reserve of Tony Blair’s Labour party and the conservatives. I guess “principle” makes strange bed fellows.

  • I share the emotional response to the Assad regime’s crimes but is that really why Obama is planning military intervention? Is it even about the use of chemical weapons?

    In the inevitable fog of war the chemical attack could be a “false flag” event designed to involve the US and, until a few days ago, Britain. The ‘evidence’ offered that the Assad regime is guilty of this particular atrocity (as opposed to many others) is at best circumstantial. A report sourced from one of the very few investigative journalists actually on the ground points the finger elsewhere.

    http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

    Is this true or just another bit of misdirection? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure our gov’t doesn’t really know either.

    The history of interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan is a sorry one that has left both countries racked by on-going war and sectarian strife so it’s not even clear what humanitarian aim could be achieved. As for reducing Chinese influence that hasn’t worked out so well either – in Iraq they have mopped up many of the oil contracts newly available after the war. (And in any case limiting Chinese influence is hardly a humanitarian motive).

    What we could and should do is help the refugees with shelter (winters is approaching fast) and food etc. Doing so would probably be a lot cheaper than cruise missiles ($0.5 million each I hear).

  • jenny barnes says :

    “There probably isn’t anything the “west” can helpfully do, apart from let them get on with it, and provide humanitarian assistance for the refugees”
    “Sometimes, we don’t have the answers.”

    That is indeed, where we are at. The West has concluded, due to technological hubris, that just because we can, upload the GPS co-ordinates into a dozen or so cruise missiles, that theein, lies the answer.
    But, that way lies madness, based on an ill-considered emotional response, a frantic desire to ‘do something!’, and political ‘fingers crossed’ that it doesn’t escalate into something akin to a Middle East firestorm.

    To repeat what jenny says “ Sometines, we don’t have the answers”. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but no less true for that.

  • It is surprising that those arguing for intervention in Syria never consider in their posts whether the SRA have used chemical weapons as well as or as opposed to Assad. This surely needs serious consideration.

    Carla del Ponte was reported on the BBC to be saying that there was evidence that Syrian rebels used sarin

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22424188

    Another news article (which could easily be fake) showing sarin being used by rebels. It showed a large calor gas like cannister being fired from a mortar.

    http://www.wnd.com/2013/08/video-shows-rebels-launching-gas-attack-in-syria/

    It is unlikely that the SRA are not able to launch a Sarin attack. Whether they have done so is another matter. Please lets have some credible arguments. To say that the SRA are not capable of launching a sarin attack seems unlikely.

    How is it going to look if it turns out that actually the SRA were lauching chemical attacks then we go to war on their behalf because Assad was also doing it. We need to consider the long term furture of our party. We gained greatly on Iraq by the line we took. We must continue to be logical on Syria.

  • Peter Hayes 3rd Sep '13 - 6:37pm

    The law of unintended consequences applies.
    1) if the attack is weak the regime wins, if it is strong a multitude of groups fight for dominance, Sunni Shia etc.
    2) if nothing is done the neighbouring countries have a refugee problem.
    3) There are several countries in the area supporting various groups. Do we start sanctions against so called allies if they support the ‘wrong’ side.

    Only option is to support refugees as the alternative are dangerous and could provoke worse.

  • I think we are in the most dangerous position since the end of the Cold War, if not before then.

    Syria is a pawn in a game that is all about regional influence and no side can afford to lose. Of Assad falls, which he will eventually, then it will leave Iran exposed and lose Russia an ally in the regions.

    The worst way for Assad to fall in the eyes of the other side will be for it to be due to military intervention from the West who will have been seen to take sides with the rebels – whether they be the FSA or the Al-Nusrah.

    In a case like this what will be the reaction of Iran – I would image a first priority would be to get that nuclear program back up and running which could lead to conflict with Israel. That is a longer-term issue and the reaction of Israel will be unambiguous.

    In the short-term will Hezbollah attack Israe, with the support of Syria. Assad’s best option is to cause more chaos and conflict around him.

    The three previous interventions were no way as risky. Iraq and Libya had essentially no friends left to defend them – although the reasons from going to war with them were probably even less convincing than that for Syria. Afghanistan was seen as revenge for 9/11 and there was no way Russia was going to defend the Taliban.

    This is right in the middle and if we see mission creep to regime change then who knows what it will finish like.

    Assad has to go but it has to be through the support of Iran and Russia- the belligerence of people like Hague to Iran is completely counterproductive. Iran hate the use of chemical weapons and a bit of good diplomacy may win them round. Russia will also be tough work but Putin is a pragmatist and will not want to get involved unless he has to.

    There is an opportunity to put pressure on Syria’s allies with some carrots as well, attacking Syria will bring unknown consequences and for that we should be cautious – is attacking Syria worth a conflagration in the Middle East?

    JUst as you supporters of intervention now say ‘doing nothing will lead to more suffering’, I would say ‘doing something may lead to a regional conflict we have not seen for a long time’ – are you going to take that risk?

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '13 - 7:18pm

    Daniel, I have to say I find your support for action that would facilitate regime change extraordinary. Not even the Republican hawks are advocating that. It would leave Al Qaeda free to battle it out with Hezbollah. Probably see the escalation of the resulting war into Jordan and Lebanon, reignite Iraq, strain Israel to the limit, and risk the more open involvement of Iran.

    The situation is bad enough but it is more than possible from this position to destroy even more decent lives.

    There is just a chance that the patrons of the clients involved in the conflict could be persuaded to draw back their support and provocation, but even then there will need to be UN, Arab League and other Blue Helmets risking their lives to root out the terrorists that are now lodged inside Syria and any former Assad regime henchmen who would go underground.

    The models for what might well happen in Syria if the West is not extremely careful is post war Iraq, and the incitement of sectarian violence through mass terror.

  • daniel furr 3rd Sep '13 - 7:31pm

    It is highly likely the regional war scenario will happen regardless of Western intervention.

  • daniel furr

    Do you think Western intervention will make it more or less likely?

  • daniel furr 3rd Sep '13 - 7:46pm

    Depends if the US lead intervention will be limited or not. But I cannot predict the future; sadly, it might be inevitable and how the Arab Spr

  • daniel furr 3rd Sep '13 - 7:47pm

    Depends if the US lead intervention will be limited or not. But I cannot predict the future; sadly, it might be inevitable and how the Arab Spring truly ends. As a Tory MP said during the debate, the Middle East is very similar to Europe prior to the first world war.

  • My own view, as said before, that regime change linked to a US intervention is the worst case scenario for a future conflict in the area

    Limited strike may not be as a high a risk but will probably have little material effect neither

  • “The BBC report concluded the young students, the most innocent in Syria, were on the receiving end of a napalm-like weapon …”

    I’m just curious – why do you describe these school children as “the most innocent in Syria”?

