The morality of bombing

 

               We have rightly been asked to examine our consciences when it comes to the mighty subject of war and peace. There are times when the UK, a country with powerful armaments, a place on the Security Council and a member of NATO, does have to use force to stand up to evil. I am no appeaser or disarmer. Like most Conservatives I believe the UK should play an important role in the wider world. I am prepared to vote for the military expenditure we need to do just that.

             When a country acts illegally, as Argentina did in seizing the Falklands, or Iraq did in invading Kuwait, the UK was right to use its formidable arsenal to evict or help evict  the invader. There are times when the UN needs member states willing to use their forces for peace keeping or even for peace making. The UK should make its proportionate contribution as befits a Security Council member.

             As a leading member of the UN it is also important that the UK upholds the doctrines of international law, and only seeks to intervene where the use of military force can make things better or where our national interests are threatened. Sometimes a strong internationally committed country has to act for peace and strive through diplomacy, rather than resorting to arms.

              The immediate question before us is one of bombing. Bombing, which now includes unleashing missiles from remote locations as well as dropping bombs from high flying aircraft, has had a chequered history, both morally and in terms of effectiveness. Usually conflicts are ended through troops on the ground occupying territory, evicting tyrants and assisting new governments into place. It is difficult to do any of that from 30000 feet or from a missile platform hundreds of miles away. It is true that air power is an important adjunct of forces on the ground, and may be an important means to destroy and damage an enemy’s military force.

             Prior to the “modern era” fighting was normally confined to men in the military. There were conventions of war conduct, which included not killing women, children and the elderly. In the twentieth century governments introduced the idea of “total war”. Suddenly it was accepted that a country at war could unleash bombing attacks on women, children and the disabled at home, as well as using force on the battlefront. The war often  turned to the home front.

             Those who sought to defend this approach could argue that twentieth women joined  the uniformed services in support roles, and undertook much of the war material production in the factories. As the factories were a legitimate target, then why not the women who worked in them? They might argue that bombing the home population might bomb the country into submission, leading to less death overall by shortening the war. In practice the heavy German and allied bombing campaigns did not of themselves end the war in Europe, and only the use of A bombs ended the war with Japan. The devastating  German attacks on cities like Coventry and the continuous bombing of London did not break morale nor lead to a shortening of the war.

              Whilst I am full of admiration for the bravery and skill of the UK’s Bomber Command, and whilst I understand the  background to bombing in the Second World War, there has been debate about what general bombing campaigns can achieve in future conflicts.

              Today the issue is simpler. The west is not directly threatened in the way the UK was by  Germany in the 1940s. Syria is not threatening to bomb our cities. We are rightly appalled at the atrocities we see in Syria. It is difficult to see  how unleashing some bombs and doing damage to part of Assad’s military machine can make the situation better. There is always the danger of killing people we do not want to kill by mistake. There is the opportunity we would afford Assad to kill the innocent himself and fake the evidence to blame the west.

            I can see that an all out war to evict Assad from power would prevent him in future carrying out atrocities. But without boots on the ground and a US military takeover, who is to say who might then take power in Syria and how they might behave in the chaos that the intense  military onslaught needed to oust him  and the destruction of the regime had created? More likely the US wishes to do limited damage and to kill just a few people. I cannot see how that makes Syria a better place or how it removes Assad.

 

 

 

 

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98 Comments

  1. Bazman
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    I don’t know much about Middle Eastern politics or morality Son, but lets get it on!
    The problem being that we could become Al Qaeda’s airforce. The nightmare scenerio is that missile attacks are launched into Isreal

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      I agree Bazman. Where is the irrefutable evidence that Assad did unleash CW on his own and not the ‘rebels’ (who remember believe in sacrifice for Allah) .The drive to put these ‘god is great people, so lets kill as many as we can so they can get to life after death’ into power, is totally out of synch with the reality of the motives of Al Qaeda.
      I on the other hand have a problem with aggression and am a pacifist . International law is the only way forward. We alone do not have a hand to decide who is punished and who is not, but when international laws are broken then the perpetrators must be taken out, but not the ones who have been ordered to act in a certain way.
      Do we have a duty to act in African tribal warfare as they slaughter each other to prevent the violence and harm and rape to women and children?

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        “International law is the only way forward”

        No, it’s the way forward to a global dictatorship, the end of the democracy we are supposedly defending and promoting; we see that already with the sub-set of international law known as “EU law”.

        • margaret brandreth-j
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          It depends which set of laws we are talking about. Here it is not about the rights to govern our own Country , but human rights in wars with International democratic agreement.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            From the Ministerial Code:

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61402/ministerial-code-may-2010.pdf

            “1.2 The Ministerial Code should be read alongside the Coalition agreement and the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations … ”

            So it is about our right to govern our own country.

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            It is not..it is about compliance with international law and overarching responsibilities. If the law were to change then it would be about home laws , but the law has not changed.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

            If it’s about “compliance with international law and overarching responsibilities” then obviously it is about how we govern our country.

      • Gary
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        Please point us to this “irrefutable evidence”. I have seen none, and Kerry’s hand waving and saying that the evidence is classified(what a joke!), does not qualify.

    • zorro
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      What do you mean y saying let’s get it on?

      zorro

      • Bazman
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        I mean. “I’ll allow it! Still not get it? LOL!

    • Hope
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      The UK has a diminishing arsenal under Cameron and less influential in the world as a consequence. Promising political correctness, green entry quackery or providing more and more money for overseas aide will not influence anyone or any country. The overseas aide policy has no teeth, no substance and is purely a give away scheme that others, quite rightly deride. A scheme that the UK taxpayer cannot afford and solves nothing other than making conutlatnts richer and corrupt politicians in foreign regimes better off. Put it on the shelf with Cameron’s Big Sociaety nonsense. Cameron needs to sort out Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan before embarking on creating a fourth mess leaving carnage and death in its wake.

      • Hope
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        As an occupying power of Iraq, the US and UK had a legal and moral duty to have a plan once regime change had taken place. There was none, and the consequences continue today. What consequences was/ is there for Blaire and what he has done? There should be and we the public deserve better from our justice system against politicians.

    • Gary
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      “Let’s get it on”

      That could be thermonuclear war and literally the end of the world. You some kind of aspiring cowboy ?

