We should be highly sceptical of air strikes against Syria


There is a famous saying by Albert Einstein I am sure you are all familiar; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

And now we contemplate another military intervention in the Middle East…

Of course the experience of Iraq shows the consequences of getting it wrong. But Afghanistan was also a failed policy. And under our watch in government, Libya too. Yet whilst much has been said about Iraq, little has been said about Libya. Perhaps we have not come to terms of what we did there, and the hellhole that Libya has become?

The fundamental problem we have is that we seem incapable of being objective in judging whether what we would like to do would actually work, by which I mean do more good than harm. The reason appears to be that we confuse the reasons to do things with our ability to do things. There is no shortage of reasons why we should bomb Syria. Indeed there are plenty of reasons to bomb Saudi Arabia for their human rights record, or China for genocide in Tibet. But at least in those cases we are aware of our limitations, which are not just military but economic as well. So we happily trade with them instead.

One of the few Tory MPs I respect is Rory Stewart who once said rather brutally; “We are not morally obliged to do what we cannot deliver”. I would add to that that we ARE morally obliged to be as objective as possible to work out what we can deliver. The moral outrage over the bombing in Paris has made objectivity very hard to do. What if having looked at the options objectively each one that involves military action will make the situation worse? The evidence that this may be the case comes from the previous failures; we are always wise after the last event, but never before the next one.

There is another added factor that makes this situation an ominous one. The complexity of it all. After all the Russia attacks on Syria took the US completely by surprise. Do we really think we can persuade Turkey not to attack the Kurds, or do we just hear what we want to hear? If they are going to be put in charge of the so called “safe zones” in Syria that could lead to all out war. I would like anyone who is making these kind of decisions to have a thorough understanding of the history, culture and politics of the region and make their case accordingly in Parliament or the US Senate. But that hasn’t happened yet.

There are many countries involved in Syria and the tension is building up, with no sign of anyone wanting to back down. There are striking similarities to the build up of the first world war. For that reason, my hope is that Parliament will stop the Tory warpath in its tracks.

* Geoff Payne is the former events organiser for Hackney Liberal Democrats

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  • I could not disagree more if I tried. All this whataboutery is irrelevent, the Islamist coalition has laid down the gauntlet to the West & any hesitation now will be read by them & Russia as a comfirmation that we can be pushed & pushed & will always retreat. The situation in Syria is complex & any eventual peace will involve the defeat of The Assad Regime ( & its Allies) & IS & the involvement of helpful regional players but thats no excuse for not taking some action now. Inaction will make the suffering worse & expose us to more attacks.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Nov '15 - 11:55am

    The quotation is only attributed to Einstein. It is unlikely that he would have said anything that so conflicts with practical experience. Think of a production line of motor cars, made in different colours, with different engines, different options on luxury appointments, etcetera. Is it any wonder that a BMW 7 series has a higher fault rate than a BMW 3 series?

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Nov '15 - 12:02pm

    It is truly depressing Geoffrey.

    I have been reading posts on here hoping to find comments from wise heads like your own but too often, there have been posts from people who do not see the danger involved in making symbolic gestures such as adding a few of our own war planes to the already overcrowded mix.

    There are those who speak of putting ,’ boots on the ground’. We had boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and we have a resurgent Al Quada and the growth of ISIS. Whose boots are we suggesting should be on the ground? There seems to be a reluctance from Muslim countries with the money, the weapons and the, often western trained soldiers , who are capable of mounting such a fight.

    David Cameron speaks of ‘cutting the head off the snake’. Entering a snake pit seems more like a fitting analogy. It seems quite clear that the many actors involved have different ideas of what they consider would be a ‘successful outcome’.
    Please Liberal Democrats, don’t cause any more fear and death to the people of Syria, or create yet more angry, vengeful groups to take the place of those we now have. We need to deal with the underlying problems through hard negotiation, not rush into what has been the knee jerk reaction of recent times, with its underlying belief that one can bomb people into agreeing a mutually beneficial , if not ideal, outcome to long term hatreds and divisions.

