Draft Article on Syria for the Independent
Sadly, the Prime Minister has a tactic but not a strategy on Syria and the Middle East. Before a single life is taken, MPs must reassure themselves that a strategy is in place otherwise vote today against airstrikes. Airstrikes are the tactic and over 100 members of Parliament have put in an amendment today from all parties saying that the case for war has not been made. Parliament can influence events as it proved two years ago when the same Prime Minister was intent on bombing President Assad which would have been to the benefit of the forces soon to be known as Islamic State. Over the last week or so it is very clear that Parliament is totally united in wanting to do the best it can to defeat Islamic State. Indeed, the wish to bomb in Syria stems from this motive but we need to be much smarter in building a long term strategy rather than imagine a reflex is enough.
Defeating such a fanatical sect cannot happen on the battlefield alone. Indeed our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are the very reasons the Pandora’s Box of religious fundamentalism were opened in the first place. We also failed to have a strategy for the peace and had no clear exit strategy. It looks as though the current Prime Minister is repeating these mistakes.
Far from undermining Islamic State, widespread civilian casualties and loss of innocent lives which we have seen in other interventions will act again as a recruiting sergeant for Islamic State. The delay which Parliament has manufactured on this occasion has allowed it to become evident that no sensible analyst believes military progress can be made without boots on the ground. It is unclear where these would need to be UK boots. Similarly, the tiny UK air force presence would add little when we are being told that American bombers are returning with their payload having been unable to find any targets. These are perfect conditions for mission creep to grow. It is clear we need a fully-fledged strategy, not least to fill the institutional vacuum should Islamic State be pushed back militarily. Above all, Islamic State need to be defeated globally by moderate, co-religionists on the battlefields and mosques of the Middle East and the World. These are areas where the UK could make a significant difference, helping reject fundamental Islam everywhere initiating and expanding Safe Havens, creating an international coalition with Russia, Turkey, Iran and other uncomfortable bed fellows brining a coalition of Middle Eastern forces to do the job that Westerners can never do.
We need to begin the geo-political reform of Western relations with Saudi Arabia and their funding of religious extremists and we have to help convene a twenty year standing peace conference to re-draw the imperial boundaries in the region. This work programme demands a generation of blood, sweat and tears, not the deployment of five aircraft and fingers crossed it will all be over by Christmas. This is a tougher road to travel, but MPs are right to demand that Government does the right thing rather than just “does something”. If we fail today, the evil of Islamic State will be with us for a generation.