  • Napalm-like, perhaps white phosphorus. An incendiary used extensively by the US in Fallujah and Israel in Gaza

    Of course there it is the fault of the other side when people got burned

    A contributor on here vehemently defends the use of such weapons as they are not proscribed by law

    Of course not to the same level as sarin but can we please stop the hypocrisy

  • daft h'a'porth 3rd Sep '13 - 9:59pm

    “It is time we understand, as humans, we are one civilization and it is our duty to protect each other from arbitrary abuse and power. ”
    For some reason this line evokes John Lennon. But we’re not one civilization. We have many cities, many writing systems, many power structures. Maybe it would be easier if Lennon’s dream had come true but it emphatically isn’t the case. That said, we don’t need to believe that a person entirely shares our views and ideologies to strongly feel that their suffering is a terrible thing and that we need to find some way to help.

    @John Dunn
    “The West has concluded, due to technological hubris, that just because we can, upload the GPS co-ordinates into a dozen or so cruise missiles, that therein, lies the answer.”
    Yes. If we wanted to showcase technologies we could also try looking at options that aren’t designed to explode.

    On a completely unrelated note, it is about time someone developed an analogue of the website TVTropes for use in scoring political columns. It could include entries like:
    Won’t Someone Think Of The Children?
    (Squares jaw) War is hell, but a man’s gotta do…
    Britons Never Never Shall Be Slaves.
    Jefferson, By Jingo.
    (and yes, also: No Proof Is Good Enough)

    On a second unrelated note, apparently Punch once published a parody of that ‘We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo if we do, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too’ song. It seems like something that the more hawkish here would appreciate. It read:

    “We don’t want you to fight but by Jingo if you do,
    We will probably issue a joint memorandum suggesting a mild disapproval of you”

  • I have to ask, and I mean no personal insult, but are you prepared to go to Syria and engage in hand-to-hand fighting equiped with sub-machine gun, grenades and so on? If you are not (you prefer to leave the violence to the ‘professianals’) then your opinions are empty. As my very brave military, decorated father used to say……..”talk is cheap, anybody can do it”.

  • “I take the Jefferson principle, that, the sole foreign policy of a democracy is to oppose authoritarian regimes and tyrants. ”
    Which Jefferson would this be? Certainly not American president Thomas Jefferson, who bent over backward to keep the United States from intervening in the war between the UK and the French Republic (or Empire, as it became on his watch), and who rhetorically pulverised the Adams administration for its slight pro-British bias. As President, Jefferson was willing to undercut the American merchant economy (through his “embargo” policy) simply to prevent American entanglement in an overseas war. If that’s the Jefferson you mean, you have just made the old man roll over in his grave; he would hardly have countenanced his name being used to justify the very sort of intervention he made a career out of opposing.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Sep '13 - 10:55pm

    It’s amazing how people can find what they think are rational excuses to ignore suffering, to do nothing. I wonder what happened to the Good Samaritan?

  • daft h'a'porth 3rd Sep '13 - 11:30pm

    @Richard Dean
    “It’s amazing how people can find what they think are rational excuses to ignore suffering, to do nothing.”
    Richard, you have no idea what people in this thread actually do. For all you know, people on this thread spend many hours finding ways to raise money for Medecins sans frontieres, which would be a whole lot more immediately constructive for alleviation of suffering than waving pom-poms for military action no matter how you slice it. Maybe they run fun-runs or set up charity pizza evenings. You wouldn’t know. So the synthetic raising-eyes-to-heaven and beseeching-god that seems to be an epidemic on this site recently (‘saddened’, ‘depressed’, etc) is just unhelpful. The fact that people do not agree on a certain issue does not mean that they are unfeeling monsters with less humanity than a fruitfly. It means that they do not agree. No more, no less.

    The Good Samaritan was lucky enough to happen upon a situation with relatively few geopolitical ramifications. If the wounded man had said to the Samaritan, once saved from his plight, ‘Thank you for helping me. Now you must arrange that the robbers who beat me be dispossessed of their kingdom and possessions, and that I and mine must inherit them in their stead, for we would be just rulers,’ then I am not sure how the parable of the Samaritans would have ended.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Sep '13 - 11:58pm

    The whole point of the Good Samaritan story was that it did indeed involve frightening geopolitical ramifications! Wikipedia’s first paragraph gets it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 12:19am

    @daft h’a’porth . Ok, perhaps “whole point” is too much – a “major part” might be more accurate. There are other aspects and interpretations too.

    The Samaritan helped the injured man in spite of not knowing what the consequences might be – the two were from cultures and geopolitical groups that were traditional enemies, and the Good Samaritan might have faced adverse consequences from both sides. He helped because he recognized their common humanity, and that neither history nor future consequences were important – the immediate problem was right there and then.

    Did Jesus also have parables about confronting evil no matter what the consequences? Wasn’t that basically the story of the final part of His life?

  • Malcolm Todd 4th Sep '13 - 12:22am

    And if, Richard, you were arguing against people who were saying “We should do nothing to help Syrian refugees because they’re nothing to do with us”, then you’d have a point. But you’re not. The Good Samaritan did not even intervene to defend the man when he was attacked, much less go after his attackers to “teach them a lesson” or “send them a message” or whatever this week’s slogan is. He helped the injured man out. I find equating that with launching military attacks using weapons of mass destruction (to borrow a phrase) on another country dubious at best.

  • Malcolm Todd 4th Sep '13 - 12:24am

    I must have missed the part where Jesus sought to lead the people of Judea in a mililtary campaign to overthrow the evil Roman Empire.

  • @Richard Dean — you are confusing local sectarian religious divisions with geopolitics. This is not normally an easy mistake to make, so I admire the dexterity with which you pulled that rabbit out of the hat.
    The Samaritans (who, by the way, still exist) and Jews are two branches of the same religion who split over their preferred site of religious sanctuary; both utilise the Pentateuch (in slightly different recensions) as holy scripture. The differences between them are like the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, or Catholics and Protestant Christians, except that the differences between Jews and Samaritans (except to specialists in religious history) are of absolutely no interest to the wider world and have never prompted anything “geopolitical”.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 12:47am

    @Malcolm, was that Moses? I’m scrappy on scripture, sure, but I know what things mean!
    @David. Sectarian religious divisions are of course one of the root causes of geopolitical conflict even today! 🙁

    It’s still amazing how people can find what they think are rational excuses to ignore suffering, to do nothing. The story is simple – you see someone suffering, you help there are then. There is great work being done by the UNHCR, Red Cross, Red Crescent, and a host of charities. Do we not have a duty to help further?

    We could perhaps turn the other cheek, but we don’t have a right to turn someone else’s other cheek, do we?

  • Malcolm Todd 4th Sep '13 - 12:58am

    Richard, you keep describing military assault as “help” and criticising those on the other side of the argument for being unwilling to “help”. This is standard straw-man arguing, as has been repeatedly pointed out above, but I’ll try one more time:

    The argument is not about whether we should help; it is about what form help should take; and specifically whether a military attack of some sort by the West on Syria would in fact be helpful to those whom we want to help. I accept that many people, including you, sincerely believe that it would. Will you accept that many people sincerely believe that it would not be helpful — may indeed increase rather than reduce suffering overall — and that that is their reason for opposing this intervention?

    Please note: I am not asking you to accept that the counter-argument is right, only to acknowledge what the argument actually is, rather than painting it as something it is not.