  2. lifelogic
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I agree fully. I too cannot see how bombing can make Syria a better place or how it removes Assad unless they hit him. Even if it did remove Assad, would the replacement be any improvement. Most of the UK’s recent interventions have been totally negative and counter productive.

    Off topic I am pleased that a Judge has called for more transparency in family courts, much or what goes there, in secret, is a total outrage.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10289280/Judge-calls-for-more-transparency-in-family-courts.html

    Also I read that Prof Lisa Jardine, has rightly complained of humanities graduates dumbing down science. The BBC of course dumb down (and push to the left) everything they touch (not just science). Why on earth do they employ people like Melvyn Bragg to present science discussion programs on radio 4, he clearly is totally out of his depth and often cannot follow what his scientist guests are patiently explaining to him. He just gets in the way. Interesting to watch the spat on the huge pay offs too. Why on earth does Lord Patten not know what is going on? Is it not his job to know this basic information?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10289540/BBC-humanities-graduates-dumbing-down-science.html

    • lifelogic
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      At least it looks as if Australia is moving a little in the right direction with a new leader, sound on the absurd man made global warming exaggerations. Just a shame Cameron, Ed Davey, Labour and the Libdems are all still in love with this expensive, irrational, job destroying religion.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        The counter argument must surely be that the climate change evangelists have caused a lot of money to be poured into research of renewable energy.

        I read that the most recent advances in solar mean that the cost of solar energy is about to become less than the cost of carbon based energy.

        I think we have to thank the climate change evangelists for this. Regardless of their arguments, I’d rather live in a world where we didn’t have to burn carbon all the time to get energy.

        • matthu
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          Yeah … when the sun is shining and you can use the energy yourself straight away. It gets really expensive when you want to store it.

          Apart from which, there are laws against using solar energy for your own consumption, which suggests that the government will always be able to control the price.

          As they have done in Spain.

          • matthu
            Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            My reply above was directed at Mike Wilson who argues that solar energy may soon become even cheaper than fossil energy.

            And I almost forgot to mention the EU imposed tariff on imported solar panels. I guess that is to keep the price of energy from falling too quickly?

        • Martyn G
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

          Ideally, yes. But to make full use of it we should have to cover half the UK with PV panels. Which would lead to power distribution problems, load balancing and so on; it must also be borne always in mind that here in the northern latitudes solar energy is, to say the least, very much lower that it is even a few hundred miles south of the UK. And then we need to consider the short daylight hours in Autumn/Winter/Spring to get a grasp of how inefficient, despite claims to the contrary, PV panels are and especially so ‘oop north’ and Scotland.
          The fact of the matter is that windmills and solar farms will always demand a full range of gas-burning or nuclear power stations to back them up when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine. Otherwise the lights will keep on going out. However, our leaders have a cunning plan – we continue to spend billions on panels and windmills because we can always import electrical power from across the channel on the EU supergrid. Until we upset the EU nations providing us with power, that is.

        • lifelogic
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          If and when the technology is cost effective against gas/coal then lets go for it. I am not against the research and development where the science says it makes sense to do R&D.

          But to implement and install billions of pounds of equipment like PV, wind and electric cars (that have to have huge tax payer subsidies) is just tipping cash down the drain. One researches something, get it working and cost effective then roll it to production not the reverse.

          Littering the countryside with white elephant absurdities is just bonkers.

          The climate change evangelists have nothing to be thanked for at all, they have just wasted billions and billions of tax payers money on technology that is far too expensive, does not yet work (remotely economically) and does not even save CO2 often. All thanks to Cameron’s “greenest government ever”, Huhne, Davey, the Libdems, the all the BBC think of the scientific illiterates.

          At least Australia has come to its senses.

        • Alan Wheatley
          Posted September 8, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          Cheaper energy is a sound, commercial proposition that will attract private industry and venture capitalists. It does not take evangelists lobbying government and muddying the waters to make it happen.

      • Richard1
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        I think we should not underestimate the significance of an Abbott victory in Australia. It is clear green policies are becoming unacceptably expensive wherever they are in force. German consumers pay €20bn p.a. in subsidies for uneconomic green fuel. Whilst the US chemical industry has now turned profitable we read that Ineos may close a plant in Scotland due to costs. At the same time it is abundantly clear that the apocryphal forecasts of global warming theory the last 25 years have not been borne out by experience. The Conservatives should take note – they need to junk ‘climate change’, its nonsensical end-of-the-world forecasts and its expensive green policies.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        But will Tony Abbott stick to his principles or do a Cameron style volte face and turn in to a sort of dreadful, male version or Julia Gillard, fake green, socialist, ever more taxes type?

        • Richard1
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          Its a good question. He is the first head of govt to be elected in a major economy who has openly questioned global warming theory and related policies. There are huge forces ranged against him from the environmental movement, the international left and their outlets in state controlled and subsidized media. He will really have to be a man of strong principles to stick to his guns. Let’s hope he does, and so gives conservatives elsewhere heart to do the same.

          • Richard1
            Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

            It seems the reply function isn’t working. My replies re Abbott in Australia were in response to Lifelogic.

      • Bob
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        The new PM is anti same sex marriage. Borak Obama and David Cameron will not be happy about this, but hopefully will stop short of threatening to bomb Australia.

        • zorro
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          (suggests Mr Obama is out of touch with the USA ed)

          zorro

      • Bazman
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        You have yet to prove your own expensive, irrational, job destroying religion of unsustainable and dirty fuels. Ask China and Londoners. Or your unsustainable low wage high rent and transport cost fantasises. They just not will go away will they?Expanding the economy will not help and will more than likely make the problems worse. How to get people into London to work for pennies expanding other peoples businesses? Oh dear. Now you are stuck.

        • lifelogic
          Posted September 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

          Nothing “dirty” about carbon dioxide it is harmless, transparent, tree and plant food and breathed out by everyone, nor with burning natural gas or even coal in a modern plant.

          The greens always talk of Carbon taxes as carbon is black and dirty, but they are really talking about harmless clean CO2 which does no harm at all and much good to plants, trees and crops. Indeed a little more CO2 might well, on balance, be beneficial for the world.

          See how it goes and adapt to the climate if needed (hotter or colder) just as we adapt building to suit earthquake zones. Spending billions now (and not even altering the one c02 variable much) is bonkers science and bonkers economics. Whatever Stern/Davey/Yeo and Cameron might think.