  • Christopher Haigh 25th Nov '15 - 12:18pm

    War mongers may be pushing the world into a major crisis here. The US through NATO wish to remove Assad as their policy objective (must be opposing globalisation or something). The Russians want to keep Assad because of their MEDITERRANEAN base in Syria. The Saudis seem to a caliphate in the region and finance IS. The Turks seem to want to stir up hostility between NATO and Russia. We would be best trying to get done International Conference set up to sort this mess out.

  • I couldn’t agree with this article more and I’m quite annoyed with the idea that anyone who points to the dismal failures in in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and of the equally dire consequences of “the Arab Spring” can be dismissed as indulging in whataboutery.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Nov '15 - 3:18pm

    You make some good points, especially about objectivity and the lack of previous successes, but I think people are overcomplicating it. We have an enemy that has attacked us and our allies and let’s not forget: they attacked us just for helping the Kurds defend themselves. We did not start bombing them first.

    So we have this dangerous, fundamentalist, expansionist enemy and we should attack its military infrastructure. We don’t need to even remove them from the region completely at the moment, although that is the desired end-goal. We just need to send a message that we won’t settle for being attacked for helping people escape their subjugation.

    I think we’ve got defence policy a bit wrong. There isn’t much of an element of surprise anymore. By the time we attack them they would have been able to protect a lot of their infrastructure. Cameron should have done a limited strike without permission from parliament.

    I still recommend supporting Cameron in the vote, but my ideal plan is a bit different to everyone’s. It is most similar to what France and Obama have been doing.

  • Well said, Geoff, particularly the reference to WW1. A complex pattern of alliances, mixed motives and misunderstandings could indeed drag us into a conflagration like no other. It has been reported, for instance, that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a treaty whereby, if the Saudis were under threat, Pakistan would make an emergency airlift of nukes to them. True? I don’t know, but the risks are so high we should tread very carefully.

    For a serious account of how dangerous the cross-currents are I suggest everyone should read the following article based on some serious investigative journalism.


  • Eddie.
    With the Russians. Americans and French bombing with far larger air forces and Aircraft carriers that actually have aircraft on them, what do you think a couple of extra Tornados are going to do and who would they surprise.? By the time we attack everything hittable has ready been hit multiple times. My Grandfather and uncles were in the RAF. Proud as I am of my family the RAF does not have special weapons or tactical gifts that the Americans, French and Russians lack. It’s pure tokenism, doing some damaging and irrelevant for the sake of being seen to do something.

  • Thank you for your responses. Paul – I do not think you have really tackled the points I made in my article. Richard – interesting aside. Jayne – I agree (although I wish I didn’t). Chris and Glenn – I agree. Eddie – the opposite problem – too much simplification – was the mistake we made elsewhere. I do not think the situation could possibly be more complicated in Syria as Gordon and Glenn point out. The link provided by Gordon I found to be very thought provoking and alarming. I would like to see the allegations verified from other sources. You cannot take anything at face value.
    The limitation on the number of words prevented me from making another key point. The terrorists have seen what happens when they do things like their attacks in Paris. They know the west will retaliate. They were taught a lesson after 911 when the US invaded Afghanistan. It was a lesson they enjoyed very much and they want more lessons like that. Which is why they attacked Paris. It is of course a trap, and as night follows day the west falls into it.

  • Is Eddie volunteering to fight? Or send a loved one? Syria is turning into a proxy war, which we should not be involving ourselves in. We should fix Afghanistan Iraq and Libya before we destroy infrastructure and kill in Syria. Except we cant fix those other countries, we dont have the capability. The days of the British Empire are long gone, someone needs to let Cameron know.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Nov '15 - 9:58pm

    Chaps, I’m not asking for a major war – for starters why should Britain do all this heavy lifting whilst other countries do hardly anything?

    I believe in an active defence policy. Some don’t and that’s fine, but it is the hawk ideologues that you need to worry about – not the pragmatists.

