The Syrian civil war has played a lot on people’s minds with the bombing vote last week. Naturally, that means your mate Gaz has gone wading into the Syria debate and is trying his hand at discussing Middle East foreign policy. It also means elected officials trying their best to paper over bullshit with emotive arguments like “we gotta bomb ISIS now because they’re bad people”.
Here are some of the choicer things that have been spouted recently:
1. The M&M Argument
According to some randomer on your Facebook wall, accepting Syrian refugees into the UK would be like being given a bag of 10,000 M&Ms where 10 of them are poisoned. You’d throw the whole bag away wouldn’t you? Therefore, let’s just shut all these human beings out because 0.001% of them might be terrorists.
First of all, go to hell random guy, you have no idea how much I love M&Ms. I would definitely take that chance. Secondly, all refugees coming here are coming through the UNHCR and have to go through a two-stage screening process before they even land in the country – we’re double-screening them just to make sure, and that’s before the Home Office does their thing here. What more does this guy need to be satisfied?
There’s also the fact that people are not M&Ms, they’re people. That’s quite important.
2. The 70,000 Ground Troops
The Syria bombing mission will go swimmingly because there’s an army of 70,000 Syrian ground troops ready to take care of things once we’ve pissed off into the sunset. At least, that’s what David Cameron wanted you to believe, and apparently most of your MPs bought it hook, line and sinker.
Of course, he neglected to mention that there were up to 1,000 rebel groups in Syria as of 2013, and it’s safe to assume the situation hasn’t got too un-fucked since then. Do these 70,000 fighters even know they’re supposed to be working together, and who the hell they are? Are any of these the same groups that Russia – who are supposed to be our partners now – are dropping their own bombs on?
The PM hasn’t given an answer because of intelligence concerns, and has gone from saying there are 70,000 troops to saying there might be 70,000 troops in the future. Our post-bombing strategy is built on wishes and pixie dust.
3. “Terrorist Sympathisers”
If you even entertain the idea of voting against the air strike proposal, then you’re best mates with Jeremy Corbyn and a terrorist sympathiser. That’s what David Cameron is supposed to have said at a meeting with his own MPs last Tuesday, the day before the Commons vote. Then Nicky Morgan did it again on Question Time!
This was particularly harmful, and not just because of David’s dictator-lite tactic of calling anyone who doesn’t agree with his plan a terrorist. This soundbite dominated the debate as MP after MP asked Cameron to apologise, wasting time that could have been spent dissecting the actual plan and pressing on matters like the 70,000 fighters or how we’re going to deal with Assad and the Russians.
4. “MPs Should Vote With Their Conscience”
Voting on war is a serious matter, and MPs should be allowed to vote with their conscience rather than according to a party line. That’s why Corbyn backed off and allowed Labour MPs a free vote rather than push members of his Shadow Cabinet to resign.
Unfortunately, only one party voted with their conscience; the Conservatives were still whipped into voting for airstrikes, despite them coming out with some of the best arguments against it. What should have been a serious vote was turned into a party political trap. Congratulations old boy, you sure got one over on the reds that time. Why don’t you celebrate with a glass of bubbly while the Syrian people get pounded with British bombs?
5. Bombing Raqqa Will Stop Attacks Here
The Syria bombing campaign will “degrade Isil’s capability to plan further attacks”. Surely after Paris we can do no less than cut off the head of the snake. A good airstrike ought to teach that fanatical death cult not to mess with us!
Except, those guys likely to carry out an attack on UK soil? They’re not in Raqqa. They’re here, and somehow I don’t think more bombing will make them pull back from any attacks they’re planning and go “Hmm, maybe the West isn’t so bad after all”.
Isil lives just as much in cyberspace as it does in Iraq and Syria, and there’s no guarantee that destroying their haunts in Raqqa will stop them. For all we know these acts of terror are being coordinated by extremist script kiddies in Mum’s basements across the globe, or these people just decide to do something horrible and stick Isil’s brand on it anyway.
Should we have done nothing about Isil? Perhaps, perhaps not, but there are other ways than a half-baked strategy built on imagination to fight them. We’ve pulled this crap before in Iraq and Libya and it has not produced a happy democratic society yet. So when the jets finally come home, don’t miss Syria too much – we’ll be back there soon enough.