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To bomb or not to bomb

I don’t know about you, but the funny thing is the more I consider the Government’s desire to join the supposed ‘coalition of the willing’ to bomb ISIS into oblivion in Syria the more I think it’s a fifty-fifty call at best.

The core of my continued dithering is my concern over the ‘something must be done’, or perhaps the ‘if something is going to be done we ought to be part of it’ syndrome.

The pursuit of prestige is one thing and principle is another because inevitably principles are a moveable feast.

You only have to take a look at America – the perfect example of a country holding fondly to a belief that whatever it does, whomever it supports at any time, has right (and/or God) on its side. That’s why America supported the Afghanistani Taliban or mujahedeen against Russia and was Saddam’s friend when he went to war with Iran but then his enemy when, post 9/11 … er … he was decided to be harbouring Al Qaeda, butchering his own citizens, invading Kuwait and of course supposedly amassing WMD. Or Grenada got invaded in 1983. Or indeed when Obama became exposed as a bit of a pussy when drawing a red line that if Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens ‘that was it’ … and then, when he did, took no action other than supporting Syrian anti-Government forces in a potentially never-ending civil war.

As regards the current ISIS ‘crisis’, if it is correct that Saudi Arabia, or at least an element within Saudi Arabia, is a major funder of ISIS and/or that Turkey for its own reasons turns a blind eye to ISIS members crossing its borders both ways, then the UK and other Western countries have some soul-searching to do. I’m talking of course about their willingness to do business with Saudi Arabia, and in the process cow-tow to its rulers who spend huge sums on their domestic horse racing and military armaments industries and indeed inward tourism/property trades, and having Turkey within NATO and even potentially within the EU.

In real terms, whether or not the UK contributes half a dozen (if indeed it possesses as many as that) operational fighter-bombers to the bombing campaign against ISIS is neither here nor there.

Depending upon your view of Tony Blair, who arguably seems with hindsight to have been the epitome of someone using foreign and diplomatic policy as a personal vanity project, David Cameron might be regarded as his direct descendant in more ways than one [let’s leave the hapless Gordon Brown out of this]. I say this because, as night follows day, once you’ve decided that the country you represent is to take action upon the world stage – whatever form that might take – you can always find some argument of principle to support it.

Yesterday on his Sunday morning television show Andrew Marr put former Tory minister Liam Fox on the spot by suggesting that the UK Government going from wanting (but failing when it lost the Commons vote) to bomb and ultimately depose Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2013 to effectively now wanting to join his side in order to obliterate ISIS two years later was a bit of an about-turn. Dr Fox countered by saying that the situation in 2013 was entirely distinct – the issue then was Obama’s ‘red-line’ one mentioned above when al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own population. This is different.

Of course it is, Liam …

For present purposes I’m ignoring all the issues that people are arguing about [e.g. the quip attributed to Einstein about the definition of insanity being ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’ as regards the West intervening and using military force in the Middle East; the UK bombing Syria potentially being little more than a token at best; and the absence of any specific UN sanction, meaningful end-game or indeed exit strategy] and of course the internal Labour Party hand-wringing over Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed 1970s loony-left principles being at odds with the views of many of his parliamentary MPs.

When situations like these emerge – whether in personal, commercial or public life – I like to remind myself that (whatever the outcome, decision and/or result) inevitably Harold Macmillan’s famous dictum ‘Events, dear boy, events’  will naturally come to pass and one day, perhaps ten or fifteen years further down the line, we’ll all be looking back with the comforting benefit of hindsight and probably sighing with either amusement or frustration at what happened and picking over the entrails as to why it did. That will apply whether this week’s Commons vote – if it does take place this week – is to bomb ISIS in Syria, as the Government wishes … not to do so … or indeed everything gets postponed or overtaken by other crises du jour.


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About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts