The Other I

November 23, 2015

Should we bomb Syria?

Britain right now is in the grips of a debate over whether to join the coalition bombing IS in Syria.  The Tory government thinks we should.   Jeremy Corbyn, the controversial leader of the opposition Labour party and long-time pacifist is adamantly against it.  He believes that all conflicts should be solved by diplomacy, and initially in the face of a terrorist threat in London similar to the one in Paris, objected to increased armed police on the street.

I think we should bomb Syria IF – and only IF – we address the fundamental issues.  IS, in my view, is like a 2-year old who’s got a hold of a stack of papers he’s lighting with the wood fire in the living room and throwing them around the house.  He has to be stopped immediately – not through negotiation or discussion.  If it involves smacking him – or bombing them, then I would do that.  But just as with the child, you can’t stop there.

We were “successful” in our bombing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libia, but were arrogant idiots in our ignorance about the underlying problems there and ultimately made the fundamental conflicts within those countries worse.  Every one of those countries now have much stronger pockets of IS,  unknown numbers of trained committed jihadists – perhaps as many as several hundred thousand by some estimates – serving as recruitment and training centers for countries throughout Africa and the Middle East.

In addition, IS has money, and a sophisticated plan to convince Muslims, especially in Europe & America, that they are not welcome there, and are seen as inferior.  IS (quite rightly, I think) believe that this is helping them recruit jihadists from those countries, especially among young men who can’t get jobs.  America has just played into their hands with its latest vote on Syrian refugees.
And there is an even deeper problem within middle-eastern countries than feeling thought inferior and unwanted by Western countries.  The Sunnis & Shias are as adamantly opposed to each other as were the Catholics & Protestants during the religious wars for several centuries in Europe.  They believe Allah has given them a mission to destroy the heretics who do not agree with them.  So if we go into those countries, victory will require boots on the ground.  But military presence wouldn’t be enough.  We need a strategy for what happens if/when IS per se is defeated to control the forces that are making it so attractive to so many.  Otherwise, it will simply re-emerge, perhaps under a different name, but no less destructive.
I’ve read some interesting possibilities on that.  But they will require significant skill to implement them.  China, Russia, Europe, Iran, Turkey, the US and others may be united against IS but we are not in agreement about the alternatives either politically or economically.  Without that, what good would bombing do?  “Isis” will just turn up again, under a different name perhaps, but with the same deadly intents and possibly in even greater strength.
Climate change and globalization have both been significant factors in amplifying these conflicts.  Resolving them – even moderating them sufficiently to ensure the survival of the human species – I think is one of the biggest conflicts we have ever faced.  Unfortunately, neither slamming the door nor dropping bombs will resolve them.


  1. While knowing that I do not understand all the issues, my feeling is against bombing ISIS in Syria. I would increase all sorts of security. That isn’t a solution of course, but if I had a vote, that’s how I think I would vote. It all feels very fait accompli as it did back in 2003 with Tony Blair and the 45 minute threat.


    Comment by sanstorm — November 29, 2015 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

    • My own view doesn’t seem too different from yours. I am not against bombing under all conditions. But I’m not convinced that Cameron has a credible plan about what to do besides bombing. And bombing is clearly not the whole answer. It could even make things worse. Politically and diplomatically I can’t remember a time when so many different incompatible interests were fighting. Both among the Syrian people themselves and now among the international powers who have vested interests there are so many different groups struggling for incompatible goals.

      On the other hand, I cannot see how Corbyn can possibly justify not giving the Labour MP’s a free vote.

      (My friends in America are aghast at some of the things that are being said by candidates for the presidential election next year. I tell them we have the same problem over here — politicians who are so convinced that they are absolutely right that they are incapable of negotiation or compromise. The difference is that they tend to be on the far right in the U.S., and on the far left here in Britain.)

      Thank you for sharing your view. I hope you will continue to do so. Please! Terry

      On Sun, Nov 29, 2015 at 7:47 PM, The Other I wrote:



      Comment by Terry Sissons — November 30, 2015 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

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