  • daft ha'p'orth 4th Sep '13 - 12:59am

    @Richard Dean
    Others have already answered, so basically what they said. This parable does not lend itself to the use you wish to make of it. Although this fits the parable quite nicely: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23942037

    It’s still amazing how dismissive others can be of any action other than the approach that they themselves prefer. It is far from clear that blowing stuff up constitutes a helpful response in the midst of a civil war, which is after all already characterised by a marked bilateral preference for blowing stuff up instead of engagement in constructive dialogue. Perhaps it does, but even then I don’t think it will be possible to prove this by reference to the New Testament.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 1:19am

    Yes it does! It lends itself very well. It’s you who have not understood! Oh yes it is!

    Could that be a sectarian difference?

    Something to practise arriving at a political settlement on 🙂 ?

  • @Richard Dean: The point of the “good Samaritan” story is that that what constitutes being or acting as a “neighbour” (plesios — literally “near-person”) in the injunction to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is not rank or class or religious status, but a willingness to show compassion (eleos), which could be found among anyone.
    And what constitutes eleos is providing sustenance and lodging and health care and funds for maintenance of the same. It is not violence. The Samaritan in the story does not lead a posse of vigilantes to go hunt down the robbers and kill them.
    Note that Jesus’ response is to a lawyer (nomikos) who is trying to test for the weak spots in the injunction, either to find exceptions or to prove it meaningless. What he asks for is a way of telling his neighbours from his non-neighbours, so that he can figure out who to exclude from his compassion.
    Jesus — ingeniously or disingenuously, depending on how you look at it, and perhaps a bit of both — turns the question around on the lawyer, but defining not who he should or should not treat as a neighbour, but rather how the lawyer should behave in order to himself be considered as a neighbour.
    You made the astonishing claim above that “the whole point of the Good Samaritan story was that it did indeed involve frightening geopolitical ramifications!” (exclamation point yours). This is of course not true, and I suspect you have enough sense to admit to yourself (if to no one else) that it was frightful nonsense.

  • Ed Shepherd 4th Sep '13 - 7:52am

    Maybe some kind of “International Brigade” could be formed for all those people (including politicians) who want to overthrow the Assad government? The volunteers could be issued with tin helmets then flown out to Syria to join the rebels. Lots of brave idealists did that in the Spanish Civil War and World War Two.

  • Bill le Breton 4th Sep '13 - 8:25am

    Daniel, you mention a Tory MP speaking of the // with the origins of the First World War – a point I have been making here for over a week now. Can you recall who that was?

    I note that Rory Stewart was one of the missing Tories on Thursday night (if not a rebel).

    It still takes my breathe away that you can accept (I would say cavalierly, as a high risk, escalation to regional war and the // with the political chemistry that led to WWI.

    But I think we should thank you for putting your case.

    It is shocking that not a single MP who voted in favour of the COaltion motion has had the good grace or sensed the need to come here to explain their reasoning.

  • jenny barnes 4th Sep '13 - 8:25am

    “Let’s intervene in Syria”
    “Oh, by the way, how did that Libya thing go – I thought it went well?”
    “Well actually, http://tinyurl.com/nzb3ru8, (tl:dr: awful) ”
    “Oh. Still, onwards and upwards, eh?”

  • Thank you for having the guts to stand up, few Lib Dems (particularly on LDV) have been prepared to expound what I believe are the right views on intervention. We still need very great wisdom in what to do exactly though!

    I particularly agree with ” Our policy on Syria is about bringing a dictator to justice, not about expanded Western influence within the region. It is about us, as a nation, refusing to tolerate crimes against humanity and systematic slaughter of children. History will condemn the immunity of Assad at the hands of Russia and China.”

  • Ian Hurdley 4th Sep '13 - 8:49am

    “we must do something” is the easy bit. Deciding what is far more complex. Even before reading the article accessed by this link (http://ncronline.org/news/global/what-moral-theologians-say-about-getting-involved-syria) I believed that Parliament had taken the correct decision. After reading the article, I am even more convinced. It’s a long article, but I would recommend reading it.

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 8:56am

    “Assad has terrorised his own population with conventional and chemical weapons.”

    Please could you present the evidence for that Daniel?

    Or do you agree with John Kerry:
    Quote from John Kerry today:
    “Only the most willful desire to avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it,” he said. “It did happen, and the Assad regime did it.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-says-he-is-confident-of-congressional-backing-for-strike-on-syria/2013/09/03/aeee7e60-149e-11e3-a100-66fa8fd9a50c_story.html

    I find his comment offensive. To say that anyone who wishes to see that there is clear evidence that this attack was directed by the Assad regime is somebody who has a wilful desire to avoid reality is, quite frankly, obscene.

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 8:57am

    Apologies that John Kerry quote was yesterday now.

  • @mkft. Your points all sound good until we unpack them …
    1. Persuade all neighbouring states to close their borders to all but refugees and humanitarian supplies. Starve the combatants of arms. (Very difficult in Iraq; Lebanon is extremely divided. Syria still has access through Mediterannean ports and any blockade would be seen as an act of war).
    2. Block all the regime’s bank accounts. (But Syria would still have access to state dominated banks in Russia and China – my guess is that most of the country’s financial assets are already sorted safely in this way).
    3. Talk to the Russians and Chinese to get them to persuade Assad to the negotiating table. At the end of the day, talking will solve the crisis, not fighting. (yes … but what motives would Russia and China have to acquiesce, particularly if Assad is winning on the ground?)
    4. Get the Arab League to apply pressure for a ceasefire. (Yes … but why has this not happened already? Would Assad listen anyhow?)
    5. Work in the UN to get a ceasefire and negotiations under way. (Yes … but many attempts have been made already).
    6. Create a no fly zone (Like the concept, but this would require neutralizing Assad’s air defence system … this would be an act of war itself, ongoing and very costly. Would it include intervention in air-to-ground attacks to prevent atrocities against civilians? This is only a small step from full and direct engagement in the war).
    7. Stop airlines flying to Syria except to bring out people fleeing the country or to bring regime members to exile or the international court. (How many are still flying? Syrianair, Iranair etc. etc. would still fly).

  • * ODE TO FAKE*

    Hurr durr, so what do you want us to actually do?

    “just something”, kill assad? Kill assad, and someone else just takes the reins, or do you think the military and incumbent government will simply hand over control to the rebels, or make peace? Guffaw! So then that means we acknowledge a few missile strikes are futile and will likely just kill a few innocent people as well, or we go full on military action. This is a Civil war, you want us to go stomping into a civil war, kill of the incumbent governments military and then what? You do know what a civil war is don’t you?, how exactly do you intend to stop all the sides trying to kill each other without letting one side in or killing all sides off? And seeing as **all the sides in this little conflict have been committing atrocities**, take you pick, which murderous basterds do you want to support, or do you want to crush them all and take over the country.

    * The Samaritan helped the injured man in spite of not knowing what the consequences might be*

    This is a discussion about MILITARY action, I’m fairly certain when you shoot guns or drop bombs, PEOPLE DIE.

    There is no ambiguousity about what the consequences of military action will be, PEOPLE WILL DIE.

    *Why is not the existence of 2 million displaced people – half of them children – not a sufficient crime in itself to justify action of some sort?*

    Uh hu, “action of some sort”. When you can actually define an action with a tangible goal and strategy, including what it’s expected repercussion are, then we can talk.

