Taking action against Syria is not liberal interventionism

Embed from Getty Images

Watching the scenes of devastation and anarchy beamed at us nightly from Syria, the instant, understandable reaction is to demand that something must be done, and support UK military intervention in the country.

There is a debate for another time and another place about whether liberal interventionism is ever effective, even as it is often right.

The problem is taking action against Syria at this stage does not even qualify as liberal interventionism, for even if a coalition of the UK, France and the US were somehow, and against the odds, able to achieve through their military action a change in the direction in the present war in Syria, the outcome would not be liberal.

This is because if Assad falls, what will rise is either a fury of rival militia groups motivated by revenge and fuelled by the extremes of sectarianism, from such Hobbesian wars liberalism tends not to flourish.

Or it could be the forces loosely known as Islamic State triumph, creating propaganda for that organisation that winds through the region, exporting today’s Syrian issue to other countries in future, creating more destruction and more need for intervention.

This ceaseless hamster’s wheel on conflict creation in the name of liberal interventionism has scarred western foreign policy for decades, creating conflicts that fall foul of mission creep and bring the danger of foreign wars to our streets in the form of revenge attacks.

Because it is hard to see a government emerging in Syria that would be democratic and inclusive of the many traditions of that country, progressive and tolerant, any intervention would by default be incapable of creating a better Syria, and if that’s not possible, there can be no justification for British bombs to fall.

 

* David Thorpe was the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for East Ham in the 2015 General Election

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

27 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Apr '18 - 1:04pm

    I feel that people are missing the point. The aim of these airstrikes, if they happen, is to recreate a deterrence for using chemical weapons. It’s not to change the tide of the war.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s my reading of the situation, so I agree with those against the bombing saying it won’t change the tide of the war, but that’s not the point of it.

    I was against military action in 2013 but I’m sympathetic towards it now because Assad has been so awful.

  • David Thorpe 12th Apr '18 - 1:46pm

    It’s a valid point-but how will it act as a deterrAnt? I mean yes if you could target the bombs to specifically hit Assad then fine but you cant.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Apr '18 - 2:14pm

    Vince must state firmly and clearly that he does not support any intervention in this civil war. Every foray into the Middle East by UK troops has made matters worse. We were right to oppose the Iraq Ward, we must now oppose war in Syria

  • “This is because if Assad falls”
    Assad falls! It looks as if he is mopping up the opposition.

  • Stephen Howse 12th Apr '18 - 4:11pm

    We have a moral duty to stand up and be counted here, and to say that it’s not okay to use chemical weapons.

    More broadly, Russia is becoming increasingly assertive and daring and it’s high time it was put back in its box – a world where an authoritarian, cyber-hacking Russia is strong is a world worse off. We need to send a message to Putin that there is a limit to our tolerance. A short, sharp shock in Syria is a good start.

  • John Chandler 12th Apr '18 - 5:15pm

    It’s not much of a deterrent now. The “red line” of chemical weapons use was set back in the Obama era, and continually transgressed without any recriminations. The US and other western nations stood by and did nothing, with the result that the situation is far more horrific and muddled.

  • Assad will, even with western intervention on the rebel side, win in Syria…That means at some point we will have to deal with him..What will a one off attack on Syrian targets achieve other than to make more widows and orphans and create yet another hostile state in the region…
    It looks as if the ultimate pariah state (N. Korea) is ‘coming in from the cold’; Trump has moved from, “My nuclear button is bigger than his” to, “Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting”…

    As one problem area calms do we need to get involved in creating another ‘hot spot’?

  • I agree. The recent interventions in the ME have been a disaster and I see no reason why yet another one would have a different outcome. What we will get is more refugees, more chaos, more dead people and another spike in terrorism, whilst achieving precisely nothing.

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Apr '18 - 7:21pm

    This is operation desert Stormy (Daniels). Keep off!

  • the instant, understandable reaction is to demand that something must be done
    Agree, however, let us start small and thus reward our friends in the north of the country who helped us to push out ISIS and re-establish Kurdistan…

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '18 - 8:13pm

    Syria is just one huge big mess. This country could do a lot more by persistent, careful and intelligent diplomacy than it could ever do by dropping more bombs (and therefore killing more people and destroying more of the country itself). And whether people like it said or not, every time this country attacks a Muslim country, it increases the likelihood of a “terrorist outrage” in this country. In the short run there is no good outcome…UK policy should start from the premise of not making things worse.

