This week, the government of the UK voted in favour of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria while armed with the knowledge that a staggering 89% of the British populace are against it. The Tory majority voted 313/330 MPs in favour of bombing Syria while 66 of 232 Labour MPs voted in favour also. I’m appalled that so many MPs would vote against what their voters wish for and that they so obviously ignore the mistakes of recent wars. Iraq and Afghanistan still weigh heavily in the public’s mind and are generally perceived as a huge failure. I’m really struggling to understand why MPs thought it a good idea to go to war, and why articles I have read have decided to defend the MPs who voted in favour of such an act, especially since war is possibly the most expensive thing a country can do but the Tories are trying to cut back everything they possibly can from the public service industry.
Enough about that though, let’s talk specifically about why bombing Syria is a terrible idea. Firstly, and most obviously, there is no end goal. When the US used “containment” as a strategy against Saddam Hussein they clearly had a goal in mind, though not an end goal at that. They wanted to make sure Saddam Hussein’s influence in the Middle East didn’t spread beyond Iraq’s borders. Because of this they were able to execute a clear strategy. However, when they invaded Iraq and Iran it was for different, conflicting reasons and with no clear goal in mind, and the same is happening here. The UK are not trying to “contain” ISIS, but they are not committed to destroying it. Instead they are pussyfooting about by doing something in the middle and, while there are no reports of civilian casualties yet, as soon as Syrian civilians’ deaths hit the news it becomes far easier for ISIS to paint the UK and “the West” as a whole as the bad guys and themselves as the victims, something that will only draw more people to their cause.
The most difficult thing about this is how the war will be fought. ISIS isn’t a government; it’s an organisation. An organisation who has members that blend into the background amongst the muslim population of the Middle East and North Africa. As a result they will fight a guerilla war, and, without meaning to sound defeatist, fighting against guerillas hasn’t exactly worked out well for the invaders historically. Yet the MPs ignored this, intelligent people as they are.
However, the biggest case against bombing Syria, and one which is oft overlooked, is that it plays right into ISIS’s hands. Think about it; what does ISIS aim to achieve by committing acts of terror in Paris, Lebanon, England and elsewhere? They killed a lot of people who don’t support them, yes, but if they wanted to do that it would have been far safer and far less audacious of them to continue their campaigns in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. They wanted a war. They want to see ground troops be deployed in the Middle East and make exactly the same mistakes that were made in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan so they can paint those armies as invaders and themselves as righteous defenders. And those mistakes will be made because, clearly, even MPs have not learned them.
Moreover, Britain itself just doesn’t have the funds to commit to a costly war. The Tories are taking with one hand by cutting benefits for the unemployed, healthcare and education, while throwing money at a problem which they don’t know how to deal with. I quote Bernie Sanders here; “if you can spend six trillion dollars sending people to war, you can spend a few billion dollars taking care of them when they come home.” If you replace “veterans” with “everybody in your country” then this quote has a lot of power and the logic behind it is almost infallible. We are not in a “life-or-death” situation like World War II where every industry in the country has to be devoted to the war-effort. We’re at a point in history where war is a luxury.
One interesting thing that MPs should think about is why ISIS is still capable of operating and how it is able to afford guns and vehicles and other things required to wage war and commit genocide against peoples. They control an awful lot of illegal operations like trafficking, drug smuggling and the growth of opium, but that’s not all they do. Oil is the primary export of the Middle East, and ISIS control an awful lot of it. Someone must be buying it, and buying it in such huge quantities such that ISIS now have an estimated worth upwards of $2 billion. Of course they’re not using it, it’s like the blood diamonds that came out of the conflicts in Western Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. They are stockpiling while the price is low (they can’t sell it at business price because it’s being sold illegally. If people wanted to pay the norm then they’d buy from legitimate sellers) so that they can make a profit from it when the price has risen again. I’m not sure how much more the UK can do to counter the drug-money ISIS gather as they already do a good job of cracking down on drugs in the UK and the NHS, while suffering, is good at dealing with addicts. Anything more is down to Iraqi, Syrian and other Middle Eastern police forces, but oil is something they can help with.
The people who are buying for it must have huge amounts of money and connections to the Middle Eastern oil industry. This narrows your list down quite a lot. If I wanted to defeat ISIS I would start by looking to those people. Even if only 10% of them are tried and stopped, that’s 10% of ISIS’s inflow gone. Imagine if a country suddenly lost even 1% of its GDP? Economists would start predicting recessions for every quarter of the year and others would describe it as unsustainable, though be cautiously optimistic. I realise this is not on the same scale but it’s quite easy to see that the economic burden of war is not something you should factor in for just “your side.” Money rules the world and, if ISIS’s funding was removed then I think a lot of change could be seen with minimal expense on the West’s part.
I also feel that the refugee crisis should be mentioned when talking about this situation. If the UK manage to mess up airstrikes in Syria and start bombing civilians then even more people will be driven to flee to country to Europe as even more death, damage and destruction comes into their lives. However, if the UK do a really good job and take out a number of ISIS militants then the Syrian refugees will see that the UK is on their side and flee there to escape the fighting that will still be happening in civilian areas. If you think there’s a way that bombing will somehow entice refugees to return to their homes or for the Syrian’s to stay there then I think you have been grossly misled.
To conclude then; I think there’s very little logical reason for the UK to bomb Syria and anyone who does should be referred to this article. The actual impact of the bombs may seem significant for some time but, soon enough, they’ll be just another part of the story that the news skips out on, referring to them every so often when they blunder or succeed exceptionally. I’ll talk about the many fallacies and mishaps of David Cameron soon because, in researching this, I found that there’s an awful lot more to dislike about him than just the obvious.