I took to the time to read Cameron’s memorandum on the proposed Syria air strikes after the Guardian published it in full.
I don’t have a pat answer.
Pushing memories of 2003 in Iraq to one side, the stated objectives of the strike, as outlined in this document are (commentary in italics my own):
- Protect the UK from terrorism (in an as-yet-undefined-way that the War on Terror thus far has not)
- Generate negotiations on a political settlement (by dropping bombs?)
- Thus delivering a government that can credibly represent the Syrian people (see above)
- degrade and defeat Daesh (ISIL) (OK, maybe..but it’s worth noting that bombing Iraq didn’t get rid of Saddam’s cronies – in fact many of them are in Daesh and given the regional instability/weak states there is a strong likelihood that they’ll just move to Libya or something. Hey, didn’t we bomb Libya…?)
- continue our “leading role in humanitarian support” and stem migration flows (by restricting legal migration routes even further and then….bombing people? Fish. barrel.Rock. hard place. )*
- support stabilisation in Iraq and plan for post-conflict Syria (details yet to be provided but again…bombing will hasten this how again?)
- work with allies to combat extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere (OK, I guess that’s true. It’s just…we haven’t really made any dents in that master plan yet and I don’t see how UK adding to the bombing, which I might add is already underway by other countries, will in any way make a tangible difference – for the better. The worse is the bit that really worries me)
Having read the document in full (these points are expanded on) I’m just not sure bombing is a good idea and that the post-bomb plans have been developed.
Tonight they debate. Tonight they vote.
The media coverage has been predictably anti-Corbyn as they contrive to make this Corbyn’s bombing rather than Cameron’s. He was dictatorial to consider making Labour MPs vote by the Whip and is apparently weak to have allowed them a free vote. There has been more reporting of politics as a game (which Labour is losing) rather than the real issues at stake in this momentous decision. I suspect the vote will be for the bombing. And I suspect that Labour will be punished for it, if there is any punishment coming from an unwilling public, rather than the Tories.
Tomorrow, instead of a sober analysis of what this all means, I expect, from the right wing press, a focus on Labour divisions; and from the Guardian I expect more hysterical articles about “moderates” flouncing out of the party “Why I’m leaving Labour” and how they felt pressured by constituents (who will be rebranded as deranged Corbynistas) to vote against the war and how this is not the new, gentler politics blah blah.
Wrestling with an issue is not weakness. I respect MPs of all political persuasions who have weighed up the issue and voted with their conscience. It’s a shame that the press is keen to leap on any uncertainty as weakness and any wavering as an indictment of either Cameron or Corbyn’s leadership. It’s bigger than politics; it’s bigger than them.
People (innocent and otherwise) are going to die.
*and major side eye for this alleged “leading humanitarian role” we supposedly have going on in the humanitarian refugee crisis. In word and in deed, we aren’t doing nearly enough.