  • Andrew McCaig 12th Apr '18 - 8:31pm

    Just to repeat what I wrote on the last thread:

    Why do people assume Assad is responsible?? He was about to win in E Ghouta using conventional weapons. Does anyone think he WANTS American missiles raining down on his country??
    On the other hand jihadi elements in the opposition have everything to gain by bringing western powers in to counterbalance Russia and Iran. Does anyone think they are not ruthless enough to kill children if it serves their purpose??
    So the balance of probability clearly says Assad is not responsible this time and I would want clear independent evidence before going to war on such flimsy grounds as rebel social media..

  • Broadly agree with the main sentiment expressed by all here- that taking military action if it is to destabilise the Assad regime is possibly the worst option possible of likely outcomes.
    However, I’d disagree with Roland’s comment- completely unrealistic, given (a) Turkey is fundamentally opposed to a Kurdish state in the North, hence their 2018 invasion with jihadist factions of the traditionally Kurdish tiny region of Afrin. (b) The Kurdish population across Syria before the war was c.10% (c) It’s an incredibly bad, unstable idea to further balkanise Syria on religious/ethnic lines- like Israel and the US would like.
    Finally, ‘re-establishing Kurdistan’ is impossible as it has never been established.

    The nearest thing available to promoting ‘democratic and inclusive of the many traditions of that country, progressive and tolerant…’ is never ever going to be achieved through foreign intervention to destablise the existing authority through violent upheaval.
    The only way, distasteful to many, was to engage and encourage the existing regime to better behaviours. The regime was improving before the war. No enemy powers to the Syrian regime have any sincere interest in Syrian society having more liberal reforms, in fact the western ‘allies’ in the region- Saudi, Israel & Turkey – want it to be a more conservative society (each for different reasons), and so have each been meddling in supporting such rebel groups there.

  • I despair. Every single Western intervention in the Middle East has made matters worse. Why on earth would anyone think another one will make matters better? Get real. The UK must stay out of this.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Apr '18 - 1:01am

    MIck Taylor

    When you said “Every Western . . . . . . . made matters worse” you were not stating the actualité. The battles of the First World War against the Turks – as bloody as they were – liberated the whole of the Middle East from the tyranny of the Ottamans. The Gulf War similarly liberated the people of Kuwait from Saddams oppression and both the Northern and Southern No Fly Zones prevented the annihilation of the Iraqi Khurds and the Marsh Arabs.

    Now, in defending your statement you will undoubtedly point to the deaths of Iraqi citizens and argue that the approx 190,000 civilian deaths post war (Iraq Body Count – April 2017) were as a direct result of the war and if the war had not taken place then those persons would not have died in the way they did. This would be misleading for two reasons :-
    *The mass bombings by Baathist militants on the shi-ite people were enabled not because of the numbers of allied troops in Iraq but through the lack of them. In the prosecution of his surge, where he saturated the country with US troopsGeneral Patraeus almost totally prevented suicide bombing of shi-ite and Khurdish areas.
    *The Baathist suicide bombings were just a continuation of Baathist policy viz a viz the Khurdish and shia peoples. Figures range up to 500,000 deaths before Saddam was deposed (ABC Go – 30th December 2006)

  • Roger Billins 13th Apr '18 - 8:36am

    I don’t think anybody is suggesting any greater intervention than showing Assad that he cannot gas his own people with impunity. I trust Macron and if. He says he has evidence that it was Assad then I believe him. In the past weeks we have had two chemical attacks by Putin and his allies. He annexed the Crimea, invaded a sovereign territory, shot down a civilian airliner, used cyberwarfare against the West, attempted to assassinate people on our soil. What more does he have to do before we say stop-annexe the Sudetenland and invade Poland perhaps ?

  • Roger Billins 13th Apr ’18 – 8:36am………….I don’t think anybody is suggesting any greater intervention than showing Assad that he cannot gas his own people with impunity. I trust Macron and if. He says he has evidence that it was Assad then I believe him. In the past weeks we have had two chemical attacks by Putin and his allies. He annexed the Crimea, invaded a sovereign territory, shot down a civilian airliner, used cyberwarfare against the West, attempted to assassinate people on our soil. What more does he have to do before we say stop-annexe the Sudetenland and invade Poland perhaps ?

    Just HOW will we show Assad anything without killing more Syrians? As for Macron; he is up to his neck with troubles at home over his ‘reforms’ and, like May, needs a foreign adventure to ease domestic pressure..
    May echoes a White House that threatens immediate war, but maybe not too immediate or maybe not at all. The unanimous cabinet is a joke; she might just as well have said, “Let’s all agree to play ‘follow my leader’ with Donald Trump”

  • William Fowler 13th Apr '18 - 9:12am

    I think the solution is a peace march, led my the Labour leadership plus Tony Blair, picking up all the refugees across Europe and walking back to the Middle East. Gandhi style and overwhelming the various tyrants by sheer numbers.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Apr '18 - 9:25am

    Macron wants his own war.

