Spectator Debate Today on Iraq and Syria

The Spectator are hosting a debate today at Church House Conference Centre, Great Smith Street, Westminster at 7 pm.

I shall be speaking for the motion; ‘Iraq and Syria are lost causes, western intervention can’t help’.

More details, including on other speakers, are available on http://events.spectator.co.uk/events/iraq-and-syria-are-lost-causes/


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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    How did they manage to find anyone to speak against the motion?

    What about Cameron’s Libya too?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I see they managed to find Ed Husain a Senior advisor to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a spectator editor and Lord Dannatt. Please save us from politicians of faith they are often very dangerous.

      I suppose it is hard for the Military to accept what a pointless disaster it has all been so far, when so many lives have been lost and people injured in this totally counter productive activity.

      • zorro
        Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        The Tony Blair Faith Foundation……. Give me strength….. How is the Man of Peace getting on the ME these days? ……. Sometimes I really do wish there is a just God to meet out some just reward…..

        It certainly was counter productive, particularly for those who lost their lives and limbs for very little it seems, and the poor people in that region whose lives have been turned upside down in the ego-political end game….


        • zorro
          Posted October 22, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          iPad autocorrected to ego instead of geo….. Although probably both are right! And it should be mete instead of meet.


    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Meanwhile I see that some encouraging developments in nerve regrowth have been described as “more impressive than a man walking on the moon”.

      Not that hard as trips to the moon & manned spaced travel has been largely a pointless waste of tax payers money by vain politicians for years. Very unimpressive and rather pointless. Indeed space travel outside near earth orbit is largely pointless with current technology. The only exception might be some way of preventing large earth impacts.

      The R&D should be mainly into improved nuclear energy generation (of some form), controlling heath risks. But politicians far prefer spectacular & expensive distractions & gimmicks. Nothing much of any real use has come out of this beyond earth orbit exploration and lots of deaths too.

  2. Michael Fraser
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Although I would often find myself on different sides of Conservative debate from yr own public positions, I would be happy to be seconding you on this topic.
    One only needs to look at Libya to see the disorder to which Messrs Hague and Cameron have contributed through their naive embrace of jihadists posing as advocates of a spring tide of democracy in the Middle East.
    May your advocacy sway your listeners.

  3. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    For a start I wouldn’t just lump Iraq and Syria together in the way the motion does, and I can’t immediately fathom why they have chosen to do that.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure on this issue. Is it being video’d? Unfortunately we cannot hear what is being said in a closed building elsewhere unlike many locals in this area who think that they can hear what others say in another car . Impossible of course unless there is criminal activity.

    • Margaret Brandreth-J
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I suppose it is that element where one set of people is indistinguishable from another in their allegiance which lends itself to aggregation of peoples.
      My perspective arises out of what people are capable of in their pursuit of land and ruler ship. If I see those who are capable of rape ,murder of children and genocide and use those brutal tactics on their own , then what would they do given even an inch in Europe. They might not blaze through with violence , yet when their foot is in the door what would happen then?

  5. Mark
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    In whose sand would you draw the line? After ISIS invade NATO country Turkey? When they reach the Channel? On our own streets?

    Reply ISIS is not going to invade the UK

    • Mark B
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      Well, 500 won’t be, as they have British passports.

    • forthurst
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      If ISIS invade Turkey, then it is possible that Turkey would cease hosting training camps and lethal weapon transfers to them. If ISIS invaded Turkey then regretfully, CMD as a representative of a NATO country, would be obliged to become a War Leader. Turkey itself, of course, has 400k ground forces with NATO weapons, so it would have no difficulty in seeing off ISIS and neither, if not subject to external interference, would Syria and neither should Iraq.

      • zorro
        Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, they will not bite the hand that feeds them…


        • bluedog
          Posted October 23, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

          ‘Indeed, they will not bite the hand that feeds them…’

          Don’t be so sure. Remember Turkey is a Muslim state run by Islamists and these people have some creative ideas about getting street cred. One particular problem that could easily ring a very loud bell is the unresolved division of Cyprus.

          In 1974 Turkey clearly had a plan to occupy the whole island and expel the Greeks. What if Erdogan tries again, needing a successful foreign adventure to shore up domestic support. How would HM sovereign bases look as enclaves within Turkish Cyprus? How long would the bases last?

          • zorro
            Posted October 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            I meant that ISIS wouldn’t bite the hand that fed them (Turkey)…..


    • Margaret Brandreth-J
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      It depends how you define invasion John

      • zorro
        Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Operation Sealion, 1066, Armada….that type of thing?


    • Max Dunbar
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: They don’t need to.