          After all scientists (real ones) and engineers might crack controlled fusion soon or we might be hit by a large asteroid, or a new ice age caused by less sun activity, a volcano or any of the millions of variables. Or we might find other and far better ways to cool the earth, should they ever be needed.

          • Bazman
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

            More repetition and ranting from you without any basis it seems.
            You choose to ignore what is ‘dirty’ about fossil fuels such as particulates and other gases. Look at the dirt in London some of the most dirty streets are there because of traffic pollution despite the advances in engines and the emission zone. Is that pointless and absurd?Is there any reason for this or are you just pretending they do not exist? Harmless CO2 is debatable and selling it as clean and fresh food for plants will not wash. I again and again tell you that even inert gasses such as argon in large amounts are detrimental and in the case of fresh pure oxygen necessary for sustaination of almost all life on earth. Lethal. Ask and ‘sensible’ engineer scientist or metalworker.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I seem to remember that the 30 years war in Germany involved civilians when the Swedes came. The Russians in Poland in the 1830s were not working under the Geneva Convention. Nuns were, apparently, really raped by the invading Germans in 1914.

    And the TV is very distorting. Show a picture of a dear little girl with blood running down her face and give the impression of a country falling into chaos under a mad mullah. Sometimes, however, the po-faced commentator lets her/his guard down and we see plump, Westernised people lounging by the pool in the sun. The background – always look at the background – seems to be peaceful apart from a few puffs of distant smoke.
    So how far are the Salafists from unseating President Assad? I wonder.

    And, do you know what? I read Cranmer’s blog. Very long. Very boring quite often. But it documents how the Salafists are wiping out, quite deliberately, some of my most cherished and, yes, irreplaceable Christian brothers and sisters. These, for instance, are people who, in some cases are speaking the very language that Jesus spoke! A lot of their churches have been burned. A lot of nuns desecrated. The only thing standing between them and barbarism is – President Assad.

    But – hey! – who cares. This is PROGRESS!

  4. Cheshire Girl
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    In my opinion, we have nothing to be ashamed of. For as long as I can remember this country has stepped up to the plate and become involved in conflicts in order to try and help various countries and people’s. In this case we have decided not to become involved for various reasons. If the Russians (or others) respond by calling us names, so be it. I don’t feel that David Cameron should have responded to these jibes – a dignified silence would have been appropriate. We don’t need to justify ourselves to the rest of the world. Our history speaks for itself. If we don’t feel it’s right to get involved in military action in this case, it’s our decision and ours alone, and we shouldn’t be bullied into it!

  5. nina Andreeva
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Air wars do not work just ask the Israeli’s how successful they were against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006. The most revolting thing however is to watch is Nobel peace prize winner Obama on TV on the necessity to bomb, bomb and bomb. However he never seems to say anything about the plight of the refugees nor does he (or does his fellow chickhawk Hague either) seem to be responding to the charities requests for more money to help them.

  6. matthu
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Does Obama really not know what he wants to achieve or is he being disingenuous with what he is revealing to the public?

    This not a simple moral issue. It is a political snakepit and (as usual) politicians are not being truthful about the goals while overly stressing the evidence for use of sarin gas (which nobody in their sane mind contests) while underplaying the evidence for how the gas has been delivered and who has been culpable.

    Will the proposed intervention end up being limited to a narrow and direct response all about Syrian atrocities and humanitarian aid or end up involving boots on the ground and extend to intervention in the internal affairs of other nations?

    Is it all about holding the Assad regime accountable, degrading its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks and deterring it from further use of chemical weapons (in which case how will we ever know when we have achieved our aims?), or is it all about sending a “signal” and opening up avenues which will ultimately lead to hostilities in Iran and North Korea?

    And every time politicians stress “the evidence is clear and irrefutable” another little kitten dies.

  7. Old Albion
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    It’s quite simple really. If outside force is used to remove Assad. Whatever replaces him, will be no better!

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Albion–“No better” is the least of it, the replacement is likely to be much worse. We are where we are solely because of the wrongheaded decision (by our government as much as anybody) to support the rebels ab initio. There is (understandably and rightly) much talk about women and children. Anyone ever considered that rebels (“insurgents”) are less likely of their very nature to have their women and children with them (the sitting regime has no choice), which in itself should have been a big reason for our siding, if with anybody, with the regime, and at least some sort of stability? The more I think about it, the less idea I have why, as I say, back then, Cameron and especially Hague decided to get us involved at all, let alone on the side of the rebels, encouraging and, amazingly, arming them. Very likely there would never have been any chemical attacks (in either direction) if we had behaved sensibly. From our point of view, were things really so bad under Assad?

  8. A.Sedgwick
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Listening to Senator McCain last night he supports arming the rebels and not missile strikes. This seems a proportionate response to the chemical attack. Cruise missiles against selective targets, as ferocious as they are, will not end the civil war, significantly weaken the Syrian air power probably and increase the rebels chances of victory. The danger is that Russia will enter the fray more noticeably afterwards, whereas if the rebels eventually win out by proxy that could be less likely.

  9. zorro
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    The world is being put at an unnecessary risk to cover Obama’s extreme hubris. HE set a red line, so come what may, to cover his credibility, no one else’s, he needs blood…..

    zorro

    • forthurst
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      “HE set a red line”

      Was he set up, much like Chamberlain in giving a guarantee to Poland?

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Not really; he first came out with it of his own accord at a press conference in August 2012.

        • forthurst
          Posted September 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          I know that, Denis; my question was whether it was suggested to him to issue a ‘red line’ in order to ‘deter’ ‘Assad’.

          • zorro
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            Whether he meant to be so explicit is a moot point, but it allowed him some plausible deniability……There can be no doubt that this gave the rebels something to aim for in that using chemical weapons was the ‘red line’ and Assad would get the blame come what may. We know however that British companies have been supplying chemical weapons components for years and the Saudis have been delivering chemical weapons components to the rebels.

            zorro

            Reply Do we? I don’t know that. The UK has a heavily regulated weapons trade.

          • zorro
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

            Chemical weapons components can include chemicals as you are aware, and Saudi made components have been delivered to rebels via Turkey……. Trading interactions can always be a tricky subject, as you know, for British companies in dealing with middle eastern countries……

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415081/Britain-sent-poison-chemicals-Assad-Proof-UK-delivered-Sarin-agent-Syrian-regime.html

            zorro

            Reply I see the government’s response was that limited quantities were sold for cosmetics production. The article does not prove diversion and use in weapons

          • zorro
            Posted September 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            Might have been used for toothpaste of course….

            zorro

  10. Iain Gill
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Well the US has a number of options:

    It could bomb the chemical weapons stocks or sites, problem with that is likely release the chemicals and kill significant numbers.

