A quickfire look at the arguments for and against intervention in Syria, with reactions from yesterday's debate.
I certainly do not agree that a no vote would make any person, let alone any MP, a terrorist sympathizer. I do not claim to be a venerable expert on international security, military strategy or conflict resolution. I do not doubt that British airstrikes will endanger innocent men, women and children. But every single day the inhumanity of Daesh is laid clear. I do know that we share a world with conflict-fuelled, hateful and violent people. And I do know that every day that we wait for the long term diplomatic solution to materialise, their horrors continue.
It is no coincidence that this debate has been spurred on in the wake of the Paris attacks. Indeed, substitute Paris with London, replace Bataclan with Globe Theatre, replace stranger with friend. What would your opinion be then? It is from this position which I support the Government motion and from which I believe, inasmuch as you can believe in this difficult, difficult choice, that airstrikes should be extended into Syria.
This is similar to previous 21st Century “Western interventions”, but it’s not the same. In the past the West has, rightly or wrongly, tried to dislodge so-called corrupt regimes from established nation-states. A yes vote is a vote to degrading a terrorist group which has encroached on and established territory which is not recognised by the international community. This same international community, unlike with the much cited Iraq 2003 invasion, has now authorised action. A resolution drafted by France legitimises “Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures” to combat Daesh. Under the behest of the United Nations Security Council, of an international coalition and of our allies, the UK has been asked to stand up and fulfil their role in the international community. We cannot ignore the fact that we are part of a global community fighting a global security threat.
In this fight, airstrikes are part of a military strategy which is in itself part of an entire peace process in the Middle East. This vote by authorises airstrikes as part of a wider strategy which includes, for example, the Vienna Process. Only a long term peacebuilding solution can firmly close this unfortunate chapter in our history, but certain steps need to be taken to nullify the present violent threat in order to reach this envisioned future.
Finally, this is not a new war. This is an extension of current military operations in Iraq. Daesh’s activities have not been restricted by borders, concurrently – the international response must not be penned in by borders. Tomorrow in this world, countless untold horrors will continue to unfold. But tonight, the UK Government decided to do something about it. This is not the perfect solution. But, as history as shown, all the paths to peace are stained with blood. MPs today have wrestled with the paradox that there exists no effective peaceful means to achieve peace. Maybe one day we will live in a world where no bullets are fired, no children are orphaned, no blood is spilled on the road to peace. But we do not live in this world. We live in a world where we await Daesh’s next move. Today the British government chose to stop waiting. I do not believe that any MP today light-heartedly made a yes vote. The intense, emotional debate testifies to this. The MPs voted with the current international status quo, which believes that military action is an unavoidable step that must be taken to establish peace in the Middle East.
I stand on the side which opposes airstrikes. I hoped the House would reject the Government motion and instead adopt the cross-party amendment against it.
I’ve been in the privileged position of working with colleagues who are determined to research the consequences and advantages of bombing key Daesh targets to their full. I am also privileged to have cordial conversations with friends in the House of Commons and Lords who support strikes for their own reasons.
Not one of us, on either side or domain, is a ‘Terrorist sympathiser’ – and importantly, before I set out my own view, I should add that every MP who votes against military action tonight deserves a genuine and swift apology from the Prime Minister, who has undermined the spirit of his office by slurring an entire cross-party opposition.
I believe that we’re foolish to want to present a ‘look-tough’ image when bombing will only serve to fuel the reaction that caused terrorist attacks on the European continent and outwith in the first place.
I believe we’re naive to immediately interpret French retaliation to their own justifiable grief as a call to arms. Alliance shouldn’t de facto equate to instant aggression. It can also manifest in a constructive form, with careful planning and objective setting at the heart of any coordinated response.
I believe we’re blind if we’re fawning to those who insist that if we don’t act in this way, we’re creating a larger threat for ourselves here at home. If we must act, in the first instance we should act to diffuse the cultural stigma which has penetrated our daily way of life – it’s concerning to see such a rise in Islamophobia as a result of fear created by a group which does not represent Islam.
I believe we need to all learn to understand and decipher Daesh before we act against them. Establish how they resource themselves. Establish how their finances work and through which banks their money indirectly flows. Establish where they plan to move and how they plan to act. Establish what they want and then cut them off at their sources. As Tommy Sheppard MP said rightly, “…bombing them from the air will control their skies, but it will never control their activities on the ground.”
I believe we need to think long and hard about what we want from any outcome and how we want the Middle East to look after the objective of defeating Daesh is achieved. Not only that, but we should ask Syrians and others what they want for a change, instead of bombing western civilisation into them in the hope it’ll stick.
I believe we need to seriously reassess our idea of the value of life if we’re prepared to destroy the lives and dignity of millions in order to protect ourselves. We may destroy some key targets, yes. But how many innocents will accidentally get caught up in that storm alongside those representing Daesh. Why are we more important than a family with small children dependant on subsistence farming and impoverished industry because of our own inaction on climate change and secondary involvement in financial sanctions? We have no concept of suffering in comparison.
How will we answer to parents in Syria, as innocent as we are, who ask how they can protect their children from targeted airstrikes?
I believe we need to establish what ground forces we are working with. How many are categorised as extreme in their own right. How many will have to be dealt with after Daesh is dealt with, and how we will respond to their demands when we have won.
We need to urgently decide who our enemies and our friends are, and ask why an enemy 15 months ago is now on the top of the PMs list for those willing to help this new chapter of conflict in a destabilised region.
We need to answer questions that will shape discourse for the next decade, not just the next year.
The Prime Minister has offered no long term objective. He has offered no credible plan except repeating the mistakes of the past. He has attempted to tell us it is ‘the right thing to do’ without qualifying it, and in doing so branding anyone who disagrees as a reckless threat to national security.
We are safer playing the long game. My opinion is that if we act in this way we hand an open goal to this and any organisation which wishes to cause hell in our cities – and they will do so out of sheer retaliation. We’ve already entered into this vicious cycle, why extend it? And yet, our Government will push us into another saga with questions left unanswered.
I wished for a no vote yet I knew it would be a yes vote. Again I’m looking to be proved wrong by the side that won – but don’t say you weren’t warned by those on this side when these questions arise again, and again.
Once again, there is a declaration that there is no price on national security when those here at home go hungry and rely on food banks to feed their children. Britain once again forgets it is not the centre of geopolitics as it once was – the long held belief that Britain should act is nothing more than a fantasy in the modern age. Our intervention would achieve nothing but long term misery.
We are now left with a weak Prime Minister; a weak Leader of the Opposition; an outcry in Scotland where 57 of their 59 MPs have been completely ignored and yet the RAF jets confirmed to carry out this new mission are based there; and finally a Shadow Foreign Secretary who is applauded contrary to Parliamentary convention as if he was a member of the Government benches.
There is no compelling argument to carry out these air strikes. Tomorrow I will wake up embarrassed on behalf of us all.