Monday, May 01, 2017

There are no good answers on Syria. But there are daft ones, and the left is spouting them.

Setting British and Western policy to deal with the situation in Syria created by President Assad and by DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic state") is a choice of bad options.

We certainly want to avoid repeating the mistakes Bush and Blair made in Iraq when they overthrew the utterly evil regime of Saddam Hussein without an adequate plan for how to help the people of Iraq build a stable and secure democracy to replace him.

For that reason those who consistently opposed Western intervention in Syria in 2013 had a case - although I have no time whatsoever for those like Ed Miliband who said they would support intervention if certain conditions were met, and then voted against it despite the fact that those conditions had indeed been met for domestic political advantage.

We will never know whether Western intervention in Syria would have helped the situation or been another disaster. We do know that that the failure to intervene allowed a humanitarian disaster to happen which in my opinion has been even worse than what happened in Iraq.

By failing to respond when Assad dropped dropping poison gas on civilians we emboldened him to do it again, while stepping aside spared the people of Syria none of the dire consequences which the opponents of Western intervention feared it might cause them - their country has been ravaged by prolonged and bitter fighting, foreign military intervention but from Russia on behalf of the regime instead of NATO against it, the rise of Islamist extremism in the form of DA'ESH, and a campaign of death from the air. And the Russian airstrikes which the people of Syria have endured have made far less attempt to avoid hitting schools and hospitals than NATO has.

I don't know whether President Trump was right to fire missiles against the airfield from which Assad launched his latest poison gas attack but it was probably the least worst of a choice of very bad options.

And although there are valid criticisms and concerns which can be made against any intervention in Syria, some of the points being made by certain British political parties are just nonsense - like attacking Britain and the USA for supposedly ignoring roads which the Western allies have indeed tried to follow but Russia and China have vetoed.

For example, as Robert Colvile points out in an excellent article on CAPX here, it is nonsense for Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP's Alex Salmond to call for the West do do nothing while we wait for the verdict of the United Nations – and thereafter of the International Criminal Court.

It all sounds terribly reasonable. But we have already tried to go done that road, and Vladimir Putin has vetoed the very investigation that Corbyn and Salmond are calling for.
There has already been a UN investigation. Even since the  2013 attack in Ghouta, UN experts have found that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons on multiple occasions.

(So has DA'ESH but we are already taking action against them - against the bitter opposition of Jeremy Corbyn although Hillary Benn and some other Labour MPs had more sense.)

There is room for debate on how we deal with the problems of the Middle East. But there are reasonable concerns and daft ones, and large parts of the left, including the leader of the opposition, appear determined to spout the latter.

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