Could bombing Syria work?

I have no more love for ISIL than the Prime Minister. Like him, I would rather live in a world where there are no extremist groups using violence to gain power over worried and damaged communities. I wish him well with his wider strategy for tackling extremism.

I do however have the same reservations about bombing Syria as I did when I wrote to him with others when he last wanted to do it. We urged him not to.

Bombing remains a blunt weapon, for all the improvements in tracking and aiming technology. Whilst with modern intelligence and bomb aiming it is possible to kill more of the people you want to kill whilst killing fewer of the people you do not wish to kill, you can still end up killing the wrong people. In what is a war for hearts and minds as well you also leave yourself open to claims that you have killed bystanders and civilians, and open to extremists themselves killing others and claiming you did it. You also create martyrs of the dead in the eyes of those who support them, which can enable them to recruit replacements for those you kill.

It is not realistic to suppose you can kill enough of the extremists by bombing to get them to give up. They are too widely dispersed and too embedded in the civilian populations to allow easy success from the air. That’s why various military experts say bombing has be part of an invasion or wider campaign. In the end you only destroy ISIL power by fighting house to house and killing them or forcing them to retreat. This can be done, but you end up killing a lot of the civilian population you are trying to liberate. Most people agree that US and UK soldiers should not be asked to do this. You leave open the question of how then do you help the legitimate government establish proper control? Where the government is the government of Syria, you are left with the moral dilemma of do you want to help Assad re establish control over the country? If not, how do you also arrange for his defeat? What would you replace both ISIL and Assad with? How would the new government after a brutal war to gain enough control be able to unite the country and create successful peaceful administration?

The other problem I have with bombing ISIL is they are not the only nasty group to dislike. The UK has banned or condemned a long list of organisations. What about Boko Haram? Al Nusra? Abu Nidal? Adu Abyan? Abu Sayyah? Al Qaeda? Ansar al Sharia? -just to name a few from the A and B items on lists of such organisations. Extremism is a multi headed monster. Bombing one part of it has so far not ended or controlled it.

Yesterday I asked the Secretary of State for Defence who would take over the government of parts of Syria if Coalition forces are successful in displacing ISIL? He did not seem to want the current government of Syria led by Assad to do that. There’s more to creating better government than bombing some evil men.

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  1. Posted July 21, 2015 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    The trouble with what you say is that it pretends some sort of absolute sententious view of what is going on but that is only half the story at best. The question is relative to the alternatives. It doesn’t need spelling out that there are no good options–whether we like it or not what we must find and decide and act upon is the least bad option. We cannot stand by and do nothing while these people act worse than barbarians and take over the World. I wonder if I was alone in thinking, so what?, on learning the latest silly noises off in the Commons.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Well I for one will quite happily stand by and do nothing.

      I really do not care who is president of Syria. Cameron is PM of the UK not Syria, so it is not his business either.

      We know from bitter experience about the laws of unintended consequences, and few human activities are more prone to this than half hearted bombing expeditions against far away countries of which we know little.

      I would much rather Cameron spent his time trying to fix the real problems we have in this country – excessive taxation and regulation, inefficient health care, inadequate education, poor roads and transport infrastructure, diminished human rights, most especially curtailments of freedom of speech and freedom of association (all in the name of some largely imaginary “War on Terror”), abandonment of the principles of British justice as it is subcontracted to Strasbourg… I could go on.

      Syria really and truly is the least of our problems.

      But because it gives him a chance to throw around some boys toys, it makes better soundbites than trying to fix the plumbing.

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        It is also about blindly supporting the U.S. Foreign policy. Iraq should be in the minds of the MPs and how the UK, as an occupying power, failed its responsibility to Irq and its people by going along with the U.S. We are still waiting for Chilcott to report! Blaire should be held to account, (words left out ed) for the deaths, untold misery and suffering he caused on a false premise to the country and HoC. (words left out ed) Mechanisms should be in place to stop PMs acting or going to war without the consent of the country. Blaire was warned by the security services it would increase home grown terrorism. Then we had 7/7.

        As we now see with Cameron, he created a mess in Lybia without proper authority to creat regime change and has allowed UK personnel to bomb Syria against the wishes of a parliament. He should be forced to walk.
        Cameron needs to focus his mind on providing security for this country, starting with the basics of securing our borders, limiting immigration, changing law, stop PC and equality babble etc.