    Until then I’d rather we didn’t start lobbing bombs and shooting bullets, as there is a very real possibility all we will achieve is to increase the body count.

  • Daniel Furr 4th Sep '13 - 10:34am

    @Bill le Breton

    I *believe* it was Douglas Carswell; recall him tweeting similar thoughts, too.

    @John Innes

    I’ve always supported liberal intervention and my position has never changed. I’m neither afraid or worried about opposition to publicly defending it.

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 10:37am

    So do you think it’s reasonable to ask for convincing evidence Daniel?

  • “I’ve always supported liberal intervention and my position has never changed. I’m neither afraid or worried about opposition to publicly defending it.”

    I just wish you would (1) be clear about what action you are advocating and (2) explain why you think it would make things better rather than worse.

  • Simon McGrath 4th Sep '13 - 11:06am

    @rebecca – what evidence would convince you ?

  • Daniel Furr 4th Sep '13 - 11:27am

    @rebecca Hanson

    I don’t find Kerry’s comments offensive. Eyewitness accounts, footage and examination of the dead (there has been previous speculation of chemical weapons being used) point to the use of more than conventional weaponry. To question, or dismiss it due to the evidence being provided by the United States, is absurd.

    American and French intelligence have intercepted communication, which showed members of the Assad regime were making preparations for the deployment of chemical weapons.

    If you don’t believe it, or question the validity, may I ask why?

  • nvelope2003 4th Sep '13 - 12:01pm

    How many lives have been saved by the intervention of western democracies in the internal affairs of other countries and how many have been killed because of external intervention ? Apart from the Korean War when North Korea invaded South Korea and the UN sent mostly US troops to rescue the South Koreans from the not so tender mercies of the North Korean Kim dynasty, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands almost all these interventions have been disastrous for the ostensible victims.
    We went to war supposedly for Poland in 1939 and the result was that 60 millions were killed and the Poles and other Eastern Europeans came under the control of Stalin and his successors until they freed themselves in 1989/90

    Forms of government do not exist in a vacuum. There is always a reason why a certain form applies to one nation but not to another. Can anyone seriously believe that a parliamentary democracy in the western mould will be introduced into Syria any time soon ? Europe and the USA have a democratic culture going back to the time of the 17th Century English Revolution and the French Revolution at least in its early stages before a republic was established and the mad people took control of it.

    Even in western democracies the system has become totally corrupted with political parties vying with each other to make more and more promises that are impossible to fulfil without causing economic collapse, in order to get the votes of a declining numbe of voters many of whom are starting to see through all this as a hypocritical charade – the behaviour of Milliband over the vote in Parliament is a good example of this though happily it produced the right result.

    Of course it is revolting that people like Assad can use gas to poison people but the democracies have done things a thousand times worse, in Vietnam, the bombing of Germany and Japan, the ghastly situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It is time for people to stop this itch to use force and find other ways of dealing with these situations. The US wants to attack Syria (1) to protect Israel and (2) to detach it from its alliance with Iran and they are just looking for an excuse. I heard an American Congressman say he could not find a single person who wanted intervention but thousands had begged him to oppose it. When asked if this would mean Congress would stop Obama intervening he replied well this is the American Cogress ! The elite are determined to have a war and they will engineer one even if 99% of people opposed it. No doubt Cameron and Clegg are scheming to get Britain involved under some pretext because they do not need Parliament’s approval anyway and nor does Obama or Francois Hollande.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 12:02pm

    @David. Like all good stories, the good Samaritan story has many meanings. One of them may be the one you mention. Another is the one I mention, that humanity should be more important that geopolitical/sectarian differences. We will not be able to resolve our geopolitical/sectarian differences, however, until you recognize at least that there is more than one meaning.

    @fake. The first step is to recognize and accept that something must be done. As Ian Hurdley and others indicate, the next step is the harder one – determining what. But we won’t get to the second step unless we pass the first, and must pass the first if we are to remain human beings. That does not mean that we necessarily lose all reason and adopt Richard S’s “We have to do something, this is something therefore we must do it.” And yes, people die in wars – ask those who fought in the Spanish Civil War, for example.

    @Rebecca Hansen. It is certainly appropriate to ask for evidence. Putin now says “he could back a UN resolution” and that, if convincing evidence emerged that Assad had used poison gas on his own people then Russia would be “ready to act in the most decisive and serious way”. This is quite close to supporting the principle of military intervention. http://news.sky.com/story/1136853/syria-russia-warns-us-over-military-action

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 12:10pm

    Well for a start there is credible evidence on the internet that Syrians know precisely who the spies are and are feeding them misinformation.

    Take for example this blog about the Israeli bombing of Latakia on 5th July (I assume you are aware of all the extensive Israeli bombing on Syria right?). It states that the Syrians systematically misinformed the spies about where the Russian bought arsenal of missiles were. That’s on July 15th. It wasn’t until about July 30th that the US admitted that it hadn’t got it’s target…
    http://www.syrianews.cc/syria-attack-latakia-5-july-2013/
    I found this blog myself – nobody linked me to it. It’s the kind of thing that’s very easy to find if you bother to actually read about the detail of what’s going on.

    The comments of people like Kerry are deeply shallow and barely seem to touch reality.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '13 - 12:14pm

    Daniel Furr

    Assad has terrorised his own population with conventional and chemical weapons. Innocent people have been indiscriminately targeted; entire neighbourhoods destroyed, towns and villages laid waste and countless communities have been massacred. Even a school, whilst children were in class, were not spared from a deadly attack. The BBC report concluded the young students, the most innocent in Syria, were on the receiving end of a napalm-like weapon; it is hard to articulate or even comprehend the barbaric nature, and thinking, of Assad.

    Exactly the same could have been said about Saddam Hussein, down to the use of chemical weapons.

    If the reaction of the rest of the world to Britain’s involvement in invading Iraq and getting Saddam deposed had been “Oh well, it didn’t work out too well, but you did your best, you’re good people for trying”, I think I might agree with you. However, we seem to have been almost universally condemned across the Muslim world for it, the Prime Minister of the time is regularly denounced as a “war criminal” for it, and it has been used as an excuse for various acts of terrorism in our country.

    You may think this is a cruel way to think, but sorry, the guilt to me here lies with all those who by their reaction to the previous attempts at the dictator-deposing thing made this one impossible to do. As others have said, it is not even as if there was a coherent dictator-deposing plan, as there was with Iraq. Rather there is a proposal to drop bombs in some vague sort of way, which will teach him a lesson, and he’ll … Well what? Sad to say, a bomb dropped in a vague way still kills, and knowing Assad, I wouldn’t put it beyond him to arrange to have a few kiddies sitting in places where vaguely dropped bombs might fall. Then it’ll be the “evil west, wanting to kill Muslims” line again. We may feel a few bombs which accidentally hit the innocent are nothing in the wider scheme of things, but it doesn’t feel like that to those killed by them, to their friends and family, and crucially to the many others who would wish to make propaganda advantage from it. Terrorists who kill people in this country use exactly the same reckoning. Not long ago, just a mile or so from my house, a young British soldier was stabbed to death by two young people who were led to believe that the main job of British soldiers is to kill Muslims. If they were right in this, then what they did might be regarded as a heroic act in defence of those Muslims, but of course they were horrendously wrong – however, misled into being wrong by many, many people, including many Liberal Democrats who used Iraq as a reason to make sloppy attacks on Blair for their own party political advantage.

