Let’s have a couple of years off wars


This week’s statement on Syria to the Commons worried many MPs. There is little appetite for us to become more involved in the dreadful Syrian civil war. MPs are united in condemning the brutality of the current regime in Syria. Many of us are also doubtful that the UK could help were it to supply arms to people there or to make moves with the USA and others towards military intervention.

My favourite spending  cut has been to remove our troops from front line duties in Afghanistan and to get most of them home altogether. I think they have done enough. The  Afghans can now do their own patrolling. I have pleaded with Ministers to put our troops out of harm’s way where possible by discontinuing UK patrols, with fewer troops remaining for any additional training and back up the Afghans may still need.

I now find msyelf urging caution over Syria. Just who are the opposition forces we wish to help? How can we distinguish between those opposition forces who believe in liberty and democracy, and those who wish to replace one tyranny with another? How could we ensure any arms supply went just to the people we can be sure have the right intentions? How do you stop the regime taking the weapons on or after delivery? How do you distinguish between the different opponents of the regime? How do you ensure that an apparently well intentioned opponent does not come less well intentioned should he receive arms from us? How do you get the arms into the country against the wishes of the Syrian government?

Many of Syria’s neighbours are rich and well armed states. Why don’t we leave this set of problems to the Middle Eastern powers to tackle?



  1. lojolondon
    May 22, 2013

    John, you are absolutely right! Have we learnt nothing in the last Century about supporting terrorists? Currently in the Middle East, peaceful countries under long-term dictators are being violently overthrown by the Taliban. For some reason, the Western governments and media are siding with the Taliban!
    The worst part is, they never thank you, in fact they hate you! (Best example being Bin Laden). Talk about failure to learn from history!

    1. Leslie Singleton
      May 22, 2013

      lojojohn–Maybe we could put a bit more effort in to understanding why “they” hate us, for they most certainly do, witness, if witness were needed, the apparently limitless supply of suicide bombers who happily kill themselves to get at “us”. For a start, they think, apart from all else, that the West has become morally degenerate and they have a point. Of course mickey mouse same sex “marriages” are not going to help at all.

      1. sm
        May 22, 2013

        It’s worth remembering that religious fanatics, including Muslims, are very happy to kill each other – as is happening this week in Iraq.

      2. Bickers
        May 22, 2013

        Our way of life, warts & all is none of their business and is no justification for them attacking us. You write as though these islamic regimes are superior to ours. Are you bonkers?

        1. Leslie Singleton
          May 23, 2013

          Bickers–Who mentioned religion? My point related to Western society in general. There are many aspects of this, one being the fact that “we” cannot resist trying at every turn to pretend that men and women (never mind homosexual men and women) are supposed to be increasingly identical. “They” hate this (and much else) and where there is hate it only needs a spark to ignite much worse. For nearly 50 years I have used Mitchum (Revlon) roll-on deodorant but when I tried to buy some last week I was authoritatively told (Boots OTC, plus in writing by Revlon when I expostulated) that despite (said the lady in Boots) Mitchum’s selling 24 (!) different types of deodorant it was now impossible to buy their Men’s deodorant unperfumed. Revlon told me that if I wanted to continue to use their product I had to use products from their “Women’s” range, two of which apparently are unperfumed “because our products are unisex as regards their ingredients” (!!). It is not just Mitchum, and I have yet to find an unperfumed roll-on of any brand despite shelves of deodorant as far as the eye can see. This sort of nonsense is a tiny manifestation of my point, which could be elaborated on in a thousand ways.

      3. Chris
        May 22, 2013

        I don’t think Cameron has the wisdom/intelligence to see that, but I think you are right, LS.

      4. APL
        May 23, 2013

        Leslie Singleton: “Maybe we could put a bit more effort in to understanding why “they” hate us .. ”

        Personally, I couldn’t give two hoots ‘why they hate us’, we should use our technological advantage to make sure they don’t hate us for very long.

        I am very unhappy about the policy of allowing any old Tom, Dick or Harry into the country (etc ed)

      5. Bazman
        May 23, 2013

        Burka for you Leslie you know it makes sense.

    2. Disaffected
      May 22, 2013

      Spot on JR. We should also be able to deport people suspected of such crimes back to their country of origin or suspected crime without the ECHR ruling what the country can or cannot do. But this is the EU for you. The ECHR being interwoven int he Lisbon treaty etc. Cameron wants to fight heart and soul to stay in it!! So the UK fights them, imports them and then cannot get rid of them. It also costs the UK taxpayer a fortune! And the government thinks it provides us security!! Radical change is required.

      1. Disaffected
        May 22, 2013

        There might be another reason, the UK has got rid of its aircraft carrier, sold its planes to the US at remarkably low prices, destroyed nymrod planes being built and is cutting back the army to 82,000. However, in contrast Cameron can give £11- 13 billion in overseas aide to countries who are nuclear powers and have got better defence equipment ie aircraft carrier than the UK. And Cameron talks about others as fruitcakes or swivel eyed loons.

        Our borders are not secure, we cannot prevent anyone coming here and we cannot get rid of them because of ECHR, yet the UK wants to provoke extremists by taking stupid decisions around the world and are surprised that they retaliate.

      2. uanime5
        May 23, 2013

        What about “home grown” terrorists? You can’t deport them because they’re from the UK. It’s a major mistake to believe that all terrorists are foreign.

    3. uanime5
      May 22, 2013

      The only government I can think of that was overthrown by the Taliban was the Afghan government created after the Soviet Union created invaded Afghanistan.