    It could bomb the leadership and decapitate the chain of command. Problem with that is guessing who will take over and likely consequences.

    It could bomb the command and control facilities, take out the radar sites, air traffic control, telecoms exchanges, etc. Makes it much harder for them to organise themselves. This is likely what the US will do.

    In all likelihood there are already “boots on the ground” they are just special forces and nobody will be told until its all over. These can be used pick targets and use laser guidance etc to improve likelihood of hitting where they want to hit. Still not a perfect science.

    The bigger issue for me though is the UK is not big enough or rich enough to be taking on the world policeman role. That’s slightly different for the US they do have a lot more resources.

    The problem for the US is trying to make sure they don’t make it worse. Much of the Syrian opposition are nasty types we would not want to see in power either. And of course trying to stop tipping it into conflict with Russia or China or someone else who could really escalate it out of control. And of course trying not to make mistakes that lead to a generation of youth out there who just want to strike back with terrorism.

    • uanime5
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Strictly speaking if you used napalm or another incendiary bomb to bomb the chemical weapons it’s possible that all the chemicals will be burned up, preventing them from poisoning anyone who survived the napalm attack. Napalm and other incendiaries are often used on oil spills to burn up all the spilt oil before it can cause more problems, such as a during the Torrey Canyon oil spill.

      • Mark B
        Posted September 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Uanime5 said;
        “. . . . . preventing them from poisoning anyone who survived the napalm attack.”

        You really might want to re-read that !

      • zorro
        Posted September 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Tell that to the Vietnamese!

        zorro

  11. Acorn
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Would using drones be acceptable for use in Syria? Ticks all the boxes, no boots on the ground, limited collateral damage etc. When do we expect the second vote in parliament cos “a week is a long time in politics”?

    The number of missions where [British] drones have deployed missiles in Afghanistan has increased more than six times in the last five years, official figures show. The percentage of missions in which drones have used weapons also doubled between 2008 and 2012, data released by Defence Minister Andrew Robathan in a written parliamentary answer showed.

    In 2008, there were 296 missions over Afghanistan and one or more missiles was deployed by a British-operated Reaper drone on 14 missions, 5% of the total number of sorties. But in 2012, there were 892 missions by British drones, with weapons being fired on 92 occasions – more than 10% of all sorties. The figures are likely to alarm campaigners who say it is too difficult to hold governments to account for the use of drones.

    Reply There will oe second vote on Syria unless Mr Miliband changes his mind again and asks for one or tables a motion.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–Agreed and always obvious, so why does Cameron not just say so instead of going from one extreme to the other?

  12. Mike Rolph
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Heartfelt thanks Mr Redwood to you and those likeminded MPs who spoke for common sense. The debate in the Lords reached the same conclusion by a very large majority and this was also reflected by the general population both here and in America.
    The question is therefore who was driving this rush to war based on an emotional trigger that made no sense? If the deaths of children are so vile (and they are) where is the comparable response to be seen in other areas where this occurs, no matter what the reason.
    US Secretary of State John Kerry says that Saudi Arabia and Quatar would cover the costs of the conflict, in addition to their financial support of the rebels. This then poses the question, were we being manipulated into acting as a mercenary force in a religious war for regional supremacy. I hope we are smarter than that.

    • forthurst
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      “This then poses the question, were we being manipulated into acting as a mercenary force in a religious war for regional supremacy. I hope we are smarter than that.”

      There is a Gas-Condensate field mainly in Qatari waters off the Persian Gulf, North Dome, but which is also in Iranian waters there known as South Pars. Both Qatar and Iran are exploiting this field and both would wish to pipe the gas to Europe. Iran has already agreed a pipeline route through Iraq and Syria, but Qatar’s pipeline would need to pass through Saudi Arabia and Syria to Turkey which is why they have been paying freelance mercenaries to kill Syrians amd why as you report they would be more than happy to bankroll a US operstion and us as well presumably if Cameron’s faux moral outrage had succeeded in convincing either parliament or people.

  13. Chris S
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    There can be no good outcome from the war in Syria.

    As we have seen all round the Middle East and Africa, countries formed using artificial boundaries are unstable and result in huge internal tensions.

    In the case of Syria, it was a French creation after WW1.

    Similarly Western Powers are responsible were creating Israel at the end of WW2 and that is the single root cause of most of the problems in the region.

    Iraq and Syria required dictators using varying degrees of repression to hold their countries together because they consist of many different tribes and religious sects brought together in an artificial state. It’s hard to see how the militants can be controlled and the countries held together in future other than by force of will and arms.

    This is the reality of the situation and for almost 50 years the West has sat around wringing it’s hands wondering what to do about it.

    Even with the unlikely cooperation of Russia and China, there would be no cosy, peaceful solution that can be voted on by the UN and inplemented in Syria that will result in a stable and benign state in which the population can live safely. Such are the ethnic, tribal and religious differences in the country. In particular I feel very concerned for the Christian minorities who were protected and flourished under the dictatorships. They are now extremely vulnerable to the brutal actions of the Islamic zealots so evidently coming to the fore.

    I don’t pretend to have any answers but we need to be realistic over what could be achieved with or without a precision strike using Cruise Missiles.

    • Gary
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      France did not determine Syria’s boundaries. These were determined as a result of the joint British-French Sykes-Picot carve-up of the region.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80%93Picot_Agreement

      • Chris S
        Posted September 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Your minor correction doesn’t change anything I said, does it ?

        There are plenty of other examples of countries created by the Western Powers that have proved disastrous for peace and prosperity.

        On the other hand, Western Powers are not entirely to blame : rivalry amongst tribes and religious sects caused plenty of wars and violence during and after the colonial period. You only have to look at the genocide that resulted when India was partitioned and later when Bangladesh was created.

    • uanime5
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Syria was mentioned by the ancient Greeks (Assyria) and there’s evidence it existed as far back as 2,400 BC, Iraq AKA Mesopotamia was ruled by the Babylonians or Assyrians as early as 1,900 BC, and Iraq and Syria were both mentioned by Ibn Battuta as he travelled through the middle east in the 14th century. The British and French didn’t just create these countries, they had existed for a long time but had both become part of the Ottoman Empire (just like Egypt).