        Reply Mr Blair did secure the consent of Parliament to his war – the issue is the quality of the information passed on to justify it.

  2. Posted July 21, 2015 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    I agree fully.

    Perhaps, given Cameron’s speech yesterday, he could rather more usefully look at getting rid of tax payer funded religious schools. Do we really want to augment these divisions & cleavages in society with tax payers money? Children are not born with a particular religion, religion is thrust upon their young minds by parents and schools. They should surely make up their own minds up when they are old enough to do so.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I am 76, and would just point out that we have had Church of England and Catholic schools in the UK all my life and I dont recall any problems. Why should we abolish those just because other more recent faith schools could be the source of our problems now? I am sick and tired of our culture, religion, and heritage being constantly eroded!

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        Northern Ireland?

        • Posted July 22, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          But I don’t believe we had the same friction in the rest of the UK so like most issues it probably isn’t that simple.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Missed the troubles in Northern Ireland did you?

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        @Cheshire girl. Agree with you. Church of England schools have been with us since Napoleonic times and the Catholic ones since about 1840. They served the country and the poor in the 19th century, they did a good job during the 20th century and they have been endorsed by a range of governments from Conservative to Labour to Liberal.

        I see absolutely no reason for getting rid of them.

        If you read Jonathan Sacks’ writings you will find somewhere that he, as a Jew attending a Church of England school, learnt to take his own faith seriously. In other words, attendance at a CofE school does not indoctrinate. Sacks became Chief Rabbi.

        I cannot speak for Islamic schools but, if they are in receipt of public money, they should be inspected by OFSTED – an organisation that costs a small fortune to run.

        • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          I can think of lots of reasons.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        That is true for England and Wales but not for the whole of the UK, most notably for Northern Ireland but also to some extent Scotland.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Well said. You are absolutely correct. And where would politicians send their children if these did not exist! You know, like Blaire, Harman, Clegg, Cameron, Gove etc.

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        The central fact is that a large Islamic population will change the way of life. In England, France, Sweden and so on.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      And I fully agree with getting rid of tax payer funded religious schools.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      I agree segregating our children into different schools by religion is a massive problem for the future. Bradford is bad enough. But when I walk around other less obvious places like Slough, Coventry, Birmingham, and so on its absolutely obvious to me that segregating our children is a massive mistake.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Indeed it is surely just incubating trouble for the future.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink


      Why is it then that local faith scools are always the one parents, even those without faith, want their children to attend? Is it because they offer more than just getting pupils through a series of exams? Could it be because they turn out good, community minded individuals?

      Children need to be guided in their early years inorder for them to develop the skills necessary for them to join society. The Christian faith teaches a series of morals and values which are, in general terms, good for society; indeed I would say they have served our nation well in the past. Other faiths too teach similar morals and therefore I have no problem with them.

      Children can be given the basics of a faith when they’re young but, it is the individual child, when older, who makes up their mind whether to continue or to abandon that faith.

      When I read some of your “I’m alright Jack” offerings, I feel that I prefer the “Thou shalt not kill, steal etc and love thy neighbour teachings much more.

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 4:11 am | Permalink

        It is mainly because they offer a degree of “back door” selection and so often tend to admit a better quality of input pupils, with more motivated parents.

        Given this they can often then attract rather better teachers and often leave the other schools with worse pupil inputs and worse teachers. The system naturally further reinforces these differences. This as the former becomes the school to go to and the others often become the ones to avoid – for parents, pupils and teachers.

        • Posted July 22, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          Good Grief LL!

          I never thought I would say this but, you’re sounding a bit like a socialist!….Rather than bringing all schools up to the standard set by the religious schools, you appear, if I understand your comment correctly, to want to drag the well performing schools down to the level of the rest…..I am shocked!

          Our state indoctrination system which we laughingly call our education system really needs to have it’s backside kicked in order to improve it because, it is our future. Mr Gove started to improve it was was plotted against by the media and teaching union and eventually shot in the back by our weak PM.

          • Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

            for once in his life LL is correct.

            the reasons for the popularity of such schools is little to do with them being faith schools and all to do with the underhand selection and bias going on.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      LL – So what alternative would you offer? Or would you simply ban all schools organised by any group other than the state? The problem is that the parents clearly want an alternative to the standard state schooling.

      What dogma would you replace it with? You have decided that parents will have no say so you have to teach some morals/ethical behaviour so which credo will you favour?