      Also the US Government funded the Taliban because it was willing to fight against the Soviet Union. Maybe this is why some Western Governments have gone back to supporting the Taliban.

  2. Patryk
    May 22, 2013

    Well said, Mr Redwood! The murders of Christians by the current “Christian rebels” is so underreported in the western press it beggars belief. I say let’s stay out of it, we in Europe and the UK have enough of our own problems.

    1. APL
      May 22, 2013

      Patryk: “I say let’s stay out of it .. ”

      One might also recall that the Middle East as it currently stands is the result of Western geopolitical engineering after the first and second world wars. The geographical boundaries that the West set up bore little relation to the various tribes and nationalities that existed on the ground – similar to Africa – at the time.

      Perhaps we should just stand back and allow these countries to disintegrate then reintegrate along lines that better suit the population that live there?

      1. Dan H.
        May 22, 2013

        Looking at Syria, I see a civil war partly caused by internal ethnic tensions, and partly caused by the Shia/Sunni divide in Islam. It would also seem to be the case that major powers in the region are already funding and arming both sides, and that there is no shortage of weapons and ammunition in the area; there also seems to be a few chemical weapons shells knocking about the area (though precisely how many, nobody knows).

        Were we to try to intervene, we’d need a force big enough and nasty enough to make either or both of the current combatants back down. This wouldn’t be a small force; we’d need hundreds of thousands of troops, with full air and navy support together with all the heavy armour we can muster. Anything less than this risks either or indeed both of the sides there turning round and having a go at our forces, indeed even with an overwhelming force advantage the rebels are easily stupid enough to have a go at our forces once.

        We don’t have the spare money for such an endeavour. There’s no prize worth expending the billions of pounds (that we don’t have spare) or thousands of lives needed to intervene. Even if we do intervene, we would end up having to police a ceasefire, having imposed one by force on the combatants by killing at least 10% of each side. Once in, we cannot back out; we’d be there decades keeping two collections of silly buggers apart.

        Worst of all, we’d not only have home-grown combatants there, but every would-be jihadi nutjob on the planet who fancied having a go at us. It would be an ongoing disaster for us.

        On the other hand, if we don’t intervene, the conflict will drag on and on, and act as a magnet for thousands of would-be freedom fighters in the region. Pretty much all the mobile, stupid and overly-aggressive lunatics in the region would eventually gravitate to the place, and many would find a sandy grave there. The major powers in the area would similarly wear themselves out trying to fund an ongoing boondoggle of a war, and the Sunni/Shia conflict would eventually run out of active fighters.

        So, might I propose a novel solution to all of this?

        Let’s leave ’em to it. It ain’t our fight, and we would have a devil of a job stopping it anyway, with no compensation or thanks if we tried. Leave ’em to fight themselves to a standstill.

  3. backofanenvelope
    May 22, 2013

    I am with you Mr Redwood. My only quibble is the idea we should mind our own business for just a couple of years. Lets got for a permanent re-arrangement of our foreign and defence policy. No more American wars. No more French wars. Just adopt the hedgehog policy – with the help of Trident.

    1. Robert Taggart
      May 22, 2013

      Pax Brittannica = the defence of Blighty and nowhere outside of NATO.
      No permanent British bases overseas (in the case of the Falklands – eventually – hopefully) and no permanent foreign bases (American – as the case be) in Blighty.
      Time for toning down our defence / foreign policy/ pretensions.

  4. Mark W
    May 22, 2013

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been totally against our involvement in all the last decade’s wars. Although fashionable journalists have left Libya it appears it’s worse than before and now we have Syria. The other week the BBC were crying chemical weapons to anyone who’d listen until it looked like the rebels had used them.

    We don’t know enough and it’s not our business. Also Assad has lead the nation as a secular country leaving it relatively safe for Christian Arabs and other minority groups. Would another group care so much.

    Like you say. There are rich neighbours who understand Arab culture far better than us.

    1. Mark W
      May 22, 2013

      Correction. Ive slightly misquoted you in that last sentence unintentionally.

    2. Onnalee Cubitt
      May 22, 2013

      I could not agree more. These civil wars are not for us to get involved in. We have a great army, but it is an army whose central purpose is to protect OUR people and nation.

  5. alan jutson
    May 22, 2013

    Your post today is absolutely spot on.

    Just look at what is now happening in Iraq, Libya, with perhaps the same in Afghanistan. Lots of different factions at still almost at war with each other.

    Let the Arab Nations sort it themselves, either directly, or through the United Nations, and let them send in their troops.

    Unfortunately it is oil supplies which are at risk, thus our voice is still needed at the UN

    1. Mark
      May 22, 2013

      Fortunately Syria produces only small quantities of oil, and the pipeline from Iraq that used to provide a flow to the port of Banias has long been bypassed by the line through Turkey to Ceyhan: it only feeds the Syrian refinery at Homs these days (and that may be cut too in present circumstances), although it was used by Saddam as a sanctions buster.

  6. Old Albion
    May 22, 2013

    Have some politicians learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Thousands of British troops killed or maimed (alongside thousands of civilians) and when the remainder leave, both countries will slowly revert to their pre-intervention state.

    1. Robert Taggart
      May 22, 2013

      Methinks the survival of so many maimed combatants (is a very sad tragedy-ed) – in the / their long run.

  7. lifelogic
    May 22, 2013

    Clearly you are right, the recent wars have been a pointless and counter productive activity. Perhaps over a million deaths as a result of the conflicts, plus many more severely injured and all for what? When will politicians ever learn? Why do they want to incubate terrorism in this way?

    They could not even control Northern Ireland, where both sides where Christians, speaking English and it is very close to home, what chance have they got in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan?

