Bombing Syria, the pros and cons

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Unsurprisingly, David Cameron is once again pushing for a British military campaign in Syria. He insists it is the right thing for Britain to do, but has failed to convince the country that this is the case. In order to assess the strength of the prime minister’s argument then, it is worth looking at some pros and cons of carrying out more air strikes in the Middle East.

The pros

  1. Bombs will kill some Daesh (Isis) soldiers and leaders (though it won’t kill the group’s ideology, which has supporters around the world).
  2. It will satisfy some people’s desire for revenge (while encouraging their devaluation of the lives of civilians that will no doubt lose their lives).
  3. It will temporarily reduce Daesh’s material capabilities (while failing to address how the group gained such capabilities in the first place).

The cons

  1. Daesh wants military escalation – which will inevitably lead to destruction and civilian deaths – and it wants division in the West based on religious grounds. This will make it easier for it to recruit more supporters.
  2. Intelligence agencies and analysts say that terrorist groups like Daesh simply feed off Western errors to recruit more followers.
  3. The West’s interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya didn’t solve anything. In fact, they made matters worse. We need to learn from these experiences.
  4. A focus on air strikes will distract citizens from the role Western governments and their allies have played in creating Wahhabi extremism and fuelling its growth. This essentially means letting these regimes off the hook, and allowing them to continue pursuing the destructive policies that have led to the situation the world is in today. Bombs will do nothing to address the social and political causes of extremism – which are often linked to the West’s previous actions in the Middle East.

What are the real solutions?

Considering the points made above, the reasons not to support air strikes seem to be far more compelling than the reasons to support them. So what is the alternative?

Below are just a few key ways to weaken Daesh:

  1. Pressure the Turkish State to stop its attacks on progressive Kurdish communities, reach a peace accord with the anti-Daesh fighters of the PKK, and to end its blockade of Rojava, whose forces are also on the frontline in the fight against Daesh.
  2. Stop covering up for Turkey’s evidenced complicity with the expansion of Daesh.
  3. Stop backing the wrong regimes in the Middle East, like the Kurdish nationalist regime in Iraq and the ethnoreligious chauvinists in charge of Turkey. Instead, recognise and support the progressive and democratic alternative presented by Rojava.
  4. Look at why Daesh members have been radicalised – such as the exploitation of marginalised, oppressed, and destroyed communities by missionaries of the intolerant ideology of Wahhabism – and act to address these problems. This is not just a petition of anti-war activists. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked the USA and Russia to unite to “address some of the root causes of terrorism”.
  5. Seriously reform Britain’s foreign policy with regards to the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar – which have spread the Wahhabi ideology that inspired Daesh. As Quotidien d’Oran columnist Kamel Daoud has said, “Daesh has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex”.
  6. Push for a permanent settlement of the ‘Palestinian Question’. In other words, stop ignoring the crimes of the Israeli state, which fuel the perpetuation of conflict in the region.
  7. Reach a political settlement in Syria immediately. And this should involve all regional and international players in the conflict.

An incredibly courageous stance will be needed from our politicians if these actions are to be taken. Such a position would almost certainly threaten Britain’s access to cheap oil from despotic regimes in the Middle East. It would also leave British arms manufacturers with less business in the region. But we should not be afraid of the consequences of doing the right thing. As Cameron has said himself:

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the threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot afford to stand aside and not to act

And he is completely right. Action desperately needs to be taken to reduce the threat from Daesh and to end the war in Syria. But that action is not Cameron’s planned campaign of British air strikes. As argued by The Canary previously, the actions needed are complex and profound political changes, which Cameron does not seem prepared to make.

That is why we must ensure that our voices are heard by participating in local or national protests against the government’s desired military escalation in Syria and by telling our MPs exactly how we feel about the situation.


Featured image via Ronny Przysucha/Wikimedia Commons

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