Liberté Égalité Fraternité

Posted: November 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Politics, Religion, Stuff
Tags: , ,

Note: This article is presented unfinished, but as the situation is fluid and fast-moving I thought I would publish it as an ongoing piece that will be added to and completed over the next few days. AS

#Syria #StopTheWar #ISIS

Nous sommes tous Humains. Nous sommes tous Parisienne!

The shocking and despicable acts that saw the deaths of 129 (now 130) innocent people in Paris should be condemned by all sane people throughout the world. Of course, sanity also demands that we should sit back, take stock, and formulate a rational and reasoned response.

The temptation for a knee-jerk reaction to events such paris-logoas these, whilst understandable, is never the right thing to do. I can understand, in part, the increased bombing of ISIS positions by Hollande – he needs to be seen to be doing something – yet it takes little analysis to understand that this war in Syria has been raging for four years now, with 250,000 dead and over six million displaced persons – men, women and children – precisely because this is a proxy war between multiple powerful agencies, arming, supplying and funding a large and ever changing alliance of groups on the ground. ISIS has been bombed for over a year now by a coalition of eleven countries – including France and led by the most powerful nation on earth – with little apparent degradation.

It does not appear to have made France any safer. Neither, with a large nod to the British media, has the fact that France has an independent nuclear deterrent. If the constant bombing of Syria has not increased the safety of France – or Britain – how would British involvement in furthering such bombing help? Further, if the recent addition to the bombing in Syria by Russia is increasing the refugee crisis – and by implication the power of the recruiting sergeants for terrorist groups, as has been claimed, how then would the addition of British air power not add yet more momentum to this?

There are at present simply too many unanswered questions. Would such an action be legal? What would it seek to achieve? How would it end? Can its goals be achieved without ground forces? What would participation do to Britain’s ability to project diplomacy with regards to Syria? The attack on Paris should not be used as a political or emotional lever to move for a further vote in the UK parliament to join in the bombing of Syria without first answering at least these questions.

Party-Political Claptrap

Unfortunately, this is exactly what was being repeatedly touted in Britain in the moments immediately following Monday’s international minutes silence in respect of the Paris victims. Cameron said as much at the G20 summit earlier that day in Antalya, Turkey, and was instantly supported by Liam Fox, conservative Member of Parliament for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for Defence, who reiterated that Cameron could take immediate action without the consent of parliament whilst remaining within the constitution. Cameron’s claim that we should step up to the plate and not allow other countries to provide for the safety of the UK is purely emotional nonsense and nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the masses, to appear heroic, even – party political claptrap at its very worse.

No doubt we can also expect the attack on Paris to be used as political leverage in pushing the disgraceful Draft Communications Bill or ‘Snoopers Charter’, and indeed, the replacement of Trident.

Act of War

Much has also been said regarding president Hollande’s declaration that the attack was an ‘act of war’. France has been a member of Nato since 2009 and could claim, under Article Five, that an attack on one member state is an attack on all. He neglected to mention this in his impassioned speech at Versailles, though did bring up an EU article with similar wording – presumably to avoid seeking legality from the United Nations in the face of the usual veto from permanent members of the Security Council such as Russia or China.

Still, the difficulty of getting a UN resolution may well change as, only hours before China is informed of the murder of the latest of its citizens held hostage by ISIS, Russia confirms that its Metrojet airliner in Sinai was in fact brought down by an explosive device. Indeed as we speak Hollande has tabled an intermediate resolution at the UN. One that falls far short of Chapter 7 whereby members can use force to enact the resolution.  Testing the water, perhaps. [UPDATE: This resolution was passed unanimously. Since the vote, various British commentators have suggested that this in itself would allow for military action.]

So what can be done?
The Military Option

First, let me state from the outset that I understand that something must be done. Whilst hardly a hawk, I am far from a pacifist and realise that Islamic State has to be defeated, militarily, on the ground: their Caliphate, or claim to one, unlike the political ideology of al Qaeda, is dependent on actual territory rather than political demands. Defeating Islamic State on the ground destroys the basis of that Caliphate, in effect destroying ISIS. This would not stop other groups, such as those in Libya and other African nations announcing a new Caliphate, but would dramatically reduce the currency of such claims as to be almost worthless, and, in consequence, remove a large ‘pull’ factor for foreign jihadis prepared to travel and fight.