      Israel was going to be created after WW1 but this was delayed due to WW2. Even without Israel most of the problem would still exist, the only difference would be that the Arab leaders would have one less scapegoat.

      Finally the Nestorian Christians often suffered under their Islamic rulers, such as Timur the Lame.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    “it is also important that the UK upholds the doctrines of international law”

    What are these “doctrines of international law”, and where do they come from?

    Cameron highlighted an emerging doctrine of “responsibility to protect”.

    Put those words as a search term into google, and up come references to the UN and to various self-appointed groups who are basically trying to impose their view of the world on others under the guise that it is a new “norm” of “international law”.

    Have we as a nation ever debated whether we agree with this, and wish to accept that newly discovered “norm”?

    Read what it says on wikipedia, as always with the caveat that nothing on wikipedia can ever be automatically accepted as entirely accurate:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_to_protect

    “The responsibility to protect (R2P or RtoP) is a United Nations initiative established in 2005. It consists of an emerging intended norm, or set of principles, based on the claim that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility.”

    Well, precisely when did we, the British people, agree that our national sovereignty is no longer a “right”, but instead a “responsibility”?

    Over the past eight years, has that proposition even been debated and endorsed by our elected representatives in Parliament, let alone ever put forward to the people for their consideration and acceptance?

    I for one would reject it out of hand; and how does this 2005 initiative by the UN square with Blair’s 2006 smarmy characterisation of the British as a “proud sovereign nation”, when presumably British diplomats had already agreed behind our backs that in the future we would regard our national sovereignty as being a “responsibility”, a burden we must carry for the benefit of others rather than for ourselves?

    Then I find that there is an “International Coalition For The Responsibility to Protect”, founded in 2009:

    http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/

    “The RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (“RtoP” or “R2P”) is a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

    The INTERNATIONAL COALITION FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (ICRtoP) brings together NGOs from all regions of the world to strengthen normative consensus for RtoP, further the understanding of the norm, push for strengthened capacities to prevent and halt genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and mobilize NGOs to push for action to save lives in RtoP country-specific situations.”

    And its address is:

    “c/o World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy
    708 Third Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10017”

    And also:

    “The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has received the generous support of the Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom … ”

    So this is the same unacceptable circular process as the UK government and EU using our taxes to fund “charities” and other “NGO’s” and enable them to lobby for policy changes, with the British taxpayer unwittingly providing money to fund an offshoot of the World Federalist Movement so that it can promote one of those “doctrines of international law” which is in fact intended to destroy British national sovereignty, and which is then cited in Parliament by a British Prime Minister who claims to be a stout defender of British national sovereignty and an stalwart opponent of federalism, be it European federalism or world federalism, in an attempt to convince the elected representatives of the British people that the said British people should bear the financial and other costs of an attack on another sovereign country for which there is little rational justification.

    So, no, JR, I cannot agree with you that it is “important that the UK upholds the doctrines of international law”, when the British people have no effective national democratic control over the nature of those international doctrines which are being invented and promoted behind their backs.

    Reply By international law I mean those Treaties we have willingly signed concerning military conduct, and our duties as UN members to observe their procedures.

    • oldtimer
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for drawing attention to those links to “responsibility to act”. This was clearly the argument being used to persuade the UK public to support strikes before the HoC vote. It was given great prominence by the BBC.

      The enlistment of NGOs in this cause, and the involvement of the BBC, reminds me of the CAGW scare, later renamed successively global warming, then climate change, then extreme weather – all said to be our responsibility.

      In my post at 9:52am (written before yours was available to read) I commented:
      “As for justification for bombing and/or missile strikes, I note the attempts in the past week or so to seek justification for UK intervention on humanitarian grounds in the absence of a UN resolution that would be blocked by Russia and China. This was described by one lawyer, specialising in international law, as an “emerging law”. This was new to me. I think it may be worth you exploring this notion in a future post; as far as I can see all this requires is for someone in power (say a Cameron or an Obama or a Putin or a Chinese leader) to say they are intervening on humanitarian grounds and they award themselves carte blanche to act as they see fit. It sounds as dangerous as it is presumptuous.”

  15. John Wrake
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    Thank you for a sane, thought-through posting on the subject of the Syrian conflict.

    Jon Wrake.

  16. Andy Baxter
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Yes we have formidable military power at our disposal (nothing compared to that of the USA, Russia or China) but still capable of inflicting considerable damage if used to effect a known or predictable outcome.

    We could never mount the sort of operation we did in 1982 to retake the Falklands as we simply do not have the capability anymore nor the political will (nor has Argentina either I would add)

    But there is an important factor to consider here between action, effect and outcome.

    Action:
    launch drone, missile or bombing attacks at specified targets.

    Effect:
    total or limited damage to specific targets and also high probability of collateral damage to property but more importantly innocent life, as well as risking the lives of our own military personnel and expenditure of considerable ‘treasure’ we can ill afford in doing so.

    Outcome:
    needless deaths and damage, degrading of Assad’s military ability (perhaps in the short term) propaganda opportunities for Assad to exploit with his allies. Further alienation of other nations who were perhaps neutral in the conflict moving to support Assad or exploit anti Western (mainly US) feelings. Escalation of indirect Israeli, Iranian, Turkish intervention and or Russian Chinese action diplomatically and either indirectly or God forbid directly!

    Has anyone in the US or even at No 10 or in Parliament thought through these? i.e. looked at the ‘outcomes’ rather than the ‘action’ of “well we must do something about this horrible man!”

    The government (Cameron, Hague and Clegg in particular) feel that, because the reported chemical attack in Damascus was so horrible (it was) and ‘think’ that it was Assad’s regime (which there is no concrete absolute proof) something should be done about it (desirable, but there are many other options) that had been totally disregarded before the Commons vote.

    But they (Those who voted with the government in the Commons) divorced action from outcome and fixed upon a single option – military action. But military action should be deployed ONLY to achieve a known or reasonably high probability predictable effect – and the effect was, by common acceptance on both sides of the argument, UNKNOWN!

    What we saw in the Commons and what was narrowly defeated in Parliament, was the government simply wanting to express moral outrage… by shooting off missiles and dropping bombs in a howl of rage, triggered by something by which they were hugely offended, with little idea of the likely effects, and NO IDEA of the OUTCOMES and most importantly, with no certainty of it having any positive humanitarian effect, in fact probably quite the opposite by adding to the suffering of innocents caught in the blast radius.