    Underneath it seems to me the real problem here is a horrendous pro-violence attitude which seems present amongst so many people on all sides in the middle east. Take for example this “martyr” cult, which in the past meant someone who was killed for refusing to denounce their faith, but now is taken to mean someone who kills many others along with himself because he has some slight disagreement with the way they interpret their faith. Or the random lobbing of bombs from Gaza, whose only purpose seems to be to generate more violence back, so those who lobbed the bombs can have some dead bodies they can wave around to get a bit of sympathy.

    I do not think adding more violence to this will help. The religions in this place to which most of these people claim to be attached all say they are about “peace”. So let them prove it. Will a genuine peace movement arise that can take hold of their hearts? Perhaps there are some who would lead it and get killed for doing so. They would be the real martyrs. As for the rest, well we know what “fighting for peace” has been likened to.

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 12:18pm

    If you’re on linkedin Daniel have a look at this conversation:
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Syria-How-do-we-know-138801.S.270042796?qid=aceb725b-6162-4fed-adb0-8864e6a11c40&trk=groups_items_see_more-0-b-ttl
    It’s in the TED (now unofficial – used to be official) group which has over 300,000 members. Nobody in it is anonymous and you’ll find the people in the startling videos this conversation links to aren’t either. I’m just an ordinary person who cares with an open mind and is bothering to explore the issues and the evidence and it’s my very strong impression that the other contributors are too. But as I say you can contact them directly and probably even chat to them on the phone to check that out if you want if you’re on linkedin.

    The evidence tells a completely different story to the one you’re hearing from political leaders in the west. It’s not something I or others expected or want.

    There is no convincing evidence that Assad was behind the attacks. That’s why Putin is taking the position you’ve just described. He’s trying to get people to focus on this.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 12:26pm

    @Matthew Huntbach. “We made a mistake before, so now we must make the same mistake again”? Not logical

    @Rebecca Hansen. Yes, it means Assad is directly responsible, either through ordering the attacks, or through creating a system in which his commanders were free to do so. Given the type of regime, the second seems unlikely.

  • Ian Hurdley 4th Sep '13 - 12:27pm

    I would like to ask this, please; why is killing people with chemical weapons worse than killing them with any other kind of weapon, and why do we “have to something” this time when we didn’t on the fourteen previous occasions when the Syrian government is known to have used chemical weapons against its own population?

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 12:42pm

    @Ian Hurdley. Interesting questions. I suggest that

    (1) Maintaining respect for the Chemical Weapons Convention is a Good Thing, because without that respect there are likely to be many more regimes around the world that will begin to use them. So this is a calculus of death. Chemical weapons are also rather indiscriminate, though improperly targeted bombs are too

    (2) Not doing something previously may have been a mistake, but is anyway no excuse or reason for not doing something now.

  • *@fake. The first step is to recognize and accept that something must be done. As Ian Hurdley and others indicate, the next step is the harder one – determining what*

    *Something must be done*

    It is not gone unnoticed that after successive posts, you say nothing of any substance in regards to *what* we should do.

    No matter how many times it is spelt out to you that military action will only achieve more bloodshed, you can only come around full circle and cry “but something must be done”.

    This is a civil war, you cannot enforce a ceasefire externally without bloodshed, the mere notion is ludicrous. That means either picking a winner and killing his competitors, killing all the competitors and taking over, or lobbing around a few missiles in a display of “doing something”, but achieving nothing (other than some dead bodies).

    Those are your options, now you can pick one of those and stand by it, or you can keep hurling around your empty rhetoric of “your a big evil meanie for not *doing something*”.

  • @Daniel

    Could you please give a position as to whether the SRA or others have used chemical weapons against Assads troops. It is very noticable that many commentators seem to be avoiding a statement on this. If you are not sure surely we should make an attempt to check whether this is the case.

  • Daniel Furr 4th Sep '13 - 2:29pm

    @Ed Joyce

    Intelligence has been intercepted to confirm otherwise. If you disagree with it, or think the US is lying, state so.

  • Melanie Harvey 4th Sep '13 - 2:37pm

    Yes it must be bad living under a dictatorship even a financial one.. The USA must feel it everytime Israel dials 911…

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 2:41pm

    @Ed Joyce. Would you be saying that we should support Assad in using his massive supply of chemical weapons if it turns out that the rebels had tried to make or use some too?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/uns-carla-del-ponte-says-there-is-evidence-rebels-may-have-used-sarin-in-syria-8604920.html

  • Rebecca Hanson 4th Sep '13 - 2:59pm

    @ Richard Dean.

    I accept that you believe that ‘it’ means Assad is directly responsible.

    All I’m asking is that someone unpack what ‘it’ is.

    Everyone refers to ‘it’

    Here’s a good source for Putin’s comments:
    http://rt.com/news/putin-syria-interview-ap-387/

  • @ Richard

    No.

    I would be curious to know if you could state whether you believe the opposition have used chemical weapons. If you are not sure would you think it a good idea to check this before launching cruise missiles ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '13 - 3:12pm

    Richard Dean

    @Matthew Huntbach. “We made a mistake before, so now we must make the same mistake again”? Not logical

    How does what I wrote get interpreted as that?

    The mistake previously was to suppose that armed intervention which would depose a cruel dictator would be welcomed and a better government put in its place. Well, we deposed the dictator, but the result was to spark a sectarian conflict in which huge numbers of people were killed by their fellow citizens, and somehow much of the rest of the world seemed to think we were responsible for all those killings, our then Prime Minister should be had up on charges of “war crimes” for them, and most bizarrely, that this deposing of the dictator was somehow an “attack on Islam”.

    Sorry, to me it seems entirely logical that if you do something you think is good, and it goes down really badly with those you thought you were helping and you are subject to abuse and attack over it, you don’t do it again.

  • *If you are not sure would you think it a good idea to check this before launching cruise missiles ?*

    Checking things?

    Thinking?

    NO NO NO, we must DO SOMETHING, fire at will, kill assad (and any poor sod caught in the crossfire).

    Then sit back and watch the civil war resolve itself and peace reign.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 3:21pm

    @Ed.
    I do not see that the question regarding the opposition’s use or non-use has any relevance at all to a discussion of what to do about Assad’s use. The del Ponti report did not contain anything like the evidence against Assad. It did not refer to anything like the scale of Assad’s use, or the scale of his stockpile. And nothing further has come of it.

    It seems that del Ponte may have been a loose cannon herself. The link I included earlier refers to evidence available from refugees interviewed not later than three months prior to the August atrocity, and it includes the following paragraph:

    (6 May) The UN commission, which is investigating human rights abuses in Syria since the start of the civil war, later released a statement distancing itself from the allegations. It said that investigators had “not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict”.