      • Posted July 24, 2015 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        If we stopped talking about exam results and started educating children the pupils might have a chance of becoming a rounded person ready for work life. Life is not’ University Challenge’ or the’ Chase.’ It is NOT about remembering facts and putting them in an exam perspective. Real life does not work that way.There are so many coming out with top degrees who simply cannot perform when their own initiative is needed.

  3. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    No !

    And what is so different between what is going on in Syria and say Nigeria. Or indeed half a hundred other places.

    This is a civil war and it is none of our business. Let the UN sort it out. Let MENA troops, under the UN flag, fight it out. What concern is it to us what goes on in Syria ? We have no interests there. We will only make things worse. We will only get the blame when things go wrong. And we will see more terrorism on our streets from those born here but do not necessarily share the same views on life etc.

    We have an appalling record when it comes to intervention, or regime change, to give its proper name.

    The Government needs to concentrate on sorting out the mess that is the UK, not some far away land.

    If the Government want a war, why don’t we send them to fight. And if not, then their first born. That will curb their taste for other peoples blood.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      It would be oh so nice if the UN could sort it out. But the UN is nothing but an amalgamation of nation states, and they do not agree on what to do.

      Putin warned against intervening in Syria, predicting the consequences of undermining Assad. And events have proved him right.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Absolutely right .

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      “This is a civil war and it is none of our business”

      Unfortunately Islamic State have made it our business.

      From the Independent a year ago:

      “In June the Isis militant group declared its occupied territories as a new state, removing “Iraq and the Levant” from its name and announcing the “restoration of the caliphate”.”

      Declaring a “caliphate” is a move that has huge ideological and theological importance. Defined as meaning “the government under a caliph”, it means Isis, now simply The Islamic State (IS), has declared its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the spiritual leader of all Islam.”

      That’s “all” Islam around the world, not just in parts of the Middle East.

      It seem to me that this can only end in one of two ways: either in the destruction of Islamic State and its proclaimed caliphate, or the subjugation of the entire world to extreme Islam as promoted by the Islamic State caliphate; any intermediate condition, with Islamic State safely contained in certain parts of the Middle East and willing to peacefully co-exist with the rest of the world which would still be free from its control, could only be a temporary condition as far as its fanatical leaders were concerned.

      • Posted July 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        It seem to me that this can only end in one of two ways: either in the destruction of Islamic State and its proclaimed caliphate

        Theresa May was utterly gushing about Islam at the Tory party conference. So the political elite have embarked on an experiment we have never tried before. Praising heresy (she is an Anglican). In every previous generation we dealt with heresy by politely but firmly debunking it. Which seems to me to be a more humane alternative than dropping hi explosives on them in the ‘Caliphate’. We will not defeat political Islam by preaching gay rights as for that to work you have to first control their media and embark on social conditioning, which takes years, decades and may not work at all in the world of Islam. etc ed

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Hear! Hear!

  4. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    JR, you cannot call Cameron’s speech a strategy, more a calamity. It is thoughtless and ill conceived to grab a headline. Like most of his speeches/ strategies they last a week or so, no thought to other policies or laws in operation and then he breaks his promise, performs a U turn or it turns out that he has done something completely different to what he said.

    I recommend you and other MPs read Peter Hitchens article on Syria. Another mess created by the west.

    Middle East wars for thoughtless regime change when no British interest exist, blindly following US foreign policy, Mass immigration, open borders, ECHR, Sharia law, equality and diversity laws that created home grown racist attacks on white girls ie Rotherham, Rochdale, Luton and Oxford, segregation of sexes in learning institutions and political meetings, stop the navy bringing migrants to the EU who will end up in the UK, properly monitor and inspect faith schools, stop Osborne’s Balkanisation of our country helped by Heseltine- how long before claims to a caliphate in a region of the UK?

    When Cameron gets the basics right he might then be able to develop a strategy with help and by someone able to follow it through to completion. He really must stop the Blair approach of grabbing a headline for a moment of popularity with no real intention of delivering. Like Blaire, his war in the Middle East has caused death, suffering, misery and home grown terrorism. He has caused more extremism than prevented. We cannot afford his stupidity it costs lives! Cameron wasted our taxes in supporting the “opposition” to Assad which has turned into ISIS. Now he wants to bomb them! No, to bombing in Syria we see the mess he created in Lybia.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Mr Slippery (Cameron) needs to go, ASAP. He is becoming a liability to the UK. Surely he should be resigning after his contempt of Parliament? I often wonder how things could have been if David Davis had won the leadership election.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Trigger happy Dave should be made to go. He does not stand up for the English or think through his plans. The Libyan crisis is a direct consequence of his foolhardy decision to bomb that Country. Now people are leaving Africa in the 100’s of thousands to come to Europe picked up by our Navy so they end up at Calais. You simply couldn’t make it up.