  8. Mike Stallard
    May 22, 2013

    What is the foreign office advising Mr Haig?

    Here is just one suggestion.
    Nobody nowadays in the West is religious. So this war must be a democratic revolt like 1776 or 1640.
    Or here is another.
    Sunni and Shia have been at each other’s throats since the four rightly guided caliphs. They actually believe in Allah, in the Sharia and that Islam is the truth.

    Me, I’m a Catholic. I just don’t want to see the Syriac church wiped out.

    Our tiny little army is not going to be able to affect any of this.

  9. sm
    May 22, 2013

    Totally agree, John, and have been saying this since the Syrian atrocity started. We are not, and cannot be, the world’s policeman.

    Some of the Middle East’s problems are down to well-meaning but ignorant British interference before and after WW1 – does no-one remember the adage that those who do not understand their history are condemned to repeat it?

  10. Roy Grainger
    May 22, 2013

    Actually John this is one area where your views differ from UKIP’s policy, as I understand it they want a large increase in defence spending. Why ? Presumably so they can participate in foreign adventures like this. It is an odd position for a low tax, low spend libertarian party to take.

    My view is that as we pay a large subscription fee to the EU we should just let them sort out things like this, just say “We’ll support EU action”, as this is driven by Germany EU “action” will be precisely zero so we get our preferred level of involvement (none) and play at being “good Europeans” too.

  11. M Davis
    May 22, 2013

    I agree, apart from the, ‘couple of years off’. Politicians in Britain have interfered far too many times recently in other Countries, when it is none of their business. It is the UN’s business to keep the peace and security in Nations. Our Politicians should be concentrating on the defence of Britain only and stop dancing to the USofA’s tune.

  12. Nick
    May 22, 2013

    So Afghanistan is safe.

    So safe infact that we have to offer asylum to Afghan interpreters.

    Black is white. White is black. The ministry of truth is in full swing

  13. Tad Davison
    May 22, 2013

    I think you might just get 100% support on this one John!


  14. Alte Fritz
    May 22, 2013

    Couldn’t agree more. We are sleepwalking into disaster. We can do no good by intervening, only harm.

  15. Brian Tomkinson
    May 22, 2013

    Agreed, but this won’t cut much ice with Hague who takes every opportunity to show that he can barely contain his enthusiasm to get us directly involved. He portrays the persona of a warmonger continually talking about arming the rebels (just whoever he thinks they are) and insisting that this will reduce the deaths in Syria. I don’t see how such an outcome follows from such action but precisely the opposite. What is the national interest to the UK of such intervention or what may be going on already in the form of ‘intelligence assistance’?

  16. Acorn
    May 22, 2013

    Save the Westminster 161, I say!!! Crikey JR, you have enough to start a new party there. I take it, all religious attributes are henceforth disconnected and jettisoned from the Conservative Party. Archbishop Cranmer sums it up nicely with “Gay marriage brings gay supremacy; not equality”.

    BTW. We should have a new UN rule. You can’t get directly involved with insurrection or civil war in any country, unless you have a physical border with that country. So for Seria that is Turkey; Iraq; Jordan; Israel and Lebanon. The first hundred years will be the hardest me thinks, it was the last time. One hundred and fifty odd American military bases do not count as extended US boundaries.

    1. uanime5
      May 23, 2013

      Wouldn’t your rule have prevented France from aiding Mali’s Government against the Jihadists, even though the people of Mali opposed them? How is that just?

      1. Acorn
        May 23, 2013

        It isn’t just, but that is irrelevant. Those natural gas terminals cost a fortune to build and getting staff to work there, even for double pay, is a nightmare.

  17. The PrangWizard
    May 22, 2013

    I support your view. We must change our view of ourselves in the world. I would also echo the opinion of ‘backofanenvelope’, and add to it.

    At the risk of seeming to be isolationist, our defence policies should be designed for own clear and distinct interests only primarily, we should not fit ourselves into what others might want of us. These policies should, in my view, however, be for England and Wales only, since I doubt if the Scots can be relied upon any more given the anagonism if not racist attitude of the SNP and many Scottish people toward England and the English. They continue to push for independence and thus we must exclude them from our future thinking. We would be foolish to do otherwise.

    Our constitutional arrangements are fiendishly complex but we must get away from the mindset that the Union must or will survive, it is badly cracked and will break eventually.

    We thus need policies in all areas of governance now for England. We should first have an English Manifesto from all of the political parties followed by English parliament so that they can be implemented without the influence of people from a potential antagonistic foreign country.

    Another problem is that the we are frighteningly beholden to the US and thus there are very few decisions we can make at present without their permission. We must start a break away from their dominance over us. They will sell us down the river without a second thought. Just look at the issue of the Falklands. Some will say it is impossible but that is to be defeatist.

  18. Elliot Kane
    May 22, 2013

    “Many of Syria’s neighbours are rich and well armed states. Why don’t we leave this set of problems to the Middle Eastern powers to tackle?”

    This is exactly what we should do, yes. If our leaders have an ounce of sense, it’s what they will do.

  19. zorro
    May 22, 2013

    Yes, yes, yes……I have mentioned before about how woeful the situation has become in Syria because of the meddling of the Western Allies and their proxies…….Syria was a beautiful country with a wonderful history and excellent historical sites. It was peaceful, multi-ethnic and tolerant, and absolutely no threat whatsoever to the West…..However, it was on a certain hit list of countries which another certain country wanted to be weakened…..