    Things have move on since then. There appear to have been no further statements by del Ponte suggesting the rebels use chemical weapons, and there appears to be compelling evidence that the Assad forces did.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 3:23pm

    @fake
    Yours is a straw man argument par excellence!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

  • David White 4th Sep '13 - 3:28pm

    ‘Yo, Bro Dan, let’s go bomb them Goddam Ay-Rab ba+tards to Hell’.

    Doing so would, of course, mean handing tons and tons of military materiel to Al Qaida. Will that be OK with you?

    Oh, and how about all the dead grannies and babies? Who’s going to bury them? You? Sorry lad, I doubt that you will.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 3:37pm

    @David White. Or should I say Aunt Sally?

    Dropping bombs = giving Al-Quaeda weapons? How do you work that one out? Do you mean that they won’t explode?

    The nasty question that you raise was and is being addressed by ordinary people in Syria as a result of the August 21 atrocity, for example.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 4:08pm

    @John Roffey

    If you read the article you referred to, you will see that Ban-ki Moon actually said something different. He said that any “punitive” action against Syria for the alleged chemical weapons attack would be illegal without Security Council support or a sound case for self-defence.

    That may be his opinion, it does not seem to be out AG’s opinion. Like every good politician, Ban-ki Moon will base his opinion on what he believes is the best thing to say at the moment. Others may believe differently. He will be able to adapt his opinion later as events unfold.

    As regards relationships, I am simply a human being, thanks for asking, Are you?

  • Interesting that neither Richard or Daniel are prepared to say that the opposition have not used chemical weapons. They dodge the question. Please remember that we have to answer this question to the voters. It can not be dodged in the way the posters have. People want a straight answer.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 4:26pm

    @Ed Joyce. That’s not correct. I have provided all the partial evidence I can find on the internet regarding the opposition. It’s not much, it’s very inconclusive, and it’s far far less than the evidence available that Assad did. Voters are mostly sensible people. They can see that it’s best to tackle the bigger problems if you can, the smaller ones then tend to sort themselves out.

  • *Yours is a straw man argument par excellence!*

    And yours is a non argument.

    You want military action, yet refuse to actually say *what* specific military action. Many people very specifically don’t want military action (and if that means *doing nothing* so be it), because they understand it will achieve very little, and has the risk of killing a lot of people with little result, or even making things worse.

    But please, continue to spout your platitudes about how we must punish that nasty assad, and how we must “do something”, without being able to even hint at a credible plan.

    Good intentions, path to hell etc.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 4:56pm

    @John Roffey

    No, mine is a good argument, though perhaps incomplete . I agree that it would be stronger if I was to say what action exactly, but that might also limit it too much. I do not know all the military possibilities. Bur saying that something must be done is at least a first step towards finding out, and is a whole lot better than giving up, and a whole lot better still compared to supporting supporting Assad. I notice that Putin is moving. I will certainly be interested as anyone to know what the US military finally come up with.

    I noticed you were a bit evasive on my last question. I wonder why?

  • @nvelope2003 — The natural evolution of a “democratic culture” is a long and slow process. In England, the mediæval form of government was oligarchic, with a council appointed by the king, who might or might not involve himself in governmental details according to his personality. Parliament was a device for implicating the local nobility and wealthy citizens in the levying of taxes (which they would have to pay) and giving them a space to vent (“petition for redress of grievances”); but they had no control or influence over the formation of the government.
    In fact the central government was remarkably weak, and power was largely devolved to boroughs, shires, and other local authorities. With the accession of the Tudors, royal government became increasingly powerful and intrusive, and Parliament accordingly became more active — first, as an instrument of royal power, but later on its own account. In the 1630s, Charles I attempted to rule, based on existing sources of revenue, without consulting Parliament for over a decade. This was unusual but not “unconstitutional”; Parliament had always been called on an irregular basis. When brewing wars with Scotland and Irish rebels put Charles out of pocket, he was forced to summon a Parliament selected from those local elements who had become most antagonistic to the royal government over the previous decade. They wanted to be able to control the composition of the government, and were willing to do withhold taxes, chop off heads, or even go to war if they could not get the King’s consent. Their government, when they established it, was just as authoritarian as Charles’, if not more so; and the Army they had created to defeat the King eventually took over in a coup d’état, which in turn created a de facto monarchy.
    The experience of this authoritarian “republic” soured the English élite on republicanism, but did not make them strong partisans of unlimited monarchy either. The restoration created a limited monarchy, but with many question marks remaining over royal prerogative powers. James II’s attempt to remove those question marks led to his overthrow, and Parliament was able to cast its own powers into law. But in fact government, though somewhat responsive to Parliament, did not end up being dictated by parliamentary composition until the 1780s; before that the king had a lot of latitude to choose whom he liked. In any case, Parliament’s claim to represent even the wealthy classes was vitiated by the decidedly non-representative nature of its composition and the almost random nature of the qualifications for electors. Even after the Reform Bill, it was quite common for parties to attain power when they had fewer votes than another party. What made the British experiment work was simply that there were (in the late 17th-early 18th century) two parties of very nearly equal strength, who — after much experience of penalising political dissent with the axe, the gallows, and the Tower — decided that it was best and safest to appeal to the voting public for power rather than dealing with the opposition by reprisals. This epoch in political relations was not really reached until the time of Walpole, and that only because he had a great deal of job security (largely through bribery and corruption) and could afford to laugh at his political opponents. Nonetheless, he was not above employing threats of reprisals to keep the opposition in line, not to mention constantly insinuating that they were closet rebels and Jacobites.
    The French experience is even less instructive, if possible; a royal government toppled with the best of intentions, to be replaced by a constitutional state devised by (in their own estimation) the brightest heads of Europe, quickly devolved into a nominally democratic republic functioning under a “permanent state of emergency” with authoritarian powers, then replaced by a succession of corrupt governments with broad powers, and finally a coup d’état that put all power in the hands of a single man, who eventually revived a monarchy. France did not really become what one might call a democratic republic until nearly a century after the Revolution, and that only by accident — because the various right-wing forces representing different brands of monarchism could not agree with each other, or with their candidates for the throne. The only thing that the Revolution settled was that France should have *some* kind of a legislature — though whether it was powerful or powerless, elected or appointed, representative of a broad or narrow group of citizens, was something that changed drastically from régime to régime.
    In other words, there is actually nothing special about the European experience, except that it is a few hundred years old now. The same birth-pangs of democracy can be seen elsewhere in the world. It would have been easy during the time of Cromwell, say, or of Napoleon, to say that democracy had been tried and had failed; that the English and the French were just not up to it, that their culture and their religion made them incapable of maintaining a democratic government. But in the long run, that analysis clearly fails. The problem with living in the present is that it is so difficult to see, or even to project, the “long run.”

  • Interesting that neither Richard or Daniel are prepared to say that the opposition have not used chemical weapons. They dodge the question. Please remember that we have to answer this question to the voters. It can not be dodged in the way the posters have. People want a straight answer. If you think they have not just say so. Your silence implies the opposite.

  • Interesting that neither Richard or Daniel are prepared to say that the opposition have not used chemical weapons. They dodge the question. Please remember that we have to answer this question to the voters. It can not be dodged in the way the posters have. People want a straight answer. If you think they have not just say so. Your silence implies that you think they may have.