  • Ddie,
    I understand your point, but I’d argue that pragmatism actually suggests not blundering deeper into a mess that has actively worsened the situation in the Middle East for nearly 25 years, actually increases the threat to the UK and brings nothing to the table anyway. There is virtually no chance of getting an agreement that satisfies all of the parties involved and every chance that things will go even more pear shaped. Let’s be honest, we can’t even solve issues in away that satisfies about half the British public about the EU let alone getting Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Russia and the US to put a full stop to this endless fiasco. A couple of extra bombing runs by a few Tornados will do nothing and someone needs to pull the plug on our involvement. Sadly. I think Cameron and well meaning guys like you will get their way and the meddling and failures will drag on for decades. Me I’d just put a few extra officers on airport patrols and advise tourists against entering certain countries.

  • A Social Liberal 25th Nov '15 - 11:10pm

    Gosh, Iraq gets more press in a debate on Da’esh!

    Now Jayne Mansfield says that we should have sorted Iraq and Afghanistan out before we left. I doubt she will concur with what I have to say.

    I agree, we should have sorted the out. However, we should have done the right thing to start off with – which meant leaving the Iraqi civil service, police etc in place after winning the war instead of having a policy of deba-athification. Directly after the war we should also have kept the numbers of troops in theatre at the levlels of the later surge. This carrot and stick approach would have had two outcomes, it would give many of the baathists a stake in the new administration (and therefore denying AQ in Iraq – and Da’esh after it – many of it’s early recruits) and, in regards to troop numbers, preventing the terrorists from gaining room to begin their operations.

    Now, you probably are muttering that we shouldn’t have invaded in the first place. Well consider this. Saddams mass graves would have gained more than 200,000 by now , the Marsh Arabs and Khrds would possibly be extinct, he would have probably have further destabilised the region by invading a third country and would have used his Scud Bs (and possibly bought North Korean technology to increase accuracy) to further attack Israel – He did, after all, try to build a super-gun to attack them and fired Scud Bs at Tel Aviv.

  • nigel hunter 25th Nov '15 - 11:16pm

    It s true we are entering a WW1 scenario, a war, followed by a carve up that has partly led to the present mess.. Yes ISIS only needs a couple of suicide bombers to turn the west upside down and get days of free publicity and the west falls into their plans of further air strikes with Cameron not wanting to be left out Yes, just increase border controls and advise people about certain countries. Equally you have a greater chance of being run over by a bus than meeting a terrorist. Go about life day by day as normal. Make CONCRETE plans to contain the territory ISIS has now and attack all forms of funding.

  • nigel hunter 25th Nov '15 - 11:34pm

    Islam is a religion like all others, non perfect, that also counts for agnostics and atheist who believe in their thoughts. Islamists terrorists are still fighting past wars ,their ideology is ancient out of date and they will not get their way through violence. All countries concerned including A Should be seen to be isolating them in the territory they have.rab states .

  • Andrew McCaig 26th Nov '15 - 12:48am

    The UK is already doing plenty of “heavy lifting” against IS.

    According to this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27838034 we had flown the largest number of sorties (up to 8th Oct) after the USA. The largest number of coalition sorties have been in Iraq anyway.

    Adding our planes to the huge number flying around over Syria will make absolutely NO practical difference to the situation on the ground and I am sure our allies are quite happy that we are carrying our fair share of the overall load by bombing Iraquis. It is purely and entirely a political gesture and what is more the main purpose is to embarrass the Labour Party by getting Corbyn to oppose it in the aftermath of the Paris bombings. On the other hand flying over Syria does risk it being one of our planes that gets shot down by the Russians, or by the rebels who I am sure will soon be getting ground to air missiles (Turkey will be supplying the Turkmen if nothing else…).

    The situation was quite different in 2014 of course. Then the Commons vote was on airstrikes in Syria against the Assad regime, which were not part of a campaign against IS and were completely different in purpose from airstrikes in Iraq. Parliament was very wise then to keep us out of the completely chaotic Syrian conflict, where frankly there are few forces on the ground we would actually be friends with if they won. Parliament would be wise to do the same next week.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Nov '15 - 2:40am

    I tell you what I wouldn’t vote for: the strategy that looks the one preferred by English speaking security experts, especially some of the hawks: ally with an al-Qaeda affiliate to defeat Assad and Daesh.