    The reporting on Syria has been a one sided disgrace. Yes, there has been violence but what was the Syrian government supposed to do under under armed attack by fanatical foreign mercenaries?……Then we have the ridiculous chemical weapons tragi-comedy. There is certainly evidence of the rebels having access to chemical weapons, and videos of their gruesome cruelty. Of course, war is hell all around, but the MSM presentation has been a farce…….I seem to recall that a certain other country has bombed the Syrians several times in what appears a seeming act of war…….Oh sorry, legitimate self defence……

    It seems, however, that the tide may be turning. I just hope that the people of Syria get some respite from these fanatics. The Western allies have caused another refugee crisis. Cameron at his best doubtless……


    1. zorro
      May 22, 2013

      Which bits should I censor from my comment?……I’ll have another go….

      Yes, yes, yes……I have mentioned before about how woeful the situation has become in Syria because of the meddling of the (names certain countries) and their proxies…….Syria was a beautiful country with a wonderful history and excellent historical sites. It was peaceful, multi-ethnic and tolerant, and absolutely no threat whatsoever to the West…..However, it was on a certain hit list of countries which another certain country wanted to be weakened…..

      The reporting on Syria has been (less than dispassionate). Yes, there has been violence but what was the Syrian government supposed to do? (alleges that fanatical foreign mercenaries are in the country)……Then we have the ridiculous chemical weapons tragi-comedy. There is certainly evidence of the rebels also having access to chemical weapons, and videos of their gruesome cruelty. Of course, war is hell all around (more comments about alleged onesidedness in the media)…….I seem to recall that a certain other country has bombed the Syrians several times recently without provocation……

      It seems, however, that the tide may be turning. I just hope that the people of Syria get some respite from these fanatics. (Alleges that certain countries have caused another refugee crisis and goes on to claim that Cameron not at his best with foreign policy).…Is that OK?


  20. Chris
    May 22, 2013

    I think you are absolutely right, Mr Redwood, but sadly I think William Hague is framing up for intervention. I believe that Obama is more focused on the Far East, and would like the EU countries to assume what might have been thought to have been his role in the Middle East. It seems that Hague wants to appear influential on the world stage and is using this as an opportunity to grandstand. We are not that world power that we were, and we do not have the resources. Neither does the government have the mandate from the electorate to launch the UK into yet another war on very dubious grounds. I think this will lead to enormous problems and danger too, such as you have highlighted in your article.

  21. Malcuk
    May 22, 2013

    John, an article that I hope many will agree with, thanks!

    As others before me have written, our foreign wars have mainly been a waste of time. The countries revert to type fairly quickly after we leave.

    I am also minded to note that wars in Muslim countries are even worse. (muslim societies are very different from western democracies etc)

  22. Colin E
    May 22, 2013

    Having lived in the Middle East for 10 years I have always wondered why such states buy weaponry as they do. Big lumbering militaries with all sorts of material and advisors…and then nothing much happens.

    I understand that within the Islamic belief it was paramount that those of the belief would look after each other no matter who and where. Sounds good. Doesn’t work quite like that though does it? And the Arab League ? More to that that of course.

    I find the introduction of our ground force into those regions as simply madness and that will not solve the issues existing. Such issues are historic and will never go away. I was perpetually reminded of that by Arabs and of their tribal relations .

    Seems we have to put a large force of ground troops down to get some of them seriously maimed or killed by small groups of fighters. I find that contemptuous of our Gov in pursuing a cause often related to our home security. The fall out is of course on the innocents that we seemingly want to protect (as with any conflict). Those of the faith are largely missing though? Big militaries, awkard mouths and no teeth.

    There are certain ways to remove those in power that are clearly dangerous and as we see, to their own extraordinarily murderous. Those certain ways don’t happen either. I don’t have a solution to it all but I don’t want any of the current ones. But killing our young men is truly appalling. No war in Europe appears to be right for now. Simply move it down and to the left or right though.

  23. English Pensioner
    May 22, 2013

    I fully support what you say.
    Why won’t our politicians learn from the past? The British have been trying to control Afghanistan and what is now northern Pakistan ever since the British first went to India and have always failed. What made them think that they would succeed this time in Afghanistan?
    The same applies to the Middle East, European powers have been there on and off since the Crusades, again without much success. We should keep out and certainly not provide military equipment of any kind, any assistance should be purely of a humanitarian nature.
    Whilst it goes against our democratic instincts, there is no doubt in my mind that the average person was far better off in Iraq, Libya, Syria and even Egypt under a strong dictatorship, and we should have left well alone and let them sort out their own problems.

  24. MajorFrustration
    May 22, 2013

    Spot on. This is an arab problem. They seem to have the ability to fight amongst themselves so let them get on with it. Its up to the other arab states to sort things out. Nothing in it for us – especially if we were to get involved – far better things for us to spend our money on. But you know what ego seeking politicians are like. – save the world and all that rubbish. We could of course legislate that for every foreign intervention we undertake requiring the involvement of our armed forces then 20% of MPs’ children over the age of eighteen are conscripted. Now that would make them think.

  25. Peter Davies
    May 22, 2013

    I totally agree 100% Sending arms to Syria would be like pouring petrol on a fire. I know there are dangers of it spilling over but its a Middle Eastern problem that needs a solution via international consensus – the first being that there should be a total arms embargo from ALL countries.

  26. A.Sedgwick
    May 22, 2013

    Agree with you totally.

    One of the many messages that our Governments have not received is that we are a small country with less than 1% of the world’s population and it is time we retreated to looking after our borders, people and interests.

    Iraq and Afghanistan have been tragic escapades with thousands of our best young people maimed and killed for no good reason. Over the years I quite literally found it sickening to listen to Blair, Brown and Cameron with the official Opposition trying to justify these wars.