        We all know he has no plan on what to do in Syria. You can’t bomb to victory without boots on the ground. Why have we always got to be the first? Why not other Muslim Countries? Who will lead the Country after the bombing campaign? What does he plan to do with returning fighters to Britain to keep us all safe from ISIS? No plan, all too politically sensitive.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        Hear, hear. David Davis is brilliant and would make a better leader than Cameron. Listen to the following link. He has brought up things to do with the fact that wind farm developers do not hold enough funds in their accounts but use a parent company so that people cannot sue them for noise etc when their wind farms completely cock up people lives.

        It is well worth listening to. Only 10 mins.

        • Posted July 22, 2015 at 4:23 am | Permalink

          An eminently sensible proposal.

          Better still just tax or stop the £800 Million PA of pointless tax payer subsidy back and kill the whole entirely pointless industry dead.

  5. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Your Party wanted to bomb Assad last year and now your leader wants to bomb Assad’s enemies . Killing Gadafi worked out well ! Who will he want to bomb next year and where is the money coming from ?
    How proud are you of this fidgety foreign “policy” John ? Just remember this is nothing to do with Islam .

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      My MP, (Maidenhead Mrs May ed) recognised as a leading Islamic theologian, still says that it’s nothing to do with Islam, and I’m sure she must right.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, nothing whatsoever, clearly not the slightest connection at all.

      • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        I know your comment is tongue in cheek!

        I would agree that the actions of these people are not consistent with the normal teachings of Islam, but they have EVERYTHING to do with Islam.

        The Crusaders hardly acted in accordance with Jesus’ teachings, but they had EVERYTHING to do with Christianity.

        • Posted July 23, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

          DaveM: The “crusades” were a defensive reaction to an aggressive ideology dressed up as a religion.

  6. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    With an apparent six Tornados in Cyprus it is at best going to be a political gesture rather than a really effective military one. It has the advantage of confirming that the ISIL recruits from the UK are fighting a war against the British military and as such can be barred from re-entry to the UK should they survive.

    If it is going to be militarily effective then it must be matched with ground forces. The only capable ones appear to be the Kurds, the Iraqis having proved themselves useless on at least three separate occasions. Watching them shoot on TV is a mind numbing experience suggesting they were trained by Robbo Cop.

    If you wish to give ISIL a hard time with an uncertain future by all means bomb them, if for no other reason than it is good practice for our air force. If you wish to wipe them out then a competent army on the ground is essential. If you believe the Express , ISIL are already in Bosnia Herzogovena and infiltrating via the Mediterranean so time to wake up I think.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Bosnia and Kosovo have both been subject to IS infiltration according to news reports on both the BBC and RT.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I remember working on the swing wing MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft/Tornado) project over 47 years ago, do they still use valves or have they been moved on to transistors now?

  7. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Your post contains a lot of thought and common sense, but at the same time we need to protect ourselves by stopping terrorists spreading their ideas to both ourselves and the wider World.

    Thus border controls need to be tightened to try and avoid access, those closest to the area of conflict need to fight the hardest to protect their homeland.

    The Eu open borders policy actually helps terrorist movement from one country to another in Europe.

    Intelligence needs to be strengthened to try and identify those involved.

    The internet service providers need to be on board to try and restrict the communication/propaganda.

    Those wishing to leave our Country or others to support these organisations should have their passports taken away and future entry refused.

    Given this is a so called religious war, then I would expect those Countries with similar faith religions to do rather more to combat such terrorists both in word and deed.

    Yes you are correct JR the only real way to defeat the spread is to invade, but then its supporters will be driven underground and become temporary members of the community until they rise again.

    One real problem that few want to recognise is that there are too many weapons in the World, which have usually been supplied by the so called developed Countries, because the arms trade is hugely profitable.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Brokenshaw’s recommendation preventing criminals entering the UK did not extend to those from the EU? A bit of a flaw I suggest and links to this blog as well.

