Airstrikes in Syria will not make us safer

David Cameron is trying to have it both ways

The Commons Syria vote came after the culmination more of theatre than debate; a series of set pieces in which key questions went unanswered. Much of the public and Greens across the land agreed with Caroline Lucas that the case for war had not been made; has still not.

The following question, posed by Cameron, was made a necessary condition for going to war and is critical to any responsible assessment: “Could acting in this way actually increase the risk to our security by making an attack on Britain more likely?”

His answer: “If there is an attack on the UK in the coming weeks or months, there will be those who try to say it has happened because of our airstrikes. I do not believe that would be the case…. They attack us because of who we are, not because of what we do.”

The contention is: if it does happen, it would have happened anyway. Cameron is washing his hands of any causal responsibility, any linkage, between event A (our bombing in Syria) and event B (terrorist incident in UK).

Trying to have it both ways, Cameron would seek credit for any reduction in terrorist threat level (a stated aim) but absolve himself of any responsibility if things go pear-shaped. Is there a relationship between A and B or not? The answer cannot depend upon the undesireability of outcome, like seeking to absolve oneself of responsibility for collateral damage which one did not intend but did reliably bring about.

This smacks of an exercise in Cameron attempting to insulate himself from a future worry – that he will be partly blamed for a terrorist strike in the UK, which would not have happened were it not for his action. But we cannot know this, it’s a known unknown. To suppose, however, that there can’t be a linkage, as sure as Cameron takes himself to be retaliating now, is wishful thinking; or worse, an exercise in self-deception.

In some respects Cameron is like Blair. Both had made their minds up about war before seeking parliamentary approval. I fear the surety in Cameron’s face is a sign he has not understood the gravity of what he is doing; just as it may have dawned on Blair only later, in George Galloway’s words, “You can see the guilt written on his face!”

Humility rather comes from a recognition of our fallibility, that in trying to reduce harm risk of greater harm may result.

Politics is difficult enough when motives are honorable; as faulty reasoning, and other failures in competency, can be just as damaging as ill motivation. Would that our leaders addressed questions as to consequences more fully before engaging in shots in the dark.

The answer to Cameron’s question, alas, is surely yes, acting in this way could increase the risk to our security.

Shahrar Ali is the deputy leader of the Green Party

8 Responses to “Airstrikes in Syria will not make us safer”

  1. Sid

    We are NOT safe in the first place. Last year I worked at a major central government office in London and had to walk past two armed policemen standing in the lobby every morning on my way to the office. That is the impact of islamic terrorism on normal British life !!!

    It has to be cut off at source.

  2. stuartiannaylor

    Yes it would be great to see an end to the CIA.

  3. Alex MacCaskill

    The only way to get true democracy is to sell off the Houses of Parliament, dispense with all MPs and Lords, then vote on every measure directly. Here’s how:

    amzn.to/1N6FJ7d

  4. Wobbly chops

    It’s obviously better to bomb the nutters than not.

  5. JackieHolt

    “Could acting in this way actually increase the risk to our security by making an attack on Britain more likely?”

    Imagine what the world would look like today if we’d used that criterion in 1939.

    Cameron is washing his hands of any causal responsibility, any linkage,
    between event A (our bombing in Syria) and event B (terrorist incident
    in UK).

    ISIS is intent on establishing a Caliphate which will sweep across the Middle East and Europe – and eventually the entire globe. Yes, it’s preposterous, but let’s not pretend we need to provoke them before they will attack us. How do you explain the aid workers, journalists, etc. it has murdered? Do you think those horrors were a response to provocation?

  6. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    And the empty comparisons with World War 2 continues, if only to distract from those of Iraq…and Libya.

    So what if they are intent on ‘mad supervillain plan #177′? So what? There’s a big difference between your favoured comparison the Nazis and Daesh: can they or can they not actually do it? The most generous estimate the CIA(who have every reason to exaggerate and still don’t come close to Daesh’ own claimed strength) give is 31,000. Even if we took the enemy claims seriously, a quarter of a million fighters without any substantial air, armour or artillery support can’t ‘sweep’ the Middle East, let alone take territory on Europe’s most eastern borders. Turkey would certainly be taking them more seriously if that was the case, instead the evidence shows they might even be trading with Daesh.

    It isn’t even about provocation alone; to Daesh leadership, provocation to attack the West isn’t needed, but to disgruntled home-grown Islamists, Western foreign policy has been a massive contributing factor. Those who seek to commit massacres have the whole responsibility for their choices, but they were given those choices in the first place by chest-beating nincompoops in cosy air-conditioned offices trying to distract from their own domestic failures.

  7. JackieHolt

    I haven’t compared ISIS to the Nazis, I was making the point that policies of appeasement (and leaving ISIS free to expand certainly is appeasement) against an enemy only allows it to gain strength. We tried appeasement in the 1930s, it just allowed Hitler to grow more formidable until he crossed a final ‘red line’.

    It isn’t even about provocation alone; to Daesh leadership, provocation
    to attack the West isn’t needed, but to disgruntled home-grown
    Islamists, Western foreign policy has been a massive contributing
    factor. Those who seek to commit massacres have the whole responsibility
    for their choices, but they were given those choices in the first place
    by chest-beating nincompoops in cosy air-conditioned offices trying to
    distract from their own domestic failures.

    That’s reads as cowardly acquiescence to terrorism for fear of retaliation. We should first ask what is the right thing to do, then ask how we protect ourselves from the consequences. Otherwise we’re in the business of appeasement again.

  8. danashop.ru

    The prime minister said there would not be a vote in the Commons unless there was a majority for action “because we will not hand a publicity coup to Isil”.

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