    I can see why local Syrians might prefer this option, as they see it as better than Daesh or Assad, but what is in it for us?

    Cameron’s plan for airstrikes is broadly right, but any plan for regime change in an effective alliance with al-Qaeda just isn’t worth western money and possibly blood.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Nov '15 - 3:02am

    Found an English speaking security expert saying what I’ve been thinking: “the Nusra Front is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “al-Qaeda is al-Qaeda”.

    Assad, Daesh and al-Nusra are all bad. Not just as simple as being against Assad and Daesh. This guy is a visiting fellow at Brookings Doha:


  • Mick Taylor 26th Nov '15 - 9:26am

    I agree broadly with the anti UK involvement posters on this thread. I would recommend that the pro war contributors (and anyone else) read this statement by the Quakers on terrorism. It says it all: http://www.quaker.org.uk/news-and-events/news/quakers-responding-to-terrorism

  • Richard Underhill 26th Nov '15 - 11:05am

    Geoffrey Payne 25th Nov ’15 – 8:58pm My father had served in the RAF in Iraq during the League of Nations mandate, albeit as a new recruit he was not responsible for the policy of peace-keeping by bombing dissident villages. The UK was skint after World War I and the subsequent depression. Both the price and the demand for oil were much lower than now.
    Carving out new nations from the former Ottoman Empire was crudely done, yet again, so some Kurds found themselves in Iraq, some in Syria under a French mandate, some in what became Turkey, some in adjoining territory.
    They aspire to unity and, a long time ago, federal conference supported their ambition in an emergency motion, albeit to be achieved by peaceful means. A Chinese diplomat passing by looked at a map and declared it was impossible. He may have been right, because asking the former Soviet Union to surrender territory at that time seemed unlikely.
    Federal conference has recently held a fringe meeting on Kurdistan. Lord Clement-Jones was on the panel, having visited the peaceful region, which was looking to stimulate trade. No new policy was made, merely an attempt at being understood. Nadhim Zahawi MP was also present, from our coalition partners.
    When the Pentagon persuaded Turkey to provide the USAF with an airbase, Turkey increased its attacks against Turkish Kurds. The UK is providing some military materials and air cover to Iraqi Kurds who provide boots on the ground and would like more, but if the UK provides more it risks destabilising the government in Baghdad. An autonomous region with its own army might aspire to full independence.
    Comparisons with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire and the German Empire are valid to the extent that they happened at the same time and for similar reasons. The solutions may be different.

  • J George SMID 26th Nov '15 - 11:28am

    I think the gist of our position is in the following paragraph in the article: Quote: The fundamental problem we have is that we seem incapable of being objective in judging whether what we would like to do would actually work, by which I mean do more good than harm. The reason appears to be that we confuse the reasons to do things with our ability to do things. There is no shortage of reasons why we should bomb Syria. Indeed there are plenty of reasons to bomb Saudi Arabia for their human rights record, or China for genocide in Tibet. But at least in those cases we are aware of our limitations, which are not just military but economic as well. So we happily trade with them instead. Unquote.

    That said, the problem is not in our intellectual ability to analyse, evaluate and decide on the issue. This is not a strategic situation, this is a brawl. Anybody who has ever been involved in a pub punch-up, street fight, or indeed in any heated argument, knows that the actions of the adversaries are driven by emotions and by the dynamics of the fight. Not by ‘objective in judging’. The dynamic is such that Russia, China, Saudi Arabia are the dominant bullies. They have an interest in the preserved status quo. So have we. ISIS is the small guy jumping out and hitting out indiscriminately – he wants to change the status quo. Bombing is the appropriate response to ISIS state of mind. Bombing will help but will not do.