      Still no apology for last weeks fiasco that the UK will not be involved in Eurozone bail outs. I presume Osborne and Cameron have moved on to this week’s broken promises. I note the UK is running the second largest deficit to Japn than any other OECD country. Where are these 80/20 splits? Could the £2 billion from overseas aid given to the EU to spend (EDF) on trampalining, finding fish mates, dancing, third world dictator bank accounts be reclaimed? Do Cameron and Osborne have the courage to ask their EU masters? Or instead will they demand cuts to our public services, increase our taxes to pay for their madness, and perhaps a larger pay increase for MPs? Gordon come back, you were sane compared to these two!

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      The official policy in practice is to cut intelligence and enforcement jobs I which deal with immigration control/offenders because of budget cuts.


  8. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    “Bombing” isn’t the issue. As this well reasoned post goes on the explain there are lots of issues, mostly interlinked, and all to be considered before action.

    Before any action there has to be an objective. The objective has to be feasible, else better not to act at all. But there is also the cost of inaction, and that has to be weighed.

    Before action there needs to be a strategy. And a range of tactics to implement the strategy. Bombing is but one tactic.

    So, the Prime Minister needs to explain his objective and enough of his strategy and tactics to enable us to judge whether to support him or not.

    The least painful use of force, for all concerned, is the use of overwhelming power as this brings about a quick result. Fiddling about with a bomb here and a bomb there is only going to make things worse.

    Action because something must be done and be seen to being done is the worst of all possible actions.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      No explanation given, the UK is already using its personnel to bomb Syria against parliamentary approval. When was Cameron going to let parliament know when he cites the name of the fallen? Sounds like the Lybia mission creep to kill Gaddaffi.

  9. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The Iraq war showed us we cannot bomb the Middle East to submission.
    Russia is the big threat right now.
    The priority for the UK government is to make sure Nato is on the ball.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Russia is only a threat to the ambitions of the west (ie the USA)to install a one world government,to progress the Project for the New American Century and implement the Wolfowitz doctrine.Long may it continue to thwart those ambitions.I suggest we concentrate on the soldiers of the Caliphate within and those on their way here.

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        I’m so glad it isn’t just me who can see that! Spot on!


        • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          Me too ?


  10. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    RT did a piece on a supposed ‘chemical attack’ carried out by the Syrian Government that was actually staged for the cameras (it’s still available to view on YouTube). The BBC put it out as genuine, so I brought it to the attention of the local MP at the time, Julian Huppert. He wrote to the BBC to ask why, but they did not get back to him, and I can only say that shows the arrogance and the detachment of an organisation that is long overdue for change. The BBC needs to be accountable to the people who pay for it.

    Chemical attacks on the hapless Syrian people sway public opinion in the UK and give credence to people like Mr Cameron and Mr Fallon who want an excuse to get involved in yet more wars. Stage-managed trip wires are incredibly dangerous.

    Libya was another case that needs proper scrutiny.

    We need to ask ourselves about the bigger picture and what the war mongers REALLY want to achieve, and the trail soon leads back to the hawks and the neo-cons in Washington. We then need to look at who pays the politicians’ campaign funds, and what they want in return.

    Do we really want to be a part of that kind of corrupt pork barrel politics that masquerades as free and always acts in the best interest of the people ?

    Tad Davison


    Reply The issue of Syrian chemical attacks is disputed and it would be good to hear the BBC’s side of the argument. I do not myself approve of Assad because I do not like ISIL, one of his enemies. It is clear he has ordered the death of many Syrians by his conduct of the civil war, and he has to take some of the blame for the violence unleashed against his regime which he says he is responding to.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Is Cameron going to take some responsibility for the mess he created in Lybia, the mayhem, misery and deaths? What involvement did UK personnel have int he finding and killing of Gaddafi? Where was the legal right for this to be carried out? I thought everyone had the right to trial even those vile people from WWII. I note Chilcott is still costing the taxpayer a fortune. Why can’t the evidence be reviewed by an independent panel and a conclusion reached?

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        All relevant – I will put my trust in karma….


    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:

      Just a thought John. Firstly, I would like to know what the BBC has to say about the stage-managed chemical attack too, but answer there came none. I often feel the BBC are complicit in certain things, not least, the situation in Ukraine where their account bolstered the heavily slanted position of their paymasters, the EU. Very shoddy journalism!