    Numerous comments have been made recently that if we exited the EU we would lose our world influence – another reason for getting out.

  27. Dan M
    May 22, 2013

    I’m not usually with you JR (a Labour man) but you’re certainly right on this one.

  28. rick hamilton
    May 22, 2013

    Quite right.

    This is an Arab problem caused by Arabs and should be resolved by the Arab League. There is plenty of money there – and a lot of armaments – and the Saudis, Qataris and others are already involved, plus Iran through their Hezbollah puppets.

    For once, even the BBC cannot suggest that the British taxpayer has any responsibility for this mess. Humanitarian aid, yes, to refugees only. Last time I read about it the USA had promised and paid $200m. The Arab countries had promised four times as much but only paid 10%.

  29. Gary
    May 22, 2013

    We have been at war , non-stop, for 300 years. This is what the bankrupt policy of mercantilism entails. It is about time that we earned an honest farthing by competing on what we make , not whom we kill. That is the civilized and moral path.


    1. uanime5
      May 23, 2013

      What happens if what the UK makes is weapons?

  30. MickC
    May 22, 2013

    You are absolutely right.

    Unfortunately Cameron and Hague have been told by Obama what is to happen-so yes, we will be supplying arms very shortly.

  31. waramess
    May 22, 2013

    You are absolutely spot on but, why only a couple of years? Lets stop this nonsense forever and allow those outside our borders to control their own destiny.

    The UK economy is totally bust with little sign of anybody trying to repair it yet our Ministers continue to behave as if we are a world power whose role is to police the world and to provide aid selectively to poorer (and sometimes richer) nations.

    We have managed to stay out of atrocities in Africa so what is it, I wonder, about the Middle East, that plucks so much more at the heartstrings?

  32. DennisA
    May 22, 2013

    It is the rich neighbours who are the problem it seems. This interesting analysis at Oil-price.net has a ring of truth.

    “…..the Arab spring is nothing more than fundamental Islam’s hostile takeover of oil resources, with financial support from theocratic oil-rich nations such as Qatar and Iran. ”

  33. Javelin
    May 22, 2013

    My brother worked in the defence industry for a few years and told me that battle tested kit double or trebled in value. Does this explain much?

    I think it’s great you say this.

    Now the US has discovered shale oil I hope they have less desire to control the oil producing countries.

  34. Ferdinand
    May 22, 2013

    Quite right. This is the issue whenever we fight a war which is not about our rights and sovereignty – one never knows for sure who one is supporting. Factions are present in all oppositions whether to democratic governments or to dictatorships and one cannot tell who will rise to the surface. We should stay out of other people’s business unless our own democracy is threatened, directly or indirectly.

  35. Mark
    May 22, 2013

    I can see no strategic or humanitarian interest in trying to second guess the mess in Syria. Our intelligence on it is likely to be of poor quality, and with limited understanding of the ultimate motives of the various parties (which themselves may prove malleable as circumstances change).

    I agree entirely with your view.

  36. Kennth
    May 22, 2013

    When we interfere, whether covertly or overtly I think we clumsily upset the delicate power balance and end up with all sorts of unintended consequences which can lead to violence for decades to come.

    For example, we have a tendency to encourage national political structures where there often is a delicate patchwork of tribal and regional alliances.

    The killing is terrible but to what is extent is it happening because of historical interference (often by Europeans)?

    Yet more interference, however well intended could lead to more killings in the long run.

  37. Graham Swift
    May 22, 2013

    The fruitcakes and swivel-eyed loons are those who took us into Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place. In the latter case were there no politicians who have ever read a history book ? No one has ever won a war in Afghanistan ; the Russians couldn’t do it and with many more troops that the present forces who are there .
    As for the Middle East , also including Morocco , Libya , Egypt , Algeria ,Tunisia , all being taken over by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood , of whom we now have a considerable fellow travellers in the UK. (etc ed)

    1. uanime5
      May 23, 2013

      If you had read a history book you’d know that almost everyone who controlled Iran was also able to control Afghanistan. Alexander the Great, the Mongols, Il Khanate, and Timurids all controlled Afghanistan without any problem.

      1. Edward2
        May 23, 2013

        You need to check in your history book Uni, for how long and at what cost these invading tribes managed to successfully control these areas

        So invade Iran, is that what you are suggesting now Uni?

      2. zorro
        May 24, 2013

        Alexander the Great did not ‘control’ Afghanistan…….The Mongols were a force of nature, cruel in the extreme to those who opposed them, and the others were Islamic in nature….


  38. margaret brandreth-j
    May 22, 2013

    The middle eastern wars demonstrate little to the UK about sides and opponents with the exception that people are being maimed , killed and left to die, children are injured and starving in the aftermath and suffer inordinate hardship. How can we stand by and not be Samaritans to some extent, yet how do we know we do not inflame situations more by our presence or I hope , good intention. Diplomatic relations are the difficult ones and yes it is about time we withdrew from Afghanistan. As for rich states and arms , well .. havn’t we got a little interest in that too.

  39. PaulDirac
    May 22, 2013

    We should only use our armed forces in direct protection of the UK, this should be tattooed on Blair’s forehead.
    Syria is another snake pit and we should stay away from any involvement, this has become a tragic civil war we have no idea who is right and to those who claim we should interfere in the name of “realpolitik”, I say that since we can’t shape the outcome we should keep absolutely out.

  40. Robert Taggart
    May 22, 2013

    How about a couple of DECADES ! Johnny ?
    Blighty, at least on the part of its ‘political class’ – still deludes itself with a sense of imperial grandeur – even if they have accepted the role of poodle to those cowboys across the pond !