    This is the politics of the playground, not the actions of cogent and rational adults in positions of responsibility with the power to unleash devastating military firepower, funded by taxpayers primarily for the defence of our realm, not to be the playthings of irresponsible politicians.

    Opposing the intervention was the right course of action. However I remain dismayed and shocked that 272 ‘honourable’ members still found their way to the Aye lobby!

    Disgraceful and shameful behaviour from 272 men and women elected supposedly to represent OUR wishes and I can only hope until we have one day the means to control MP’s as our representatives and not be party apparatchiks, that the electorate ‘punish’ those at the ballot box.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Russians would react directly and forcibly in one way or another. I don’t know whether it is feasible to shoot down cruise missiles in a similar way to Patriot missiles intercepting Scuds and other ballistic missiles, but maybe such interceptors are the “special cargo” loaded on the Russian ship heading to Syria? That’s what the US did for the protection of its ally Israel during the second Gulf War, to keep it from having to retaliate against the Scuds launched from Iraq, and maybe Russia will seek to protect its ally in a similar way.

      • zorro
        Posted September 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        John McCain seems to think that the Russians and Chinese won’t respond to US provocations when push come to shove as they haven’t done so before. I fear that he may be making a serious error of judgement….

        zorro

  17. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Like most Conservatives I believe the UK should play an important role in the wider world.

    Why? Do you think every country should play an important role in the wider world or are we, in some way, special? Should, for example, Bolivia play an important role in the wider world. If not, why not? I hope you don’t say because we believe in democracy and freedom. We don’t really. We believe in a political system that plays pass the parcel of power between 2 political parties that rarely have the support of more than 30% of the people. We believe in a freedom that allows 1% to own 99% of the wealth and which consigns most people to the freedom to work like dogs all their lives.

    I am prepared to vote for the military expenditure we need to do just that.

    I think you should only vote for the military expenditure we need to protect ourselves, our way of life and our interests on the high seas.

    When a country acts illegally, as Argentina did in seizing the Falklands, or Iraq did in invading Kuwait, the UK was right to use its formidable arsenal to evict or help evict the invader.
    But this casts us in the role of the world’s policeman. Why haven’t we been over to see that nice Mr. Mugabe with his rigged elections and illegal actions against his countrymen? How can one nation decide who is right and wrong. We must have a UNITED Nations. The current structure of the United Nations is absurd with 2 countries who are permanent members of the Security Council who could hardly be considered democratic. We are not that democratic are we? Many of us spend our whole lives in constituencies where our vote does not, in any practical way, count.

    The ‘morality of bombing’ … at which point I am very glad I am not involved in the decision making.

    It is clear the current structure of the UN security council does not work. It needs to be changed so that Russia and China cannot block attempts to get rid of a dictatorship. If that means losing the concept of permanent members of the security council – then that needs to happen. The United Nations has various principles. One of which is:

    ‘Democracy is a universally recognized ideal and is one of the core values of the United Nations.’

    The security council needs to change so that this principle is paramount over everything and everyone.

  18. Alte Fritz
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Reports of a Muslim cleric being beheaded for alleged apostasy, and Christians being terrorised into conversion leave me feeling that the rebel cause should not be supported at all. I thought we went into Afganistan to stop this sort of thing. Will we hear of educated schoolgirls being murdered by Syrian rebels?

  19. English Pensioner
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Your last two sentences sum up the whole situation. What will be achieved by bombing that won’t make the situation worse?
    Meanwhile we need to look to our own security. The various terrorist organisations supporting Assad have made it clear that they will attack US facilities such as embassies in retaliation and we need to be very sure that this country, and our embassies, are safe from terrorist action. Terrorist don’t care about such niceties as to whether this country is involved or not, to them we are all part of the same enemy and perhaps more easily attacked than the US.
    Meanwhile, we should use our foreign aid budget for helping the refugees in adjoining countries, rather than giving money to places like India and Pakistan.

  20. oldtimer
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Your analysis is clear and, I believe, correct. I do not see how the UK national interest is served by dropping bombs on or firing missiles into Syria.

    As for the presumed cause – Assad using chemical weapons – that is entirely possible. It is also possible that the release of sarin gas was caused by the opposition – either intentionally or accidentally. It appears to me that we do not know definitively who caused it or why. A civil war as brutal as this one, aided and abetted by outside interests, will be as subject to falsehood, deception and misinformation as any other war. Quite how the UN inspectors sort that problem out will be interesting to see.

    As for justification for bombing and/or missile strikes, I note the attempts in the past week or so to seek justification for UK intervention on humanitarian grounds in the absence of a UN resolution that would be blocked by Russia and China. This was described by one lawyer, specialising in international law, as an “emerging law”. This was new to me. I think it may be worth you exploring this notion in a future post; as far as I can see all this requires is for someone in power (say a Cameron or an Obama or a Putin or a Chinese leader) to say they are intervening on humanitarian grounds and they award themselves carte blanche to act as they see fit. It sounds as dangerous as it is presumptuous.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      It was new to me as well, which is why I looked on google to see what the FCO has been up to behind our backs, see my lengthy comment above.

      But I also find that Cameron and Grieve were trying to pull a fast one by arguing that the “responsibility to protect” would justify us sending some cruise missiles into Syria to assist the Syrian government in meeting ITS responsibility to protect its citizens.

      • zorro
        Posted September 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        How considerate of them….

        zorro

  21. Bob
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    ” I can see that an all out war to evict Assad from power would prevent him in future carrying out atrocities.”

    Is there any incontrovertible proof that this was anything other than a false flag attack designed to bring in the U.S.A. on the side of Al Qaeda, as claimed by President Putin ?

  22. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    A reasonable analysis, with which I agree. I would add two points that I think are very relevant but absent from the media debate.

    Firstly, any judgement of what to do to Assad must include an assessment of what he would do thereafter, and this must take account of how he would see things. No matter what the damage inflicted by bombing might be, from his point of view the best thing to do could be to carry on as before, as all the alternatives are worse. Those who have been castigating him and saying he must go are not giving him anywhere to go to.