  • Geoff – I totally agree we should be careful about taking things at face value. For me that article passed the ‘smell test’ with flying colours in that it was highly congruent with what I already knew from multiple sources when I came across it.

    Someone absolutely determined to explain things away for political reasons could do so to a point by exploiting the fog of war and wilful blindness but one thing absolutely cannot be explained away – the ISIS oil trade that has netted them close to a billion dollars by most estimates. Convoys of road tankers stretching for tens of kilometres and travelling across open desert are the easiest of sitting ducks. Yet somehow the US didn’t notice them for over a year until the Russians embarrassed them into doing so. Even then it was the Russians who took the most out. (The US claimed some but PBS used Russian cockpit video to illustrate the story. Hmmm!)

    Pull on that road tanker thread and the establishment narrative unravels very quickly. Once again, we are being lied to by the War Party.

  • Andrew McCaig 26th Nov '15 - 12:23pm

    One other point:
    It would seem pretty obvious that in any multi-nation military campaign you would assign different sectors to different countries. That way you reduce the risk of “friendly fire” incidents and cut down on the costs of maintaining multiple bases of operations. I would have thought the Americans would much prefer Britain to focus on Iraq and not join the already crowded airspace over Syria. No doubt they would like us to fly more sorties over Iraq so they could save some money.

    The exception would be if we had some unique capability that the USA did not have – but I doubt that is the case for an aerial campaign…

    It really makes no military sense for the UK to start bombing Syria and I think it is absolutely disgraceful that Cameron is proposing this illogical action mainly to try and gain political advantage

  • Richard Underhill 26th Nov '15 - 12:34pm

    Andrew McCaig 26th Nov ’15 – 12:23pm David Cameron is not Harold Wilson.

  • Andrew McCaig 26th Nov '15 - 1:15pm

    Richard Underhill,

    Self-evidently true, but otherwise typically cryptic!

  • @ Richard Underhill

    Harold Wilson did us great service by keeping us out of the Vietnam debacle.

  • Broadly agree with the article. The trouble is that our politicians live in one of the few worlds where there is greater cost in appearing to do nothing than there is in doing something dumb.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Nov '15 - 10:26pm

    @ a social liberal,
    Obviously I didn’t make myself clear in my post.I have always been opposed to British involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    I am well aware that those who wanted the war in Iraq, rather than accepting that it was a mistake, now argue that we withdrew too quickly. I am not one of them.

    I would like to hear from any military man who thinks that ISIS can be defeated by an air war. As for those who argue that there needs to be , boots on the ground’, I posed the question, whose boots? We are told that there are approximately 70,000 non extremist individuals in Syria who could fulfil that role. Really?

  • A Social Liberal 27th Nov '15 - 12:23am


    I agree with the thrust of your last paragraph. Da’esh cannot be defeated by air power on it’s own, and yet – even with air support from first of all the arab/US coalition and latterly the inclusion of the French – neither Syrian government nor Free Syrian Army bayonets indeed nor even the Khurds have made inroads into territory held by Da’esh.

    However, I am not making a bid for western intervention using our troops, for two reasons. First, It would give Da’esh recruiters the possibility of pointing to our troops and screaming ‘crusaders’. Second, it would send the wrong message to the government and supporters of Assad that we somehow supported their regime.

    So, what can we do to defeat Da’esh. To my mind there are certainly three things to attain that aim.

    * First . Give the Free Syria Army the heavy weapons it needs to adequately oppose Da’esh. These are not fundamentalists, but the Syrians who demonstrated for democracy and only turned to arms in desperation after Assads crackdown. Similarly, give the Khurds the wherewithal to adequately prosecute their war against the terrorists.

    *Second. Train volunteers from amongst Syrian refugees to British Army standards, arm them and have them return to Syria in the same way as the Free French and Free Poles fought for freedom in the Second World War.