  41. uanime5
    May 22, 2013

    Given the problems that will occur if Syria is ruled by an organisation similar to the Taliban it would be foolish for the UK to ignore what is happening. A “quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing” doesn’t mean that it won’t effect the UK in some way.

    1. Gary
      May 22, 2013

      Translation : Paranoia as Policy (PAP).

    2. stred
      May 22, 2013

      I had a bet with myself you would disagree and things were going badly. Thanks for staying on form.

      1. Edward2
        May 22, 2013

        Taking the opposite view, regardless of the validity of the original debate is Uni’s general policy.
        Its a hobby, its not about not politics.

      2. uanime5
        May 23, 2013

        What is your evidence that it is going badly in Afghanistan? Last time I checked the Taliban were still hiding in their caves, rather than running Afghanistan.

        1. Edward2
          May 23, 2013

          Just wait until we leave and see what happens.

        2. Electro-Kevin
          May 23, 2013

          Uanime5 – Evidence ?

          Err… that Afghans who collaborated with the west need political asylum and visas in the UK ?

    3. Monty
      May 22, 2013

      If we have learned nothing else during the past decade, we have at least learned this: Islamic terrorists aspire to shoot us and bomb us, right here in the UK. Some pretext, however fatuous, will be trotted out on their suicide videos, to camouflage the fact that the perpetrators are wedded to sadism and savagery. If they have no other excuse, they would say it was payback for the crusades.
      Given that we can never win hearts and minds, why bother intervening?
      The problems we need to deal with are the ones that spring up on our territory. (etc ed)

    4. outsider
      May 23, 2013

      Dear uanime5, do you not find it interesting that a blog and readers that you would probably call right-wing are all for armed peace and against war while the centre-left gets us into one non-defensive war after another? The relentless modernisers, it seems, still live in the age of Palmerston.

      1. uanime5
        May 23, 2013

        All I’m saying is that if the UK does nothing now it may create problems in the future. As they say prevention is better than the cure.

        1. Tad Davison
          May 23, 2013

          There speaketh a Blairite interventionist.

          1. Edward2
            May 23, 2013

            I’m amazed how pro war you are Uni.

        2. Lindsay McDougall
          May 24, 2013

          “They’ve got to be protected
          All their rights respected
          Till someone we like can be elected.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  42. Javelin
    May 22, 2013

    A worry I have on conflict has remained the same for years now.

    One of the most problematic latent issues for me is the political structure of the EU. I have posted about this for about 5 years on your blog but thought I ought to repeat it.

    The problem with the EU is that it is not very democratic. In fact it’s a political castle – whoever holds the keep holds the power – and it’s very hard to get people out and once you are in the legal framework is overarching. I am sure the EU treaties have been written so openly that a good lawyer can create laws as they like.

    My fear (has always been) that some party -specifically an anti immigrant group of parties takes over the EU and we will see persecutions again. When I see the rioting in Sweden this fills me with dread. It could just happen that a large swing towards anti immigrations parties in the EU will create a powerful group. This could come out of the blue. The real danger is if anti immigration is adopted by the youth. There are huge numbers unemployed, and voter turn out is low. All that would be needed is motivation and the motives are there.

    1. uanime5
      May 23, 2013

      The problem with the EU is that it is not very democratic. In fact it’s a political castle – whoever holds the keep holds the power – and it’s very hard to get people out and once you are in the legal framework is overarching.

      Who are the these people you’re referring to?

      – It can’t be member of the European Council because they’re the leaders of member states who are democratically elected.
      – It can’t be member of the European Parliament because they’re democratically elected.
      – It can’t be members of the European Commission because they’re appointed by the Councillors, have to be approved by the Parliament, and on average are replaced every 5 years.

      So who are these people who are these hard to remove people holding the power?

      1. Tad Davison
        May 23, 2013

        We might have a vote where the election of our own MEPs is concerned, but how do we in the UK remove the ones from other countries who have made such a shambles in Europe? Yet the ones who have given us this mess, that we are paying for, can still out vote us. Democratic?

  43. John Orchard
    May 22, 2013

    To my mind William Hague is a clone of that Hawk Donald Rumsfeld but in the wrong direction. He wants to supply opposition forces in Syria with arms which no doubt would end up killing troops and people from the West. Why don’t we have someone who has served in the armed forces and is now an MP ( there are several ) taking the lead on this issue. He is out of his depth with his naivety and to my way of thinking a person who is going to cost innocent lives in the West. Let the Arabs sort their conflicts out. Again Religion is at the back of it.

    1. Chris
      May 22, 2013

      Yes, I agree with you J O, Hague is naïve. The problem is that there are some other hawks in the Cabinet/positions of influence e.g. Michael Gove (I understand he was a strong supporter of Iraq war and the Rumsfeld et al approach) and Liam Fox, and although nothing has come out into the open with regard to either of them, I think their track record would indicate that Hague would have some support for intervention. However, I believeObama is key, as has been said by others.

  44. William Henwood
    May 22, 2013

    Thank you for this article My sentiments entirely

    What a mess in Woolwich.

  45. Christopher Ekstrom
    May 22, 2013

    Best to maintain focus on the important policy: like gay “marriage” via Labour Party votes. You have done a fine job “modernizing” the “conservative” party out of existence.

  46. Martin Ryder
    May 22, 2013

    I totally agree with you over the mess in Syria; this is nothing to do with us and Hague’s excited interest in the long running disaster is very worrying. This is a not a Falklands, where we were fighting for our own people and our own interests, but is another Iraq where we have nothing to gain but misery. We should provide humanitarian aid to our NATO ally Turkey and leave it at that. The Moslems must sort this out themselves.

