Every time I attempt to write about a subject that is even remotely political or religious, I start with the caveat that I am more often than not way out of my depth when it comes to subject knowledge—and today is no exception.
Given the apparent political vacuum caused by civil war, the situation in Syria appears (to me at least) to be incredibly complicated, and I would never underestimate the difficulty in working towards any resolution that would bring stability to the area—if indeed such a solution exists. At times, I find it hard enough to get my head around who we’re supposed to be fighting, because the threat goes by so many different names: IS, ISIS, ISIL, and now… apparently Daesh. In a sense the idea of using a term that does not include the word “Islamic” is a positive step; there is absolutely no connection at all between those involved in acts of terror and the members of the local Muslim community I am proud to call friends.
I am sure that I’m not alone in being unable to fully comprehend the vile acts and atrocities perpetrated by IS/Daesh (call them what you will…); they seem to hold the lives of their “own people” in precious little regard, so clearly the threat they pose to the West is very real… the events on the streets of Paris last month providing brutal evidence of a total lack of compassion for innocent life.
There are so many crucial questions that combine to form a full debate around possible airstrikes, but I have whittled them down to the three of most personal importance. Firstly, would more innocent Syrian lives be lost if Britain dropped its bombs? Would the decision (irrespective of what that decision was) place Britain under any greater threat of terrorist attacks? And finally, given that other countries are already involved in bombing Syria, what difference would Britain actually make?
You may have a wider variety questions. I respect that, but in my fairly simplistic world, the safety of the innocent is what concerns me most. (And I also respect the fact that those in parliament and government are charged with making these incredibly difficult choices… decisions which have consequences that could seriously test the individual conscience, and eventual outcomes on which they will collectively (for we are a democracy) be judged.)
The answer to the first question is a definite yes. However good the missile technology, civilians will die.
Secondly, based on the fact that Britain is already on a heightened terror alert after Paris, presumably we’d still be on high alert even if we did nothing? Certainly I’m struggling to see how the current situation would be “improved” by carrying out airstrikes; although I suppose they could make it worse.
And as for the third question, we may have the laser-guided Brimstone weapon, but if IS does indeed access to “impenetrable” tunnels, or the option of simply mingling with the masses (as happened in Iraq), you could argue that Britain’s involvement may well have minimal impact… oh, apart from drawing a bit more attention towards our island nation.
David Cameron seemed determined to involve our country in bombing Syria—and he has got his wish; although he may find a potentially massive public backlash harder to ignore than the dozen or so requests from inside the sanctuary of the House of Commons calling on him to apologise for describing opponents of the airstrikes as “terrorist sympathisers”. It was a unbelievably crass remark from a man on a mission, but as far as the decision to launch air assaults is concerned, Cameron’s words need to be ignored. There are strong opinions on both sides, and people should be influenced or convinced by the quality of rhetoric and argument, not swayed by petty point-scoring.
To listen to the facts, weigh-up the arguments and make an informed decision has to be the right thing to do; whether you are a Member of Parliament or that “man on the Clapham omnibus”. If you do all that, and believe that bombing Syria is the best solution towards the ultimate goal of defeating IS, then criticism cannot really be justified—the fact is that on balance I simply don’t agree.
I have no idea how many innocent lives have been lost in the conflicts that have been fought all over this planet during the past century… one is too many, but I’m guessing the number is in the millions. Do we need really need to be directly responsible for more?