There have been horrific scenes on our tv screens from Iraq as the IS forces make their advance. We have seen the impact of the violence in the Israeli/Hamas conflict. The damage done in the Ukrainian civil war has not figured so prominently in the media, as journalists do not seem so interested in the clash between the Russian sympathising rebels in the East and the government forces where tanks, planes and other serious weaponry have been deployed by the Kiev government.
I am concerned like many of my constituents about these difficult and dangerous civil wars and wars over borders and rights to self government. I wish the UK to do what it can to promote peace, offer humanitarian aid to those in need, and work with the international community through the UN to be a force for stability where possible. I do not think in any of these three tragic cases there is a role for the UK military to insert themselves into the conflict to act for one side or the other.
Some constituents write to me passionately on the side of the Palestinians over the attacks on Gaza, or on behalf of the Israelis and their right to self defence. Some write to me condemning Russian involvement in the Ukraine, others write to me saying the EU’s foreign policy has pushed too hard against the Russian influences in the Ukraine with unfortunate results. Some write to me condemning the Sunni forces in the Middle East, others are less supportive of the Shia governments.
This is as it should be and as I would expect in a liberal democracy with people from various backgrounds living peacefully together here. It is a further good argument why the UK government should not seek to side with one belligerent or another in these tense and dangerous situations. The UK government should be neither Shia nor Sunni, neither Palestinian nor Israeli, neither pro a united Ukraine nor pro a federal or multi state Ukraine. The UK’s views on each of these conflicts should be that they are for local people to resolve how they are governed and what pattern of states best helps them. It is best done by talking and by democratic processes. Wars break into the pattern of talking and seeking negotiated settlements, but they can only end when people do wish again to talk through their differences and come to a new agreed settlement. Wars are what happen when diplomacy and politics fails. Where atrocities are committed the UK should condemn these and seek an international solution.
The UK can help with advice, diplomacy and by showing by example how differences about how we should be governed are best resolved by peaceful means. The Scottish referendum should be an example to all countries facing independence movements in part of their territory. There may be times when we need to help the international community rescue people in special distress or supply military support and force to a UN mission. This is not the time to plunge into another Middle Eastern war, where intervening on one side may have unwished for consequences. I was one of those MPs who opposed the idea of military intervention in Syria. I now see that some of the opponents of the Assad regime have turned up in IS, showing how difficult it is to find the right allies in a just cause in that troubled part of the world. My job is to help keep a peaceful and successful community here at home. We can best do that with moderate language about these international matters, and a suitable sense of humility about how much UK power could achieve.