…… intervening in Syria is not a good idea…

It is not a good idea to intervene in Syria.   I can’t put it any more simply and clearly than that.  I have heard many of the arguments, indeed I heard many of them before about Iraq, and I disagreed with them then too.   Indeed I refused to go to Iraq when invited to do so by the British Government because I did not want to be associated with that military venture. Later when I did go to Baghdad to try to get the various sides to engage in negotiations, it was on an entirely non-governmental mission.   One of the people I met there was the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.  I was impressed by him then, so I was interested to hear him speaking on the Today programme yesterday.  He made clear his view – based on his experience in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere – that this was not a case for intervention by us but for containment and diplomacy.   When it was clear to me some time ago that there was a possibility of reaching an understanding between Syria and Israel (and there was a real chance at that time) I went to Damacus to meet with the Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem.  I returned some time later to meet him again with a number of colleagues, though it was then clear that the prospects for a peaceful outcome were slipping away.   These meetings and many others in all the countries in the Middle East over a decade and more have made me very aware of the history of that very troubled region.  What we are seeing is not as presented to us – simply an authoritarian regime cracking down on a democratic uprising.  It is massively more complex than that.  The whole region is sliding into a bloody civil war between Sunni and Shia and instead of finding ways of containing and mitigating it, the West is adding fuel to the sectarian fires.  This is like the wars of religion in Europe and the bitter blood-letting could last a generation or more.  We are coming in on one side of the fight, with Russia (and possibly China) lining up on the other side.  This is neither politically wise, nor morally responsible.   In response to the warnings I have been giving about this for some time, one of my Lib Dem MP colleagues said to me that he could not see how our intervention could possibly make it any worse.  If the Commons votes to give the Government support to intervene without a UN Security Council resolution, I fear he may well find out how much worse it could be.  This could turn a truly horrible situation in Syria into a regional catastrophe of unforeseeable proportions.

7 comments on “…… intervening in Syria is not a good idea…

  1. Dear John, I agree with you entirely – and a good section of the British public also do – we are dumbstruck by the ignorance of many politicians and their unthinking gut reactions to events in the middle east. So little is understood about the complex cultural and subcultural divisions, together with predominant primordialist sentiment held over generations that are readily exploited by ‘activists’ for their own agendas.

  2. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

    • Who is suggesting ‘doing nothing’. There are other routes to do something effective – e.g., comprehending better the sentiments of the many diverse ethnicities involved and their stances towards each other, taking into account that regional tensions do not provide a simple ‘them’ and ‘us’. Others have their own views on ‘moral imperatives’, usually in support of their own ethnic heritages and worldviews. There are ad hoc and formal forums that could be used to work towards strengthening an international consensus against the use of chemical weapons. Syria is a quagmire and even targeted missile action is likely to add to the belligerence of the various factions and several external supporters.

  3. Osborne, Referring to a BBC report of a possible napalm attack on a school in Syria, he added: “I now am condemned to watch those children burn in that schoolhouse yesterday and be a country which shrugged its shoulders and said ‘nothing to do with me’.”

    • Do you really think that further missiles will stop the regime and others carrying out appalling atrocities? Recall the dreadful attacks that have already been carried out, with huge killings and consequent refugee migrations to colossal refugee camps. Missiles will invite more of these kinds of atrocities, not prevent them.

  4. In an interview with Channel 5 Mr Miliband said, “Ending the possibility of military action was not the result he wanted but the UK can still aid Syria”

    The resources UK would have spent on military intervention should now be directed to helping the little refugee children.

    Would MP’s get backing from constituents for such action?

    • The questions are: What kind of military action was Miliband contemplating? Under whose auspices? UN? Global alliance? At what stage? When? With what targets in mind? No explicit answers have been forthcoming, not even from the USA. Unless there is a well-reasoned strategy that will not result in further Syrian civilian deaths (‘collateral damage’), other means such as diplomatic pressure and more effective sanctions might have some effect in the longer term.

      Yes, resources directed to the refugee children would at least be under more enlightened control and have manifestly beneficial effect.

since this is a conversation, replies are welcome