    • agricola
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      No need for ISIS to invade the UK, they are already here. Access to MI5’s files would enlighten us as to the extent of their ambitions in the UK at least for the ones on the radar. Our borders are so porous that one can have no faith that they are all fully visible.

      • zorro
        Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        I am sure that access to MI5 files would be very illuminating about ISIS….


      • agricola
        Posted October 23, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        At the time of writing my reply I did not realise that Canada would suffer the sort of atrocity I envisaged. Perhaps those who think ISIS can be contained and ignored in the Middle East should now re-assess the situation and take the threat within the UK seriously. Elimination at source is the best solution.

        Reply What is the source? Why do some imply killing ISIS supporters in Iraq is fine but not in the UK? We do not, rightly, in the UK go round and shoot someone or blow up their house because they might be threat. How do we know who is an ISIS supporter in Iraq and which of them might be a threat to the UK? If we do intervene militarily to a greater extent in Iraq might ISIS move elsewhere? Might they recruit more people?

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, ISIS would probably speed up the French autoroutes in their jeeps, humvees, and Nike trainers with highly accurate, laser guided US airdrops to the French forces mysteriously turning up in their hands…. but don’t worry…. If they get to Calais, they have no chance of getting across the Channel. Do you seriously think that the illegals there will let these latter day parvenus across before them? Dream on… 😉


  6. Bert Young
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I back your stance in the debate . Muslim culture is a strange mix of myth and history aided and abetted by tribal competition . Controls in this confusing and difficult to fathom life manner are beyond Western comprehension and should be left alone ; the only thing that has kept a state of relative peace is the firm hand of a ruler dictator .

  7. Max Dunbar
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I hope that you will provide a broad historical canvass to your speech as many of us have had relatives posted to the former Mesopotamia and Levant going right back to the First World War.

  8. English Pensioner
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I’d fully support the motion; you could add Libya and Afghanistan and I’d still agree.
    What we need to be doing in this country is to make sure that their problems don’t overspill into Britain.
    What I also find of concern is that Turkey is becoming progressively more Islamic in that it is not discouraging ISIS whilst at the same time they are a member of NATO and want to join the EU.

  9. David Cockburn
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    It was a passionate debate, with able and committed speakers on both sides. In the pre-debate poll there were a large majority of ‘undecideds’; after the debate there was a large majority in favour of intervention.

    Posted October 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It should be a democratic responsibility of MPs to directly inform their own electorates of their voting on military actions. After all there could be counter attacks directly upon citizens of our country in Parliament , Town Halls any high street, bus, shopping mall or kindergarden.

    I suggest each MP who votes for military action, in this case Iraq, should be compelled by law to place YES on every photo he uses officially in election campaigns similar to the same of images of SNP YES campaigners which they used so effectively on their Twitter account photos. This would show they are taking direct personal democratic moral and legal responsibility for their actions.

  11. zorro
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink


    What went wrong? Is it an accurate summary?


    Reply It is an interesting view of the debate and I agree with a lot of it. I was unable to persuade the audience that because the UK cannot resolve this matter by military means, and that the wrong kind of military intervention could make it worse, that it would be better if we stayed out. The audience throughout was very keen for there to be an answer, a happy ending, which the UK could assist in creating. I do not accept I made a rookie mistake of not engaging – I sought passionately to engage, but my view that we should not send troops or bomb because it could make it worse left them unsatisfied because they wanted an answer. The motion was from my point of view badly drafted, as I do not rule out diplomatic/democratic/advisory interventions where the UK could have a lot to offer, but the motion asked me to rule out all interventions. Nor do I think, as I made clear, that Syria and Iraq are necessarily lost causes. As I argued, it depends how locals handle the politics of those countries in future as to whether they survive and flourish, or split or continue with civil war.

      Posted October 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps as with BBC Question Time audiences they were a “representative cross-section of the population” ? Or composed of “the average man in the street” . Interesting. In a not entirely dissimilar frame of reference one may say correctly it has been a enduring cherished hope of the majority of people to eventually earn the average national wage.

    • zorro
      Posted October 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – I agree that it would have been a difficult motion to carry before the audience. It is always trickier to try and persuade people that to do nothing or little (operationally rather than diplomatically) is the best course of action when they think that a situation is/or is presented as an immediate danger which must be confronted by action or ‘doing something’. It will always be easier for interventionists to argue that their action will produce results, although it still surprises me that people think that way bearing in mind the last two decades of interventionism. I suppose it is the power of the modern day media and 24/7 television.

      Nevertheless, I would take heart from the fact that the reviewer thought that you actually had the most relevant arguments.


  • 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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