      On Libya and Syria, it is noteworthy that the anti-Gaddafi insurgents were using weapons that previously did not exist in Libya, and were later found to have been sourced from the CIA. Those same insurgents have been regularly turning up in Syria together with those same weapons. But we can’t get that from ‘Britain’s most trusted broadcaster’. To get the bigger picture, we need to get our news from elsewhere, and have it verified by reliable people. That makes the BBC an expensive irrelevance.

      As for the Syrian president, I’m ambivalent towards him and the people could do better were they free to choose, but according to international law, a country has the right to defend itself. Maybe by giving support to people they should be a million miles from, the west wants to create yet another failed state in an already troubled region. Good, sound foreign policy that would be!

      No country has the right to go stirring up trouble all over the place at their whim for highly dubious ends, and that is totally wrong by any reasonable peace-loving person’s measure. It makes it specially sickening when one considers that same country refuses to sign-up to international laws others are made to subscribe to – but who is going to stand up to them?

      Evidently, not Cameron, Fallon, and Hammond! (Perhaps now you will see why I tried to get them to consider you for Foreign Secretary).


      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Hear hear


    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      We need to ask ourselves about the bigger picture and what the war mongers REALLY want to achieve

      I believe they are in a geopolitical struggle with Russia to control gas pipeline routes through Syria and for that we need to stay loyal to Qatar.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – Like we should take some of the blame for the causing the IRA to use terrorism??


    • Posted July 25, 2015 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Reply The issue of Syrian chemical attacks is disputed and it would be good to hear the BBC’s side of the argument.

      I would like to see in what context you think it disputed?

  11. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I agree that bombing is a blunt tool which rarely achieves much in the way of military success. It displaces populations, destroys infrastructure, and – tactically – provides excellent cover for those trying to defend the place against ground attack. Much easier to clear a town which is still intact. Refer to Stalingrad.

    And you are right regarding the other ISLAMIC TERROR GROUPS (let’s not mince words) and the complexity of the problem. However, something needs to be done about IS. They are the crocodile closest to the boat. Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are the next two – particularly given the fact that they are affecting former colonies.

    More importantly, though, the PM needs to turn his attention to being more robust on the home front. Unchecked immigration, ghettos (untouchable due to the current political crop’s abject terror at being branded racist), and the emasculation of our internal security forces are the biggest threat to our homeland security. In the words of the King – “a little less conversation, a little more action please”.

    As someone who has lived and breathed military strategy and tactics for 25 years, I seriously doubt the PM’s credentials as a foreign policy director, given the fact that the only job he ever had was as a researcher in the Westminster bubble. He might do well to visit our gleaming establishments at Sandhurst, Dartmouth, Shrivenham, and Cranwell – the brilliant military and civilian people who work in those places would be able to educate him.

  12. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    In your penultimate paragraph you pose some fairly key questions and whilst I could add to them, it would be an academic exercise. Whilst I know that these points will be put to the Government on the matter, on historic observation, I would guess in advance that no credible answers will follow them.

    Without answers therefore, any involvement would proceed so without a clear end strategy. In extremely simplistic terms, the tenet ‘If in doubt, Don’t’. Would apply. It’s known that events on the ground in Iraq and in Syria (and others, but let’s keep it focussed for now) are manipulated by known external influential neighbours. And that those influences are in that region, and make little effort to conceal it.

    In that case, further UK involvement would be little more than piggy-in-the-middle. Flailing about to somebody else’s tune without a blueprint strategy to follow.

    I have no doubt that specialist reconnaissance operatives on the ground can successfully task a missile costing many tens of thousands of pounds to kill three teenagers with rifles in a Toyota pick-up truck (which itself wouldn’t fetch so much as five hundred quid from a Car market in the UK) but in those terms there will never be a shortage of such targets. We could spend the rest of human history conducting ourselves thus.

    It’s not our conflict, under the terms any out-of-region Government intends to act, it is not cost-effective to a degree beyond ruinous. They will not be tackling the source of the orchestration and involvement will inevitably precipitate further misery on the innocents in-theatre. It was a bad idea two years ago and nothing has changed since.

    However, not entirely off-topic, I would instead be inclined to give support to the recommendation by Dan Jarvis to hold a proper Public Inquiry over military operations and associated Government support for, for all conflict engagements using UK Armed Forces including and since 1997.