    For him it is a power play – a building of Brand Macron and Brand France.

    It will end in tears.

  • Is it really acceptable to have a flavour of the month foreign policy? There are war crimes being committed in many countries. How should we choose where to intervene? What should our aims be? My suggestion for a starting point is that we should ensure that we as a country, and any company registered in the UK, should have a requirement to report on any breaches of their ethical policies. That means of course that we should all have ethical policies. In particular we might start by making sure that none of us profit as a result of others being killed anywhere in the world.

  • Antony Watts 13th Apr '18 - 10:56am

    Horrific as the situation in Syria may be, people are just caught up in a power struggle. US vs Russia shpere of influence. A struggle that UK should have no part in.

    Since Jan this year 6000 people have lost their lives in Mexico, mainly through drug cartel actions. This is many more than Syria, yet we are all silent on the matter.

    Let’s get things into proportions, if we take the politics out of it, Mexico is far worse.

  • roger billins 13th Apr '18 - 12:22pm

    Why are people using the word ‘war’-I support targeted air strikes to take out military targets being used by Assad and the Russians who are waging total war against the Sunni population of Syria. It is the same ethnic cleansing which lead to NATO targeted air strikes against Serbia which prevented ethnic cleansing in Kosovo-that is not war.

  • roger billins 13th Apr ’18 – 12:22pm………….Why are people using the word ‘war’-I support targeted air strikes to take out military targets being used by Assad and the Russians who are waging total war against the Sunni population of Syria……….

    The Vietnam war was called a police action (as was the Korean War). Sadly, in both, the police action just kept growing….. I’m sure the dead and their families, on all sides, were thrilled at the difference…
    These ‘targeted air strikes’ of yours..Will they just ‘take out’ (lovely phrase) military targets or will they kill people? If so who decides if the dead are the ‘right’ kind of people?.

  • I fully endorse your argument David Thorpe and I do feel other means have to be explored forst of all. I reiterate the points of my previous post in response to Vince Cable’s statement.

    1) We also have to ask the question as to whether military force will result in an escalation of violence from those that will simply view this as a further example of western military imperialism. This has to be weighed up.

    2) Inteligence on the ground and through satellite surveilance are aware where there are stockpiles of chemical weapons. I would ask that you consider UN backed inspections and with the co-operation of the Russians and the international community (and not just Donald Trump) and the destruction of these stockpiles under supervision of a UN inspectorate. For this there has to be a strictly adhered to timeframe.

    3) The west has to up its efforts to take more Syrian refugees, if only until the conflict is eventually resolved.

    4) We do not have to jump to the tune of May or Corbyn or Donald Trump, but instead come up with a reasoned response which can definitely show we care about lasting peace and not a reaction which will possibly lead to an escalation of violence.

  • John Marriott 13th Apr '18 - 7:54pm

    It goes back to Sykes Picot and the carve up of the Middle East after WW1. Artificial states, frontiers created across natural tribal boundaries. Let Assad win and THEN try to sort it out. Learn your lessons from Desert Storm, Afghanistan etc. and stay out of it. Do you really want WW3?

  • Peter Farrell-Vinay 15th Apr '18 - 12:01am

    There are several parts to this issue:

    Have all Assad’s CBW (Chemical and Biological Weapons) been destroyed in the strikes? Probably not but they will certainly take time to be recreated.
    Can Assad be persuaded not to use CBW weapons in future? Yes, particularly if the current range have been destroyed by a NATO strike.
    Will the strikes change Assad’s relations with Russia? Yes: he won’t believe the Russians can protect him.
    Will the strikes bring Assad to the negotiating table? No, but repeated strikes may.
    Was the strike morally justified? Yes, for the same reason that destroying a bully’s stick is justified.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRob Parsons 24th May - 12:29pm
    Thanks for the comments, Ruth and Mick. Mick, I agree with you about AWS. To be fair, Jo does propose other solutions, and I agree...
  • User AvatarBrynwell 24th May - 12:26pm
    Yep Tony. Don't be fooled these rules only came in with the Tories, the Lib Dems were in power too at the time, not to...
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 24th May - 12:25pm
    In principle I am against All Women short lists, but I spoke and voted in favour of them at the conference that agreed them. Why?...
  • User AvatarJohn Kelly 24th May - 12:23pm
    It is time for the Lib Dems in Parliament to take the lead and demand a public inquiry into the Home Office and its immigration...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th May - 12:18pm
    I wouldn't say 'identity politics' (if we have to use this term) was tribal. There is now general agreement across the acceptable region of the...
  • User AvatarMartin 24th May - 12:14pm
    In the wake of Brexit, while acquiring UK nationality has become ever more onerous, more expensive and more arbitrarily uncertain, many other EU states have...