Today Parliament will debate military action in the Middle East. I set out my thoughts on this in the House and to the Foreign Secretary recently (and posted my views as a blog).
During the consultations prior to today’s debate I made clear I would vote against any military action in Syria. The legality of any such intervention is not straightforward, and the efficacy of intervening in such a trouble country in a way which might also help Mr Assad does not persuade me to support such action. I am pleased to learn from informed sources that we will not be asked today to approve bombing in Syria. I could see many ways in which bombing Syria could make things worse. The lack of clarity over the West’s current attitude to Assad’s role in the country, and the lack of an effective democratic opposition on the ground is bad enough.
The case of Iraq is different, as the Iraqi government has asked for our help. It is a democratic government and it clearly has serious problems trying to regain authority over its people and territory. I will listen carefully to the case made. The government will need to explain what can be achieved by bombardment from the air. More importantly it will need to explain how the war will be won on the ground, how innocent civilians caught up in the conflict will be protected as best they can, and what the political strategy will be. I find it difficult to believe UK military intervention can make much difference to all this, making it difficult for me to vote for the proposal. War is only worth fighting – if your own country is not under direct invasion- if you can see how you can win and how you can then win the peace to create a better future.
Mr Cameron is right that we should not be frozen by past failures. We also need to learn the lessons of our past interventions. Could arming the Kurds lead to an independent Kurdish state? How will the Shia interests accommodate the Sunni population’s legitimate demands? Did the last Iraq war destabilise the country too much?