    However this doesn’t mean that we should withdraw into our shell and ignore everything that happens in the world. Our borders are global in that much of that which sustains us comes from overseas. We both buy and sell globally and much of our food and energy is sourced world-wide. This is especially true of the Persian Gulf area which provides us with both oil and natural gas.

    If our allies in the Gulf were to be replaced by enemies then we would have major problems. We may, as part of an international alliance, have to fight to preserve the governments that supply us, even though we might not agree with their human rights record, from their enemies.

    We cannot turn our backs to the World and hide under our beds; we must work with the international community (not just the USA) to help preserve international peace and international trade. The latter keeps us alive.

  47. John Wrake
    May 22, 2013

    Mr. Redwood,
    I think that your assessment is correct. we should not be involved. This is just another aspect of being governed by a conglomeration of unelected bureaucrats and youthful and ignorant home-grown politicians, who don’t understand their own country, let alone one in the Middle East. Perhaps in time our leaders will learn that lands East of Gibraltar are not inhabited by people from Surbiton with different coloured skin and interesting cooking.

    I believe that the UKIP policy to increase our armed forces is not related to any desire to police the world, but rather to ensure that this country can defend itself in an increasingly dangerous world, containing some who would willingly destroy us.

    The world, like Syria, is a lawless place and at present, we, too, live in a lawless nation, for our leaders have departed from the Rule of Law set out in our Constitution. How else can a government supported by H.M. Opposition approve a Bill and expect the Monarch to approve it knowing that it is contrary to Her position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Her Coronation Oath. That is not ignorance. It is treason.

    It is time such people are gone from Parliament.

    John Wrake

    1. Roy Grainger
      May 23, 2013

      If you are correct and UKIP has no desire to police the world then why do they want a massive increase in defence spending ? Why would we need a large standing army based only in UK ? It makes no sense at all. One benefit of withdrawing totally from foreign adventures should be a reduction in defence spending. An increase in police spending to counter hom-grown terrorists is a different matter. Anyway, I expect as in several other policy area UKIP’s policy is incoherent (and that doesn’t matter really as they are a 1-2 issue pressure group only).

  48. behindthefrogs
    May 22, 2013

    Let us start by removing the 15000 troops and their families on a faster timescale than the proposed 2017. The extra housing required for their families will provide a much needed boost to the construction industry. By the time the reduction of costs in Germany is taken into account and the various taxes balanced this exercise will probably actually cost very little.

  49. Roger Farmer
    May 22, 2013

    You are right to question the whole business of recent interventions.
    Afghanistan was sold as protecting the UK. I do not buy it. Domestic border controls that are effective and buying up the poppy production at farm gate prices would be much more realistic. Iraq was a total con to please George Bush for which Tony Blair should be utterly condemned. In Egypt, Libya, and Syria who could be sure of what we might be supporting. The only worthwhile gesture is humanitarian aid in adjacent countries to the victims of such conflicts.
    I feel the current governments posture is a reflection of our past that is now irrelevant. The armed forces are always to a degree enthusiastic because they can do for real what they have been practising in training. They like to see whether it works, but sadly lots of them get killed in the process.
    The Foreign Office were by repute populated by expert arabists. Have they all died off or are our present generation of pygmy politicians not taking their advice in a desire to play on an international stage.
    I feel that were our armed forces brought back to the UK and in part given control of our borders less the encumbrance of EU and ECHR legislation they could do an infinitely better job than the emasculated Border Agency do at the behest of the Home Office. The picture of flour coated illegal immigrants being directed to where they can get accommodation and hand outs by the said Border Agency is totally mind boggling.

  50. Alan Wheatley
    May 22, 2013

    The less we have to do with Syria the better I will like it.

  51. Mark B
    May 22, 2013

    Mr. Redwood MP

    One thing you forgot to mention is, if we supply weapons, do we not run the risk of those weapons, at sometime in the future, being used against us or our allies ?

    Syria is a far away place of which I, along with many others I am sure, know very little about. It is, and has never been, an ally of the UK.

    In your commons address and in The Foreign Secretaries reply, that the numbers or percentages of “moderate democratic’ forces were not known. Yet our Foreign Secretary would ‘argue’ as he puts it, that the extremist can get a weapon and not those that we wish to back. He also states that the coalition is committed to a democratic and non-sectarian future. I think you will find if you look around the Middle-East, apart from Israel there are not that many democratic or non-sectarian countries. It is therefore highly unlikely that we will get that which we seek. In fact, President Assad, who is an Alawite, maintained a non-sectarian state and kept the worst elements of his country, namely the Sunni’s at bay.

    If the Government, like those previous, are looking for a war to boost their ego and flagging poles at home, they better look elsewhere. We have reduced our military to nothing much more than weekend warriors, and I mean no disrespect to those people who give up their time in the defence of our country, but that is really all they are good for – defence.

    We can ill afford the loss in both blood and treasure. Another ill thought out and badly managed military escapade is the last thing we need. This really could push things over the edge and consign your party to the political wilderness for a generation at least.

  52. margaret brandreth-j
    May 22, 2013

    This is a sad occasion, that as we speak about terrorism and unruly killing by hysterical factions whose only interest is power, that the UK has to face (words left out prior to confirmation of the details of the case-ed) and witness the extremes these people are prepared to go to, to prove what?