    *Third. There is no decent opposition to Da’esh in Iraq. Yes, the Peshmerga recently cut the Raqqa-Mosul road but since that bit of news came out we have heard nothing. Because of the silence we do not know if it was a surprise attack that succumbed to a Da’esh counterattack or if they managed to heavily reinforce those troops and kept Mosul cut off.
    Until we hear to the contrary it is best to assume the worst. Also, despite some of the best troops in the region opposing Da’esh in Iraq (including British SF) no inroads are being made. Therefore, in order to defeat them we must support Iraq’s request and send an expeditionary force with adequate support and fight them on the ground, alongside the Iranians and Iraqis. I doubt it will take more than a combined Para/Royal Marine force with heavy armour support (and of course decent top cover – note, more than eight aged aircraft) and a decent logistics train to do it.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Nov '15 - 10:52am

    @ Social liberal,
    I am sure that we both want the same ends, although I view ISIS as a bunch of pathological criminals rather than as an army. Medieval though they may be in their disgusting behaviour, they are very clever propagandists who are able to make use of modern technology.

    We have used our brave troops in an attempt to sort out the politics of the Middle East before, and it doesn’t work. It just plays into the grievance narrative of those who consistently use such interventions to point at he faults of others ( the West), as a way of distracting attention from their own.

    In the Middle East, Muslims are killing Muslims. They have continued to do so despite our training of troops in Iraq etc.
    Your suggestion of training refugees was mooted by General Dannett. It seems to me that the difference between the current problem and the enemy that the Poles of the Free Pole army faced, is that for the latter, there was a clear understanding of who the enemy was, there was not this maelstrom of sectarian differences and hatreds, with the double dealing and the hypocrisy that takes place relating to the Middle East. Nor , as far as I understand the proxy element that pertains there.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Nov '15 - 8:21pm


    Yes, I am certain we have the same wishes.

    Your post shows mistakes in your analysis though.

    For instance, you refer to the two times our troops have been used to ‘sort out the politics of the Middle East’. They weren’t used for that, they were used to take down two dictatorships which were, in the first case offering succur to an organisation which deliberately targeted civilians and had murdered thousands upon thousands throughout the world. In the second case they were used to remove an administration which had killed hundreds of thousands. Now, you might say it was predicated on WMD in Iraq, you might state that non were found. This is what Hans Blix said in a report to the UN just over a month before the invasion.

    “We have now commenced the process of destroying approximately 50 litres of mustard gas declared by Iraq that was being kept under UNMOVIC seal at the Muthanna site. One-third of the quantity has already been destroyed. The laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, which we found at another site, has also been destroyed.”


    However, this is not my point. Invasion and defeat of those dictatorships were the reason for the invasions. Afterwards the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan chose their own governments. That the countries remain in turmoil is because of malevolent forces refusing to acknowledge the decision of the majority, exacerbated by our governments inability to plan for the post hostilities period. We have got it right in the past with muslim countries – Bosnia and Kosovo and with countries of other religions from Malaya to Sierra Leone.

    You, and others, mistake the enemy. Da’esh are terrorists and they HAVE employed the normal tactics of terrorism. However, by and large in both Iraq and Syria they are not fighting an asymetrical war but a more normal campaign where they have taken territory and are holding it by force of arms. That they have got the upper hand with three different nations armies shows that Da’esh are competent in fighting a conventional war.

    I am sorry but you simplify the campaigns in Central Europe and the politics therein. I don’t wish to go to much into the politics of different groups fighting on both sides as it will divert from the main thrust of my argument. If you want more information get my email from admin and I’ll discuss it offline

  • Richard Underhill 27th Nov '15 - 8:53pm

    “It really makes no military sense for the UK to start bombing Syria and I think it is absolutely disgraceful that Cameron is proposing this illogical action mainly to try and gain political advantage”
    David Cameron is not Harold Wilson.
    Andrew McCaig Self-evidently true, but otherwise typically cryptic!
    David Raw Harold Wilson did us great service by keeping us out of the Vietnam debacle.”
    I apologise for the brevity. David Raw is right, that is what I meant.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Nov '15 - 10:18pm

    @ Social Liberal,
    Thank you for taking so much effort in your response. You sound like a soldier. That is not a criticism, it is simply that I have listened to arguments from former military personnel in my family and I detect a similarity. – an important certainty and lack of doubt necessary for the job, that we non military personnel are not blessed with.