    Secondly, it is all too easy to brand a ruler as “bad”, but no matter how bad that ruler may be the alternative(s) could be no better, and quite possibly a lot worse. Does anyone seriously think the successors to the Shah in Iran are an improvement, either from the point of view of the citizens of Iran or from the point of view of the “western democracies”?

  23. Neil Craig
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Looking through the history of the subject the only wars I can think of won by air alone are the post WW1 British bombing of Kurdish villages, which was not done to rule those villages but merely to deter raiding; capturing Afganistan, done by “daisy cutter” bombs and rearming the locals but without formal trips on the ground; and Libya ditto. A case can be made for the Kosovo war but though NATO bombing of northern cities brought them to the negotiating table, democratic Yugoslavia negotiated a pretty good deal – that the KLA would be disarmed, NATO establish a non-racist regime; and respect Yugoslav legal sovereignty. It was boots on the ground that enabled NATO to ignore its undertakings.

    This suggests that bombing alone can work only when there is a great disproportionality of power & limited objectives and that it works much better against democracies or villages where the village leader is accessible to inhabitants, than against dictatorships. Unfortunately it also suggests that, with technological progress, the balance is shifting towards the bombers.

  24. Atlas
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Do we have concrete evidence that it was Assad’s side that launched these chemical weapons? Is is certain that the opposition do not have them as well?

    These are basic questions that need answering before things start flying.

  25. Bill
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    There seem to be two arguments by those who want to do the bombing: (a) children have died and so we ‘must do something’ and (b) chemical weapons have been used and we must ‘send a signal’ to whomever else might might be tempted to use weapons of this kind.

    In answer to (a) bombing Syria will not help the children who have died and will kill more children. In answer to (b) treat such weapons like nuclear weapons and control their storage and proliferation.

    Like other contributors, I see no guarantee that the person who replaces Assad (if he is toppled) will be any better. Certainly bombing Syrians will not help to build a new democracy in the Middle East.

  26. forthurst
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    JR makes an excellent general case against bombing as either political, moral or strategic act. However with regard to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, we now know that Japan was already willing to capitulate, but that the US wished to deter the further advance of the Bolsheviks into East Asia by giving them a frightener with a weapons demonstration.

    The history of modern wars is probably generally true, apart from how they are started and how they are needlessly prolonged or ended, those are the bits decided by polticians. In order to start a war of choice, a politician needs either to create a false narrative of a threat, thus inciting the populus to fear, anger, hatred and belligerence, or if that is incredible, create a false narrative of an atrocity thus inciting the populus into anger, hatred and vengefulness. The reason that politicians have to lie to get us to such wars is that their real motives are not appropriate to a purported democracy like ours.

    If Qatar succeeds in getting its pipeline through Syria, refused by Assad, as a result of a US intervention, both Israel and AIPAC will be happy also that Hezbollah’s sponsor will no longer be able to supply his client with the materials to repulse Israeli incursions into Lebanon.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      How do we now know that Japan was already willing to capitulate?

      • forthurst
        Posted September 8, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        ‘we know’ is admittedly too inclusive since it confronts ‘official history’ as universally tought.

        • forthurst
          Posted September 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          Not history as taught, but on the record, nevertheless:

          “On July 18, 1945, exactly 19 days before the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, in his own handwritten diary, Harry S. Truman wrote:

          “Discussed Manhattan (it is a success). Decided to tell Stalin about it. Stalin had told P.M. (Churchill) of telegram from Jap emperor asking for peace…””

          “[Manhattan Project scientist Leo] Szilard met with US Secretary of State James Byrnes on May 28, 1945. Byrnes was Truman’s most trusted advisor and the only cabinet member who was present at Yalta. Szilard recalled what Byrne’s thinking was:

          “[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior. Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania, and Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw her troops from these countries, that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.” — (Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, pg. 184).”

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted September 8, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Re Japan, do we not also “know” that the Military leadership were set on continuing to fight to the bitter end, including murdering all the allied prisoners they held in response to the landing of foreign troops on Japanese soil?

      It seems to me that what finally induced the Emperor to overrule the military and end Japans resistance was not so much the number of people who were killed by the atomic bombs, after all the number of deaths was of the same order as those who died in the fire bombing of Tokyo, but more the supernatural, to them, nature of the weapon that arrived, both literally and metaphorically, out of the blue.

      The explosions were, of course, a frightening demonstration to Japan, and to the rest of the World. The Great Powers learnt that another Great War was no longer a practical possibility.

  27. Richard1
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I find my confidence in David Cameron, William Hague and others severely undermined by all this. They don’t seem to have thought it through at all. They can’t explain what military action they think is needed nor what they think it will achieve. It is clear that in reality the objective is regime change – and as in Iraq voices in the US are more honest about this. If we live in a world where rulers are to be held accountable for crimes (and I hope we do) then it is them individually and their associates and henchmen we must target. Starting a general war or, even less effectively, symbolic military strikes, punishes the innocent along with (or possibly even not along with) the guilty.

  28. GnosticBrian
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It is by no means certain that the atomic bombing of Japan ended WW2 in the Far East. It is equally arguable that a change in American policy to the retention of the Mikado is what brought about Japan’s surrender. The Americans were concerned at the incredibly successful and short campaign by the Red Army in defeating the Kwantung Army, liberating Manchuria, liberating Korea, capturing the Kurile Islands and being on the verge of invading Hokkaido prompted the Americans to drop their demand that the Emperor stand down. It took the Americans months to capture individual Pacific Islands; the Soviet Union liberated Manchuria (a land area almost as large as Western Europe) in about two weeks and with relatively modest casualties.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      While the Soviet Union was occupied grinding down the Germans the Americans and their allies were occupied grinding down both the Germans and the Japanese; it was only three months after the German surrender in Europe that the Soviet Union attacked the Japanese forces left outside Japan.

  29. Terry
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Amongst the casualties of the gas attacks, are women and children and apparently, some of Assad’s soldiers. But I have seen no pictures of any affected rebel fighters. If Assad was responsible, why would he let loose only on these innocents? That was sure to attract severe condemnation from the UN and the rest of the world, something he couldn’t have wanted. Which leaves the rebel factions, who would have the most to gain from this atrocity. By deliberately stirring up the rest of the world in this grotesque way, they could hope for assistance by the West to topple the Assad regime for them. And then they take control of the country. This is not our problem, leave it to the UN.

  30. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I think it is fair to say that politicians the world over have been hoisted by their own petards.