  • daniel furr 4th Sep '13 - 7:03pm

    I didn’t dodge it. Especially since I mentioned US intelligence pointing to Assad using chemical weapons. That, obviously, implies who I think is behind it.

  • A Social Liberal 4th Sep '13 - 7:46pm

    Ed

    Both yourself and GF fail to produce evidence that the rebels have used chemical weapons, despite your repeated posting links to stories that are dubious.

    I accept that the Beeb is a credible source but when it says that

    ” . . .Later, the commission stressed that it had “not reached conclusive findings” as to their use by any parties.

    “As a result, the commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time,” a statement added. . . . .”

    it undermines the message that you are trying oh so hard to put across.

    AS for the other links – GFs goes to a webiste whos owner is incredibly subjective, where the story is not listed in the website itself and whos co-author is a complete mystery. Your second link is laughable. The videos owner claims that the second part is a radio recording of rebels about to use sarin but it just that – only the authors word. An anonymous author posting a video of anonymous radio users discussing the dropping of sarin. Really !! I have commented on the supposed rocket full of sarin about to be fired.

    The evidence you have produced to support your claim of rebels using sarin is not just not credible, it is childish and if that is all you have to offer then the balance has to be against. If, however there is other evidence I might change my mind.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 8:10pm

    @Ed Joyce. Why are you repeating yourself? You have made the same posting three times!
    I refer you to the answer I gave when you first made this untrue statement.
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-war-is-hell-but-sometimes-dictators-leave-us-with-no-choice-36009.html#comment-262180

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 8:57pm

    @bcrombie. Perhaps it’s a stage in a process. You should not expect everything to be hunky dory overnight. Populations have to learn how to make democracy work. Groups have to coalesce into something. It doesn’t happen by magic or like in fairy tales. It’s not instantaneous, see …
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-war-is-hell-but-sometimes-dictators-leave-us-with-no-choice-36009.html#comment-262125
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-war-is-hell-but-sometimes-dictators-leave-us-with-no-choice-36009.html#comment-262190

  • Richard Dean

    We just have to disagree on that then won’t we

    The evidence at the moment from Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan as they sit at the moment is that intervention has been followed by chaos and death. It also didn’t help that much when the US overthrew the Iranian Gment in the 50s either., leading to the Shah and now the theocrats

    You have no evidence it will get better but I admire your optimism.

  • We are proposing to go to war because the Assad regime has used chemical weapons yet the most fervent supporters of war are equivocal on whether the rebels have used chemical weapons. We are all in agreement. None of us is sure whether the rebels have used chemical weapons. Where the problem with this lies is the failure of those supporting war to understand how stupid we would have looked if this had passed and it turned out that the rebels were using poison gas.

  • Jonathan Brown 4th Sep '13 - 10:24pm

    Thought I’d post this in relation to that ridiculous Examiner / Mint article doing the rounds about the rebels admitting to being responsible for the chemical weapon attacks:

    I think there is almost zero chance of this being true. Lots of reasons. Firstly; if the rebels were behind it, they’re hardly likely to admit it!

    Secondly: the charity MSF said that their statements should not be used to support war – and they would clearly not have gone around interviewing people about whether they were paid up Saudi agents carrying chemical weapons for them.

    The idea that the Saudis – who’ve held off supplying rebels with modern anti-aircraft weapons because of orders from the US – would supply chemical weapons to groups who didn’t know what they would do with them is laughable.

    As there were multiple, simultaneous chemical weapon attacks on different parts of Damascus launched by artillery / rockets, it’s hard to see how that squares with ‘the rebels dropped the cannister and set if off’.

    The extremist, al-Qaida type rebels who might be willing to kill hundreds or thousands of civilians think that the Assad regime and the west are basically the same thing, so they actually don’t want intervention. The more moderate rebels who do want intervention are the more likely to be local militias, formed from people who live in the neighbourhood. If you wouldn’t kill your own family to prove a point, what makes you think Syrians would? There are some arguments that this ‘news’ story is false here: http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/chemical-weapons-specialists-on-claims.html

    Finally, there are several good reasons why the regime would do this, and think it could get away with it:

    The regime has been losing ground to the rebels in and around Damascus in recent months (despite gains from the rebels in and around Homs).

    It thinks it can get away with chemical weapons attacks – as it appears to have done in the past.

    I’d be surprised if the regime hadn’t been expecting and planning for limited US airstrikes for months, so is expecting to be able to survive any US missile strike.

    And it is incredibly useful to a dictatorship that you demonstrate to your supporters as well as your opponents that you are able and willing to mass murder your own people. Dictatorships rule through fear, and anything that establishes this is useful.

  • Jonathan Brown 4th Sep '13 - 10:31pm

    And an update on the evidence surrounding the use of chemical weapon:

    “So on the government side we’ve got everything I’ve posted above, but what of evidence that the Syrian opposition has these munitions? As far as I’m aware, none exists. I’ve been tracking the arms and munitions used by both sides in the conflict for 18 months, and I’ve never seen this being used by the opposition…” http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/a-detailed-summary-of-evidence-on.html

    An article full of videos as well as reasoning, and not ‘Mr Mohammed the Syrian terrorist in the pay of the Saudis volunteered the information that he’d dropped a chemical bomb’.

    The chances of us getting absolute, incontrovertible proof of who is responsible before the end of the war is, I would think, incredibly slim. But we now rightly condemn those who dismissed rumours of how the Nazis treated the Jews and other ethnic and political minorities. Assad is not killing on the same scale as the Nazis, but the actions of the regime put him in the same league. For those interested in learning the truth, there is plenty of evidence out there.

    None of which dictates what you should consider to be the best course of action for the UK to take, but I find the ‘defence’ of the Assad regime by some people really disturbing. And please – for the sake of clarity – I am NOT accusing anyone here of defending his slaughter. I am merely asking people to think about who’s interests they are – in effect – promoting by muddying the waters around the nature of the regime.

  • Richard Dean 4th Sep '13 - 10:43pm

    @Jonathan Brown. Appreciated, thanks.

  • *No, mine is a good argument, though perhaps incomplete . I agree that it would be stronger if I was to say what action exactly*

    Well no, it would help if you described what action in general, your argument isn’t incomplete, it’s non existent.

    Even hint at some kind of a military plan and it’s consequences, rather than “do something” would help.

    You seem to be arguing under the erroneous assumption that those against military action are doing so out of some selfish self interest, rather than because we rubbed our braincells together, see that no plan will work, and so decide against it.

    You also seem to forget how governments and nations work, they don’t vote for military action, then do a U-turn when the find none of the plans are particularly enticing, that just doesn’t happen, history will show you that.

    *but I find the ‘defence’ of the Assad regime by some people really disturbing. *

    I don’t see a single person defending Assad’s regime, go to specsavers.

  • Richard Dean 5th Sep '13 - 9:53am

    @fake. Thank you for your admission that you have given up trying. I and others do not believe that to be an ethical option. I am sorry that “rubbing braincells together” has not worked out for you. I cannot imagine how painful that must have been. Others may use other strategies, and eventually find solutions.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '13 - 11:39am

    Jonathan Brown

    The extremist, al-Qaida type rebels who might be willing to kill hundreds or thousands of civilians think that the Assad regime and the west are basically the same thing, so they actually don’t want intervention. The more moderate rebels who do want intervention are the more likely to be local militias, formed from people who live in the neighbourhood.