    What I believe or think is unimportant. I have reached the same conclusion as Max Hastings, one of the commentators I have been following. ” The die is cast -we are going to join the bombing of Islamic State in Syria’. Mail online.

  • Andrew McCaig 28th Nov '15 - 12:52am

    Richard Underhill,

    ah, thanks. I must admit I was about 9 when he was doing that and not playing very close attention!

    I did have a look on Wikipedia and found that some people thought he was in the pay of the Russians, so perhaps there is some connection there with today! (non-specific!)

  • Andrew McCaig 28th Nov '15 - 1:12am

    @ Social Liberal..

    I think there are a few problems with your proposals…

    Firstly, if we arm the “Free Syrian Army” with heavy weapons, the Russians will bomb them to pieces to stop them fighting Assad. Plus it is not entirely clear who they are or even whether they still exist.

    If we arm the Kurds with heavy weapons the Turks will bomb them to pieces…

    If we train the refugees they could join anyone or alternatively may simply be disarmed by Islamist groups as the US-trained “moderate rebels” were..

    The reality is that different players in Syria want very different outcomes, and in those circumstances yet more weapons are unlikely to be a solution. Unfortunately, poking a wasps nest rarely ends well.

    I tend to share the opinion voiced elsewhere on these pages that the biggest problems in Syria are Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and unless we can stop those two countries from supplying and aiding ISIL/Daesh, they will never be defeated. And then the next problem would be what to do about Assad, Iran and Russia.

  • A Social Liberal …

    You forget to mention, in your reference to ‘successful’ interventions, that their common factor was external ‘boots on the ground’….
    No nation, be it the US, UK, France, etc. makes any reference to the PBI; in fact, they all run like rabbits when any mention of such action is made….

    As for your definition of successful operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya???? “If the ‘operation was a success then the patient certainly died”…The average citizen in Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc., wants safety, housing and food for his family; political activists want ‘regime change’…If you believe the ‘average citizen’ is better served after outside interference than before then you are not living in the same world as me, or them…

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th Nov '15 - 11:32am

    Low mood over, it is not over until the ‘Fat lady sings’, and am considerably bucked up by a piece by Matthew Parris in today’s Times, (The bombs away brigade are on autopilot), and a poll showing that there is not majority support for Cameron’s determination to make the mistakes of the past.

    @ Expats @ Andrew McCaig,
    May I draw your attention to the work of the Oxford Research Group, in particular a briefing paper by Professor Paul Rogers who is based just down the road from you in Bradford, Andrew. ‘Islamic State’s plan, and the West’s trap.)

  • A Social Liberal 28th Nov '15 - 11:05pm

    Andrew McCaig

    You seem under a misapprehension. FSA are ALREADY being bombed by the Russians, they were the Russians favourite target until their airliner got blown up. Similarly with Turkey bombing the Khurds – it’s already happening. As for the supposed continuation of Saudi support for Da’esh – if this is so, why were the Saudis bombing them in Syria until the war in Yemen came up – where Saudi is bombing fundamentalists including . . . . Da’esh.

    Expats – if the patient died it was because of the post operative care and not the operation. Afghanistan and Iraq is where it is today because of the blunders of politicians in planning for the post war period, starting with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to fight the war in Iraq and carrying on with the removal of troops too early from that theatre. It is noticable that after Petraeus and Kilcullens Iraq Surge asymetric warfare in the country declined to the point where it was almost non existant, that the same thing happened in Helmand Province shows that the Surge strategy was a success.

    As for your assertion that outside intervention doesn’t work, those previous interventions you pointed out which needed similar outside intervention obviously DID work. The difference between those and Iraq/Afghan is the political planning for the post war period.

    Finally Jayne.
    This would be the Prof Paul Rogers who lectures on Peace Studies at Bradford University? I was going to try for the Peace Studies course but decided not to after reading the Pie in the Sky prospectus

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