It is not often that I find myself agreeing, at least in part with Diane Abbott, but she and others have a point on Syria. She’s threatening to resign (yes she’s shadow public health minister) if Labour backs the government and attacks Syria.
She told the Guardian: “I voted against the Iraq War. At the moment, I can’t see anything that would make me vote for intervention in Syria. Essentially it’s a civil war. What Libya and Egypt have taught us is that these situations in the Middle East are complex. It’s not good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats.”
Iraq aside, the case for intervention in Syria seems purely focused on the use of chemical weapons – to send a message. It’s a cruise missile ticking off. Tanks, guns, rockets and airstrikes we can live with, but not chemical weapons.
So it is a message from PR man David Cameron and an impotent Barack Obama to show that they are not impotent when this is exactly what they are.
In the Guardian this morning, Giles Fraser puts it this way: “What politicians hate most is the perception that they are ineffective and that they are being led by events rather than in control of them. Yet this is precisely what an attack on Syria would represent. For there is obviously no wider plan as to how the west might enable Syria to transition to a more stable and peaceful state. Perhaps no such plan is possible.”
The impotency will only be underscored by the response from the Assad regime. It will not be listening to any message and strikes are unlikely to end the war as long as Russia and Iran continue to back Syria and supply weapons.
The West needs a plan. It has no plan. It does have bombs and ships and the experience of Libya has taught us that we can apparently do this stuff from afar. We can light up airstrips and command centres without apparent loss of personnel. It is the clinical future of modern warfare that we once read about, but failed to find in the deserts and poppy fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. But what then?
Unless Cameron and Obama follow this through and ensure the regime falls this use of weapons will be for nothing and even then there are no guarantees. This military action is, as Fraser says, all about us and not about Syria and that has to be a mistake.