  13. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    What does bombing achieve, it destroys the infrastructure of the Country you are supposedly endeavouring to liberate.
    Having overthrown the Tyrant as in Iraq and Libya you have the responsibility to establish a stable Government. This the Western powers who carried out the bombing have failed to do, so creating the problem with no real strategy to solve it.
    After ousting the Iraqi army from Kuwait Bush failed to overthrow Sadam Hussein and take over the intact Government administration. Instead we have a continuing unstable country.
    Our Government should bear their past failures in mind.

  14. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    For some reason the western governments appear to think that if the local hard man regime is bombed to oblivion that western style parties will spring up having debates about whether the top rate of tax should be 40% or 50%.

    As we have seen in Iraq, Libya, and Somalia life is seldom like that.

    In the case of Syria I suspect that Mr Putin will regard that as part of his “sphere of influence” so things could get even more messy.

    That apart Britain’s defenses are pretty feeble and what Mr Cameron is proposing is small scale. Things like Trident might and Aircraft Carriers (with aircraft?) are expensive projects that don’t help in Syria.

  15. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    “The last time we faced the peril of such radicalised ideologies we had to nuke and carpet bomb them into submission”

    Britain and America had to do this despite the fact that they knew most of the peoples of Japan and Germany were innocents lead by a wayward and forceful elite.

  16. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    What preparations have been made to guard the unarmed civilian population in the UK in the inevitable retaliation for a successful attack on ISIL in Syria?

    Have sandbags been placed to eye level outside all kindergardens, schools, pubs, cafes, petrol stations, gas works, railway stations etc etc etc etc etc?

    Do we have 20 trained marksmen or, and let us be politically correct, markswomen, in every village , town, row of terraced houses?

    When the UK government can say categorically that its attacks on ISIL do not under any circumstances place the unarmed British public on the front line then they can have one of their debates in the heavily guarded Houses of Parliament on whether to do whatever.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      ‘ISIS’ will strike when it is politically convenient for its covert supporters and funders to impose its agenda on the general populace.


  17. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Yea but if people are openly beheading Brits in the dessert, filming it and putting it on the web, I have no problem flattening them with bombs no matter what country they are in. No need to have a well thought through plan for later, although that would be good, I am more than happy just to bomb them for doing that.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      I want to know what the Toyota Land Cruiser destruction count is, and how many Nike trainers have been found so that we can accurately assess ISIS strength. Funnily enough, there always seem to be lots of these displays of Toyota Landcruiser convoys pootling through the open desert…… Strange how you never see these burnt out convoys like we did during Op Desert Storm. How oddly incredible……


      • Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        The bombing of ISIS is largely just for show. If the Kurds or Baghdad declare oil independence again then they will be allowed to advance until such a time they change their minds, I think that is the general idea.

  18. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    At the time of the vote on Syria, the plan was to support the rebels in their aim of deposing Assad; now it seems that the plan is to attack those very same rebels.
    This hardly gives the impression that the government has given much careful thought about their long term objective for Syria and Iraq.
    We took action in Libya on a similar basis, that Gadaffi was a nasty person and needed to be replaced by someone else, but all we appear to have now is anarchy with various groups fighting for dominance whilst providing a breeding ground for organisations like ISIS.
    When will our politicians learn that the western concept of democracy simply does not work in these countries? Their democratic development is centuries behind ours; they are in the era of the robber barons fighting for territory, but unfortunately they have modern weapons.
    Before this country does anything we should have a long term plan; just destroying ISIS in Syria will achieve nothing. As in Libya, some more groups will appear and the fighting will restart.
    On that basis, I would strongly oppose any further bombing until the government, along with the other countries involved, comes up with a realistic plan for the future of the area.

  19. Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I cannot believe that this PM has learnt nothing from the awful mess we made by going into Iraq and Afganistan. The end game is never thought through and the consequences to the people of those areas we bombed is awful. We really must get a proper debate on this and work out what this would mean. When I learnt that British pilots were embedded with the US bombers I just think this PM has to grow up a bit and acquire some gravitas (some grey hairs) and not just grab his gun. To want to help bomb ISIL is another disaster waiting to happen and what if one of our boys is killed (when we did not even know they were there)? This would and should bring down the government, it is disgusting.

    On a related note – the people who become “brides of ISIL” and fight with ISIL are committing TREASON against the State and should be “hanged” or thrown into the dungeons somewhere and forgotten. It is unacceptable to let this happen.

