Bombing Syria: Have we learnt nothing?

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It’s remarkable that some Labour MP’s, along with Conservatives are now contemplating the bombing of Syria given the disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan. The hornet’s nest of terror that is now the Middle East And parts of Africa should provide all the lessons needed to ensure that any consideration of military action is both morally justified, able to secure tangible political outcomes, will do less harm and will be weighed against the inevitable law of unintended consequences.

Of course the views of the Labour MP’s that are supporting the Governmement's call for British military involvement are not the views of some hellish imperialists. They believe that that such action is the lesser of the two evils. I personally don’t agree with them but they are genuinely sincere in their views.

The fact is that when it comes to the history of western military intervention in the Middle East, the road to hell is paved with expressed Western good intentions and bad decisions, driven by the profit principle or religious extremism, the Iraq war being a case in point.

The devastation and blood price already paid by the people of the region as a result of western war, almost always cloaked in ‘humanitarian concern’ and ‘save the lives of innocents’ and an expressed desire to ‘promote democracy and human rights’ has been literally catastrophic.

Let's be clear British military involvement will make no difference to the effort to defeat Daesh in Syria. Russia, America, France are all quite capable of fighting ISIL without any contribution from the 16 planes from the UK.

The fact any Britain military presence is largely symbolic given the small size of our armed forces. We are a very small nation, with a small military and yet we continually, through a self inflated sense of importance, want to behave as if we are still a world super power.

It reminds me of the folly of First World War generals dispatching non-existing battalions to the Maginot front line. Today politicians are left to dispatch a naval aircraft carrier that flies no planes, a Royal Air Force that can barley fulfil its responsibilities to protect the UK. Even today we are reliant on France to monitor Russian submarine’s activity of our coastline. We want to expand our Trident nuclear capability but cant afford the to maintain the necessary military to defend ourselves against the hostile foreign military surveillance this brings with it.

Like some sad retired heavyweight boxing champion way past his best, Britain can't let go of the arrogance and imperious pride that Empire produced, so we beg anyone who will listen to let us, to let us have one more fight. It's time we stop fooling ourselves. Our days of world power military super status are done.

That the Government can't bring itself to offer compassionate refugee to the thousands of desperate refugees strung across Europe, but is perfectly willing to drop 500lb ordnance bombs on Syrian civilian areas leaves me stunned and overwhelmed by the moral miasma that has blinded our nation.

Britain couldn’t even bring itself to deploy the Royal Navy for any length of time to save the lives of drowning migrants or extend the hand of compassion to those freezing in the fields of Europe but is perfectly willing to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on military action. Even on Tory terms, austerity economics, the cost to the country of taking in migrants would be far less expensive option

The military lesson of the 21st century is clear you can’t beat an urban enemy by air bombing alone. As the great African American Black Muslim leader Malcolm X once said when talking about Vietnamese victory over America in the 1960’s:

The white man can never win another war on the ground. His days of war, victory, and his reign - his days of ground victory are over. Can I prove it? Yes. Take all the action that’s going on this earth right now that he’s involved in -- tell me where he’s winning. Nowhere."

Some 20 years later, the same is still true and any extremist insurgents worth their salt have figured this out. Iraq. Afghanistan, Sudan, Congo are just a few of the contemporary examples and even where ‘victory’ is declared for example in Libya, such claims have subsequently turned into ashes in our mouths amounting to nothing more than pyrrhic victories.

Daesh can survive a western bombing campaign and has been shown on countless occasions, such action in isolation wins no wars. However the Syrian civilian population cannot survive such action without tragic and bloody consequences.

You need boots on the ground in combination with air strikes to increase chances of defeating an insurgent embedded enemy. Daesh are desperate to lure the west into a ground war. It appears that their strategist’s are more informed than some Labour Party MP’s. Daesh know full well they can melt away and regroup and wait out any bombing raids.

Further bombing Daesh will increase the terrorist threat to Britain. As former Policing Director for London from 2000- 2008 I can confirm the comments made recently by former Mayor Ken Livingstone, that British intelligence briefings all warned the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that supporting the invasion of Iraq would increase the likelihood of terrorists striking Britain. Bombing ISIL will increase the priority ISIL attaches to a revenge attack of that there can be no doubt.

I have no doubt that whilst policing security will be ramped up in London. I do worry that Daesh supporters could more easily mount a deadly attack in anyone of our less protected cities.

In the end, however long it takes, we all know deep down that only a political solution can resolve this conflict and that would require Britain to back Palestinian independence in a two state solution and reverse Israeli settler land grabs and force the apartheid of the state of Israel to adhere to United Nations resolutions. We must ask ourselves how long we are going to pretend that we can solve anything in the Middle East without first tackling this perennial and toxic problem?

As leader of Old Labour Jeremy Corbyn, has stuck to his anti war instincts and principles whilst giving the Labour Parliamentary Party a free vote. I disagreed with that tactic, though he has my full support for what it's worth.

Sooner or later Jeremy is going to have to engage in a brutal civil war to defend his leadership if he is not to be devoured by those openly plotting against him. It must be particularly galling to see Hilary Benn MP Shadow Minister for Defence leading the calls for war.

Jeremy has witnessed the folly of western intervention throughout the last 40 years and like most informed thinkers he’s come to the conclusion that such interventions almost always come at huge cost to the people of the world.

I for one am not ideologically opposed to military intervention. I supported the British military action in Bosnia and Sierra Leone for example. So this is no reflex gut reaction or high command issued by dictat from the Trotskyite bunker. The case for such intervention has not been made and the idea that Cameron has made a compelling case for British military involvement is simply risible. We are now in the insane situation that we quite willing to kill people so Britain can maintain our fading international reputation?

Are there better alternatives than bombing that could make a difference? If we were to extend our hand to Syrian refuges, tramping across the freezing, wet fields of Europe in a caravan of misery and despair that might help both their and our own cause.

Britain wouldn’t commit to deploying our Naval fleet to save refugees drowning in their thousands of the coasts of Italy and Greece and yet we are willing to spend 100 times the amount its would have cost to save their lives and give them safe refugee on bombing their country into a oblivion. Be honest when the dust all settles will Britain be there to invest the billions it will take to rebuild Syrian society and enshrine human rights and democracy? Will we hell.

You will hear a lot about saving lives, defeating the enemy, making Britain safer between now and the parliamentary vote on this on Wednesday. I appeal to you not to be fooled by the rhetoric of war. Britain can no longer afford nor does it have the military capability to engage in such international military action.

If we really wanted to do more to support Syrians refugees in Syria and surrounding regions, we could do so with medical aid, schools, food and compassion. We could save lives in the Mediterranean; we could accept refugees in the UK. Let's see if Germany suffers terrorist attacks, I doubt it will for this very reason.

I believe if we were more compassionate we would secure a place in the hearts and minds of ordinary Syrians and increase our capacity to influence the region positively.

Bombing Syria is a mistake, investing in refugees is not.

Lee Jasper

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