Syria: Why Cameron and Corbyn are both wrong


How do you bomb back to the stone age people who already live in the stone age (with Toyotas of course)?

This week a great debate has taken place in the UK, as to whether Britain should join with France, the US, Russia (and everyone else for that matter) in bombing Syria. The UK is already involved in military action against Daesh, but they have been attacking targets in Iraq, not within Syria.

Cameron, the PM, in Parliament has argued for authorisation to expand a bombing campaign to include targets within Syria, trying to convince MPs that this is necessary in order to safeguard national interests.

Corbyn, the new leader of (old, so very old) Labour has failed to fall in line and back the plan. He argues that the PM has not made a convincing case on how a Syria expedition will help make the UK safer, and also complains that there is no plan for Syrian reconstruction after the (hoped) defeat of Daesh.

They are both wrong. Cameron in fact has made no convincing case that bombing Daesh will make the UK safer, at least in the short to medium term. He also has no idea what to do about Syria (no-one does). British action against Daesh directly will probably increase the chances of a retaliatory attack in the UK (Paris style perhaps).

Corbyn is wrong in saying that a comprehensive plan is needed before engaging Daesh directly. He is also wrong on the security issue in the long run. Britain will not be safer if Daesh establishes a long lasting caliphate.

Should the UK then join in the Syria fight?

I think bombing alone (never-mind with or without Britain) will not defeat Daesh. Everyone is doing it already, with gusto after the Paris attacks. More bombing is likely to be of little strategic value.

I also think bombing will increase the security threat to the UK. To make matters worse, we do not know what to do about Syria and while we are trying to work something out, bombing in itself does not offer a path to a solution.

Nonetheless, I think Britain should join in.

A united western front against Daesh is important in terms of symbolism. Joint action may lead to a ground assault where everyone collaborates to defeat Daesh on the ground. Turkey’s actions last week (downing the Russian jet) makes this more difficult, but everything is possible.

Britain is a key component of NATO, a key European defense partner. It is not possible that it passes on the war on Daesh. Parliament should vote to authorise action, despite the numerous problems with that choice.

Does this sound too George Bush? Too War on Terror? It probably does. Maybe we are beginning to see things like the Americans did after 9/11. There is a difference though, Daesh claimed the Paris attacks as many others. It has a geographical presence and a territory under its control we can wage war against. This is not another Iraq invasion.

Will innocent people die? Yes, inevitably. Is this blood on our hands? Yes, probably. Why am I proposing that we do it then?

Let me ask you this, firstly, if Cameron does not act and there is another attack in the UK, wouldn’t you immediately advocate action against Daesh? Do we need to wait for them to attack us in order to act?

Secondly, if democratic states run by legitimate governments do not react to significant threats like Daesh now, who do you think will be calling the shots after the next election? Hollande is doing everything he can think of both due to the threat that Daesh represents for France and Europe and because of the threat of Le Pen winning the presidency.

Corbyn’s pacifism is great and principled, but if the public feel threatened they will vote for those who promise security, and they may well be fascists. We do not have FN in the UK, but we could, and if this keeps up, we will. Do you think that if Le Pen replaces Hollande, she will worry about collateral losses?

Am I sure about this? No, I am not sure about anything. Neither is Cameron, Corbyn, Hollande, anyone.

Britain needs to join the fight and do it now.


We are where we are, but one needs to act



4 thoughts on “Syria: Why Cameron and Corbyn are both wrong

  1. Alex Parkinson says:

    Aren’t you saying that we should join the fight because someone else thinks we should? You acknowledge the (obvious) fact that there is absolutely no strategic basis for joining in the fight but say we should anyway. What other argument is there? Just because France, and it’s rightwing nut-jobs think we should isn’t reason enough. Progressive opinion can’t overcome hawkish nonsense on it’s conservative home turf. If Hollande takes the discussion into the FN’s territory and language then he is bound to lose. Being sensitive to public opinion is one thing, capitulating to the jingoistic bloodlust of the far-right is another thing altogether.


  2. Full agreement with Alex Parkinson.

    I’d have expected somebody defining themselves as an academic, and of cultural background from Greece (or anywhere in the Balkans for that matter) to certainly come out with a more deeply analysed cause-affect basis for acting than acting, rather than simply following the power players simply out of doubt about understanding the situation and solutions well enough. In this context Yanis Varoufakis has an unquestionably more useful, multiaspectual, historically-contexted and informative response on the matter.


  3. Does the book have a chapter dealing with moral accountability and failures of Anglo-British colonisation, and investigates how the outcome of classically imperialistic, boundlessly immoral military industrial complex-driven dishonest adventures in Iraq should finally have put into action an unwinding and disempowering of Anglo-American colonialistic mechanisms of destruction, immoral resource hegemony, war and deaths at the expense of apparently “less important” “inferior” middle-eastern people – mechanisms which are often prefaced by male chest-beating language such joining fights?

    One definition of insanity: repeatedly following the same action and expecting different results.


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