  53. Phil
    May 22, 2013

    and now we can come home and be brutally murdered on our home soil.
    please ask David The Traitor Camaron how should soldiers and there family’s “carry as normal”

    feel free to calm my fears

    1. Electro-Kevin
      May 23, 2013

      Clearly the “We must fight complex wars abroad to protect ourselves at home” argument is a fatuous one. Suicidal terrorists inflamed by firebrand imams have no need of networks or special equipment.

      I expect that we British will be stoical and tolerant in the face of the latest ‘terrorist’ atrocity (though ‘terrorist’ deftly avoids any hint that it might be racist)

      Our record is excellent on this score though it is never acknowledged.

      There wasn’t a backlash against Irishmen when the IRA were murdering our people, there wasn’t a backlash against Muslims after 7/7, or the child sex revelations – (etc ed) and I doubt very much that there will be a backlash against the Muslim community this time either – I will be most proud of my people if there isn’t.

      We’re a pretty cool headed and fair minded lot really. Few people will vote BNP however much they are provoked – I’d sooner leave the country.

      David Cameron has been made to look powerless by Abu Qatada – a real ‘swivel eyed loon’ in our midst having fomented much anger in Muslim youth. He wouldn’t dare risk calling Qatada a ‘loon’ – I doubt even in private.


      He reserves this sort of contempt for those who happen to think that the Human Rights Act and the EU is a very bad idea.

      There has not been one ounce of praise for our restraint and sense of fair play despite often intense provocation and upheavel. Instead he sticks a hand crafted boot in on us in a manner that he wouldn’t dare do to someone who would hit back.

      I can’t bring myself to vote for him again.

      (RIP the poor soldier)

      1. Electro-Kevin
        May 23, 2013

        A reminder that this is the second servant of the Crown to have been beheaded on a London street.

        There were plenty of people about the scene willing to film it and post it on the internet too.

        This change in British character shocks me to the core.

  54. Jon
    May 22, 2013

    William Hague is a superb operator and one of our best politicians in our generation. I totally disagree with him on this one.

    1. APL
      May 23, 2013

      Jon: “one of our best politicians in our ”

      Doesn’t say much for the rest then, does it.

  55. Javin
    May 22, 2013

    I’ve spent an hour reviewing the coverage of the killing in Woolwich.

    My conclusion is that I believe the Conservatives will now fall behind UKIP in a future poll. Reading the comments in the express you would have thought the NF had returned. But the problem is their language is now refined and not as racist as the past. (the law will not necessarily stop this-ed)
    John your original posting made the assumption that stopping wars abroad will stop the wars here. But one of the attackers today made a clear statement that the war will never stop. Doesn’t make me feel very comfortable about free economic trade around the world.

    Reply My original posting was against intervention for its own sake. Don’t do unless you are sure it can make things better, and you have a moral right.

  56. Wokingham Mum's
    May 22, 2013

    Gut Reaction
    Think before you publish events today have been close to us.
    One of our sons was in London today raising money for Help the Hero’s. A London radio station is supporting the Charity “Help for the Hero’s” He’s was wearing a Help for the Hero’s T shirt, he’s in the TA. She’s begged him to leave, he’s volenteered and is due to go to A soon. After todays event, Enough Is Enough. Collation Gov wake up. We’re shocked! Do we have to be scared to be British and support Britain in our in our own Capital city. We are at (risk-ed) and its here. One more UKIP voter.

  57. Javelin
    May 22, 2013

    Just been reviewing the comments section across the media. There seems to be a huge (99.9%) amount of anger from everybody that Cameron has not sorted out being able to deport terrorists and not vetting immigrants. I honestly don’t think Cameron or the Human Rights Act can survive.

    1. Tad Davison
      May 23, 2013

      You wouldn’t tease an old man would you Javelin?


  58. a-tracy
    May 23, 2013

    What a frightening incident we saw on our tv screens yesterday evening, it is the first time I’ve ever seen a man with blood on his hands and hopefully the last.

    The actual videos of the full incident are unfortunately doing the rounds on Facebook and unfortunately my teenage son watched the atrocity and related to me the gory details.

    I am hoping that we silence these perpetrators and that the media frenzy calms down today because I fear the reprisals if it doesn’t. I don’t want to hear these people justifying their actions. I want the authorities to get these details and keep them to use to stop others.

    This poor young man, working under instructions from and to protect his Country, bludgeoned in the street with people helpless to help him left me feeling sick to the stomach. This was a step too far and I’m glad I’m not a politician deciding what to do with the two cold blooded murderers.

    1. Monty
      May 23, 2013

      Exhibition grade savagery indeed. Why are you so angst-ridden at the prospect of “reprisals” though? When have we ever seen reprisals from the long-suffering British?

  59. David Langley
    May 23, 2013

    Mr Grainger,
    Please do not make a case for no standing army or a very small standing army. The result of poor defence forces has been pretty obvious when we have been called upon to intervene militarily in some foreign parts. Poor training and equipment leading to loss of life and lowering morale.
    The UN has credibility in international law through the defence council to promote either civil protection in country or regime change.
    A standing army properly trained and equipped to assist the UN and also being able to defend home territory is an essential insurance policy. There are ways of paying for this, and I would propose that to keep battle hardened, our troops would be used to sustain the UN policies described above. The big difference that I would demand would be a massive financial increase in salaries for all our troops involved, scaled for active or support service. The remuneration would be contributed by all nation members of the UN.
    The disciplines of military service and leadership can only strengthen the british backbone, and while I understand the damage military operations have on our people, there is no doubt that the gene pool is better for the injection/contribution of fit and motivated men and women trained to win hearts and minds but able to win on the battlefield without compromise..

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