    So the purpose of dropping the bombs is that somehow it will lead to these local militias deposing Assad? I’m sorry, but if that’s really what we want, I see no alternative but for us to intervene and get that result. Otherwise, it seems to me it’s just a lucky dip thing – lob the bombs, cross your fingers, hope it all works out like you want rather than any of the other ways it could work out.

    As I keep saying, to me this IS Iraq all over again, and we LibDems really painted ourselves into a corner over that. The shrill “We’re not like those nasty Labour people, we didn’t enter an illegal war” cry was coming up more loudly than ever as a sort of defence against the shift to the right under the coalition – it sometimes seemed it was the only thing remaining to show we still had some leftish spirit in us. We are going to eat a huge amount of humble pie (and haven’t we gorged enough on it already?) if we now have to say “Actually, if there’s a cruel dictator, who uses chemical weapons on his own people, and he won’t go without a horrendous civil war, maybe going in and getting rid of him isn’t a bad idea, even if Russia andChina object”.

    An alternative outcomes, which does seem to be happening, is that however appalling Assad is (and sorry, the claim that anyone who opposes intervention here is somehow denying the horrendous nature of Assad’s regime is not helping sober debate on this issue), fear of the sectarian nature of much of the opposition to him is forcing many in Syria who would otherwise want to see him go to stand in his defence. As was the case in Iraq, the cruel dictator was of a minority religious group (there Sunni, with the majority Shia, in Syria the dictator is Alawite and the majority Sunni) and part of the reason he was kept in power was that the country has a patchwork of minorities all of whom have a strong interest in the biggest religious group not taking control of the government.

  • Jonathan Brown 5th Sep '13 - 12:25pm

    @Fake – I thought I was clear that I was not accusing anyone of literally defending Assad or the massacres. I was referring to the posting (not just on LDV) of ‘news’ by the likes of Russia Today and other highly dubious sources that claim the rebels admitted to using chemical weapons against their own supporters – even by accident.

    It is obviously that case that no one here can be 100% sure of what happened on 21st August. None of us here were eye witnesses. But the nature of the regime has been clear for an awful long time. I’m not saying that people posting these ridiculous stories are deliberately lying to cover for the regime. I’m saying that they are being used. Their (perfectly fair and justifiable) suspicion of government and military action is causing them to not see just how dodgy is some of the stuff they are posting – and in doing so that they are doing what the Assad regime tried to do from day one and conflate a range of opposition groups with Al Qaida, morally equivalent, if not worse, than the regime itself.

  • Jonathan Brown 5th Sep '13 - 12:34pm

    @Matthew – while I’m not opposed to military strikes on regime targets, I’m not arguing here that we should necessarily do it, nor that we should just lob a few bombs and hope for the best. I’ve argued what I think the most likely to be successful course of action is here, and so won’t repeat myself:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-syria-what-do-we-do-now-and-as-importantly-why-part-1-35919.html and https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-syria-what-do-we-do-now-and-as-importantly-why-35920.html and https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-syria-what-do-we-do-now-and-as-importantly-why-part-3-35921.html

    As for this being the same as Iraq, I have to disagree. Bush and Blair quite obviously used manufacture evidence to try to support something they’d already decided to do. The death toll in Syria shows that we’ve been trying to avoid doing anything in Syria for a long time. Saddam was a horrendous man, but wasn’t in the process of carrying out massed war crimes against his country. Bashar is. Saddam had used chemical weapons in the past, but the invasion was supposedly to prevent him from using them (or manufacturing them) again. Bashar actually has the weapons, and there seems to be pretty clear evidence (if not 100% indisputable) that he is using them. Given the intentions and the planning, the invasion of Iraq was always likely to cause a war to begin. In Syria a war is already on-going and likely to spread.

    Whether or not intervention of one kind or another will make things better or worse is another arguement, and there are clearly good reasons for being opposed to intervention as well as supporting certain kinds of intervention. But this is not the same as Iraq any more than Sierra Leone or Bosnia were.

  • nvelope2003 5th Sep '13 - 12:53pm

    @David I did not say that Syria would never evolve into a parliamentary democracy as this can never be ruled out but there is something about for example the Muslim religion which is antipathetic to our notions of democracy. Syria may be a secular state like Turkey and Egypt but most of its people are Muslims of one sort or another with small Christian minorities who have traditionally relied on a strong secular ruler to protect them.

    Those who oppose Assad may claim to represent some form of democratic ideal, possibly to attract Western support, but are not necessarily doing so and the fundamentalist Islamists seem to be making the running now. We shall have to wait and see but killing a few more thousand Syrians will not do any good at all and is only being planned by those in the West who seek to detach Syria from Iran and Russia, which those states will never agree to as they are mutually dependent.

  • Malcolm Todd 5th Sep '13 - 1:23pm

    Jonathan Brown
    “Whether or not intervention of one kind or another will make things better or worse is another arguement, and there are clearly good reasons for being opposed to intervention as well as supporting certain kinds of intervention.”

    Thank you for that very lucid remark, which posters on both sides of the argument would do well to bear in mind.

  • *@fake. Thank you for your admission that you have given up trying. I and others do not believe that to be an ethical option. I am sorry that “rubbing braincells together” has not worked out for you. I cannot imagine how painful that must have been. Others may use other strategies, and eventually find solutions.*

    So you basically have nothing to contribute other than smug moral superiority?

    No plan, no strategy, no idea at all what military action to take, against which targets, no idea what form of government we should enforce, what to do with the rebels, or not, nothing.

    Thanks for clarifying that.

  • Jonathan Brown 5th Sep '13 - 4:12pm

    @nvelope2003 “there is something about for example the Muslim religion which is antipathetic to our notions of democracy”

    I would urge you to rethink this view. You don’t have to go very far back in time to see that most western countries were far from democratic. Over the last few decades, waves of democratisation have happened all over the place – including Muslim countries. While far from being perfect (but who is?), we can point to Indonesia, Bangladesh (albeit with some serious wobbles recently), Mali (for quite a long time until destabilised by war and then a military coup, Somaliland, Tunisia, etc. Malaysia appears to be going through a process of democratisation. India is a full democracy with a Muslim minority larger than the population of any majority-Muslim country…

    In other words, Muslims are as capable as anyone else of being democrats. We shouldn’t use sweeping generalisations to blame a religion when a) there are plenty of examples demonstrating that it’s not true and b) most of the problems have to do with corruption, war, Cold War competition and post-colonial legacies, the attractions of authoritarian socialism, nationalism and Islamism… Most of which have plagued non-Muslim countries in relatively recent history too.

  • So if I have it right, the rationale for military action is along the lines of “We have to do something, this is something therefore we must do it.” and hence what is being proposed is the equivalent of rabble rousing a group of friends and going round to the home of a person suspected of xyz crime (I leave it to the reader to select a suitable crime), throw a few bricks etc. through the windows and then adjourn to the pub for a mutual backslapping session, whilst not thinking about the other members of the family also living in the house…

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