Of course, defeating ISIS – if it could ever be achieved in isolation – does not end the war in Syria, or the refugee crisis that it has caused, nor would it end the threat of Islamist terrorism in western democracies and beyond. Yet it is hard to imagine its defeat without it being bound up in an end to hostilities generally, and this can only be achieved with political agreement and military cooperation between the forces involved.

Boots on the Ground

So who then would act as Cameron’s boots on the ground? Certainly not the US who, after fourteen years of War on Terror 1 are not so keen to see its soldiers embroiled in War on Terror 2. It is widely known that the Peshmerga Kurds – even with air support, will not want to fight beyond what it see’s as its lands. What remains are a few friendly militia’s, the ineffective Iraqi Army and al-Assad’s own forces.

Hardly inspiring, yet nobody in their right mind could envision an EU or Nato force on the ground without the agreement of Russia or Iran. Similarly, could the west envisage allowing Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah troops (with or without Syrian Government support) to confront ISIS? When would they leave? Why would they leave? Would they then move against the al Nusra Front or the FSA? What would a western response to that be? The potential for a rapid spiral into unintended consequences is both unthinkable and unimaginable.


This leaves the regional powers such as Saudi Arabia (the source of the wahabi/salafist ideology of ISIS), Qatar (suspected of supporting ISIS), Jordan and possibly Egypt. All of whom seem as keen as the Americans to use ground forces.

The description of the situation as a quagmire seems hardly sufficient.

United Nations

There is no other workable option other than a political settlement on Syria conducted through the provision of a UN resolution with full Chapter 7 provision. This has its difficulties, of course: the removal of Bashar al-Assad for one; oil and gas supplies to Europe, another; a belligerent Putin another still. Then there is the necessary use of ground forces from Muslim nations. All this above and beyond a complex, but necessary, plan for the reconstruction of political and civil society in Syria.

Nevertheless, this is what we need to be urgently calling for as our political leaders blindly steer us toward a massive strike on Syria without a prior political – or even military, solution being put before parliament. That Cameron thinks he can go away and develop such before bringing it before parliament next week is quite frankly laughable. That he is doing so without a moment’s glance towards our nation’s recent and past foreign interventions leaves one incredulous.

Foreign Policy

It would be tedious, for the reader at least, to begin to retrace the errors of past adventures abroad in order to temper present haste – that would necessitate a less than brief diversion through Bush and Blair, to The Hague. Allow me, instead to present a segment of today’s (Thursday 20/11/2015) Georgetown University speech by one of America’s democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders. Here he lays out the thought process that must occur before we begin to beat the drums of war. He does so with a concision that is sadly beyond me:

 “Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973 (show us that) (t)hese are the sorts of policies (that) do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.”

Cameron and Co’ would do well to have the above tattooed on their knees for when they start jerking.

Nearer to Home

In conjunction with international cooperation on a military and diplomatic front, and mindful of the outcomes of past and present foreign policy, we are aware of the need to confront and combat the importing of terrorism from Syria to our own shores – and that we need to do so whilst retaining the freedoms, liberties and democratic values that we hold dear. Yet the attacks on Paris, like the attacks on the UK, have, for the most part, been conducted by citizens of these respective nations, who, for whatever reasons, seek to identify themselves with a fascist totalitarian ideology based on a religious book with its roots in the 7th century.

How should we respond to this failure to identify with the values of liberal democracy, of justice, of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, of freedom both of and from religion?

Why would Muslim citizens torn between these identities choose one over the other?

Perhaps we should start by initially reconfiguring the question and asking why is it that most Muslims do not involve themselves in terrorism? Why is it that most Muslims, in spite of a holy book that demands the fall of infidel rule and the imposition, through force if necessary, of a caliphate, do not pick up arms to achieve this. The reality, of course, is far more complex than the oft touted Sunni-Shia divide, or the division between conservative, jihadi, and takfiri Muslims. The reality is there are, as with Christianity, as many forms of Islam as there are Muslims. The reason that all Muslims do not slay the Infidel wherever they may find them, is the same reason that Christians do not take their insolent children to the City gates to stone them to death.

The truth is that most people of faith would think either of the above totally abhorrent and so far removed from their image of their religion as to be a falsehood. A damned lie. That the words invoking such actions can be pointed to in their holy texts merely nod to the various forms of cognitive dissonance displayed by all people of faith: science healing their life-threatening infection attributed not to the Enlightenment or the development of evolutionary biology, but to prayer or divine intervention.

What does this point to?

To Be Continued…

Note: This article is presented unfinished, but as the situation is fluid and fast-moving I thought I would publish it as an ongoing piece that will be added to and completed over the next few days. AS

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