    Do any on them seriously think that WE, the people, believe a BLOODY WORD THEY SAY!

    Dear politicians of the USA and UK – the main reason that most people don’t want to get involved in another conflict is that WE don’t trust YOU – because you have lied through your teeth to us SO many times.

    Which means that in any sort of crisis, it will be really difficult to govern.

  31. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Another comment seems to have disappeared into the ether.

    I wonder when politicians of the world will realise they no longer get support from the people, on issues like this, because no-one believes a word they say.

    Because they have lied to us so much in the past.

  32. matthu
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I see that Catherine Ashton (EU foreign chief) is now advocating a strong response as being essential to make clear there is no impunity.

    At least David Cameron “gets it”. But who does Ashton think she is representing?

  33. uanime5
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Prior to the “modern era” fighting was normally confined to men in the military. There were conventions of war conduct, which included not killing women, children and the elderly. In the twentieth century governments introduced the idea of “total war”. Suddenly it was accepted that a country at war could unleash bombing attacks on women, children and the disabled at home, as well as using force on the battlefront. The war often turned to the home front.

    I wouldn’t say this was strictly true as some armies would kill everyone they came across (such as the Vikings, or the Mongols in much of the Middle East). Armies that attacked cities or fortified positions also tended to attack more indiscriminately. Though in pitched battles or battles not involving castles/cities it was generally men verse men.

    Reply Yes, you are right to modify my generalisation. However, the theory of manly fighting and knightly conduct did have some influence in many cases.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Woah !

    Such big talk about involving ourselves in other countries with big weapons and with real men trained to use aircraft and guns.

    What good when we have no control over our own borders ?

    What a bunch of useless pretenders you are.

  35. Chris
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Bravo for taking action re Syria i.e. your letter to US legislators – D Tel tonight.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10293553/Tory-MP-urges-US-to-pull-back-from-attack-on-Syria.html

  36. zorro
    Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Let’s hope that your letter to Congressmen in the DT works too!

    zorro

  37. Douglas Carter
    Posted September 8, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    …’The subject of the ancient machines is treated with great knowledge and ingenuity by the Chevalier Folard. He prefers them in many respects to our modern cannon and mortars. We may observe, that the use of them in the field gradually became more prevalent, in proportion as personal valor and military skill declined with the Roman empire. When men were no longer found, their place was supplied by machines.’…

    (Footnote in chapter one of ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon. 1776)

    Unfortunately, we’re now in the era of ‘easy bombing’.

    Alongside the precision bombs – which function quite well – are the ranks of weapons which are automated by pre-programmed targeting, or by drone aircraft (and presumably soon ground vehicles) where weapons can be targeted and re-targeted independently in real-time remotely. There are also the famous ‘stealth’ aircraft.

    Whilst the providence of such weapons can often be traced back to the indulgences and failures by the US Administrations over Vietnam, there has become a critical misdirection in the significance of these weapons. The headline legend of them is that an attack can take place with little or no warning, and with few casualties on the ‘winning’ side.

    However, the actual imperative of the development of these weapons was more political. Public support for the Vietnam war was always recorded to drop very significantly when a downed pilot was paraded in front of the world’s press (as happened briefly also in January\February 1991). Stealth and autonomous weapons were the reply. It was a declaration by a political class that, when the policy is threatened, we’ll use weapons which can bypass the inconveniences.

    Fast forward three decades and you have compromised and controversial politicians such as Blair and Clinton who laid their respective offices open to accusations of using military action for political gain, rather than strategic gain or for legitimate defensive doctrine.

    To come to the quote at top here, it is a side which is losing which retreats behind weapons which preclude necessary contact with the enemy. War has to be risky to all the combatants since if it becomes safe for one side only, it becomes not only a safe option for their parent politicians, it becomes the preferred option – because that option holds no immediate risk. I’ll speak for myself and the men and women I once led. None of us would have wished to be risked unnecessarily, but beyond that, speaking for ourselves as volunteers, we not only expected to be risked when necessary, but we were entitled to experience that risk. It’s how you develop the martial spirit and instil it on others.

    ‘Easy bombing’ is diminishing that martial spirit. Corrupting it and lending it a malign streak by means of its associated political shackles.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10276410/David-Camerons-No-10-isnt-a-patch-on-Tony-Blairs.html

    I don’t know if you read this extraordinary article by John McTernan recently in the Telegraph, but if some of the claims he makes are true (and they ring true) then it explains well why the Blair Government proved to be so unutterably cancerous. I don’t know if he thought he was somehow impressing people with his absurd, pathetic ranting but if that was the nature of the politicians in possession of the keys to precision weaponry, then it bodes badly for the future.

    How, in the Syrian matter, can the public permit a judgement call on the morality of an attack, when our own political system cannot be held to moral account other than inadvertently, as in the case of the vote on 29 August?

  38. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 8, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    The use of missiles will only work as a deterrent if the tyrant feels that he and his family are personally at risk. An accurate ‘near miss’ together with a clear message is the requirement, and that’s difficult to achieve. One thing that we haven’t tried is active diplomacy to persuade the Russians not to supply weapons to Assad. If it is established beyond reasonable doubt that Assad has been responsible for the use of chemical weapons, getting the Russians to stop the flow of arms is the most useful single thing that we could do.

    Some questions for Mr Redwood: If there is no world government, how was existing international law established, what is its legitimacy, and by what mechanism(s) does it evolve?

    Reply International law on conflict, war and the treatment of citizens has been established by international treaties and by the UN.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 8, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Interesting to see who Israel would whack should some sort of missile strike occur on Tel Aviv from Syria.Very short investigation resulting in a JDAM on Assad’s head with another not far behind just to make sure would be the result whether he did it or not.

  39. Mark B
    Posted September 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    It is often forgotten, that it was the UK that declared war on Germany and not the other way round. Germany, and her allies, never sought conflict with the UK , or even threatened her Empire or interests, unlike the US at that time.

    Yet, we still went to war, for what ? We never saved little Belgium (a non-country) from the German’s in 1914 or, the brave Poles in 1939. So what good can we do in Syria ?

    The Falklands was a conflict, not a war, and it was the last time that this country took on another sovereign power. That conflict to me seemed the right thing for us to do at that time, and it seems even more just over thirty years later. We can never say that about Labour’s recent wars.

    Syria has nothing to do with us. Please, Mr. Redwood MP sir, I beg you, please keep us out of this.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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