  20. Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    We may not be able to defeat ISIL with bombs, but we can weaken their supply lines. I understand that they are finding harder and harder to travel between Raqqa and Mosul with only two bridges open. One way to defeat ISIL is to show their naive young supporters that they are not invincible as their excellent propaganda machine likes to boast. Of course, bombing would be a lot more accurate and better targetted if there were special forces on the ground – certainly in Iraq, and perhaps in Syria – to direct the aircraft. I doubt if the Iraqi army has such capability (not one that the US and we could trust) so who should do it? Maybe the Kurds?

  21. Posted July 21, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Unless the government is clear about its political objective then military intervention is pointless – whether in Syria or anywhere else. What is the UK`s political objective in Syria? I am unclear what it is. Unless and until it is clear about which side it wants to prevail in its civil war, UK intervention would be worse than pointless. Even then whatever it concluded would need close scrutiny. Militarily the most effective option would be support for the Assad regime, similar to that afforded to the Iraq. But politically, much would need to change in the attitudes of that regime before that looks a feasible runner.

    In Iraq my understanding is that the UK government wants to support and sustain the current Iraqi government and its efforts to engage Shia, Sunni and Kurdish within it. The current level of military engagement (airpower support plus practical military advice on the ground) seems right to me.

    The ground war and the hearts and minds war needs to be fought by those who live on the ground. But, as we know, the Islamic Middle East is now riven three ways – Sunni, Shia and the new splinter of the idea of a new Caliphate. No one, I presume, is suggesting the UK becomes involved militarily in the Saudi-Iranian war now being conducted in the Yemen.

  22. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    The thing you have to remember about the ISIL-occupied areas is that this is not a large army occupying a large area, but a fairly small rabble occupying just the towns. They don’t control areas as such, just settlements, and their only strengths are in mobility and propaganda. The fact that we can bomb them at will demonstrates this clearly.

    If we want rid of them, then unfortunately we’re faced with the same set of problems that both the Roman and British Empires faced, and solved. If you raise local troops in an area, then they have local loyalties and very often aren’t actually any good. The only way to turn local troops into useful soldiers is to train them yourself, then move them a long way away from where they were raised, so they do not have any local affiliations.

    Do that, and keep your own troops with them for moral support so they don’t think they’re being abandoned and to provide a bit of backbone, and you end up with loyal troops who shouldn’t leg it at the first sign of trouble because they’ve got nowhere to leg it to, and furthermore have a big, powerful army machine backing them up.

    Cameron, by contrast, faces a dilemma. He doesn’t want to be seen as an imperialist (so he cannot recruit locals), the British Public rightly have no stomach for using just our own troops, and he also wants to be seen to “do something”. This is where we end up: bombing mud huts to prove a political point.

    It won’t solve much, beyond killing a few idiots, and it won’t convince the rest of the idiots to give up, but it is Something.

  23. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Wars are not won at a remove. Unless we can see a way forward and be prepared to do what must be done to win, we should not take the first step.

    The passport deprival proposals seem to me fatuous. If people want to go, let them but it should be a one way ticket.

  24. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    The government has suggested that by interfering abroad we somehow make ourselves safer at home. This doesn’t make much sense to me since we are an island and should be able to decide who comes to our country.

    Surely the best use of our forces is to bolster our own border security.

  25. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink
    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Rats! So no North-West Passage, no cheap Arctic oil!?

  26. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Could we do without oil from the Middle East? We need to get ourselves into that position as soon as possible and let them get on with whatever stone age barbarism they want to.

    The worry is that we buy their oil and they eventually buy nuclear weapons. Unlike the Russians – the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction would not bother the lunatics in ISIS. Maybe it no longer bothers the Russians – aren’t they embarking on a new nuclear weapons program? For heaven’s sake why? Have they forgotten that a nuclear war has no winners?

  27. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    JR, your headline is “Could bombing Syria work?”, and you refer in the article to bombing “Syria”, but it is just that description of the proposal which is causing confusion and unnecessary agonising.

    It is perfectly possible to oppose air attacks against Assad’s forces in Syria but support air attacks against Islamic State forces in Syria. Of course it is also perfectly possible to oppose both, on such grounds as air attacks being too indiscriminate and probably ineffective, and certainly putting our airmen at risk, and possibly leading on to our ground troops being sucked in, and in any case expensive; but there is no intrinsic inconsistency between voting against attacks on Assad’s forces in Syria, or indeed anywhere else, but voting for attacks on Islamic State forces in Syria or anywhere else they may be found.

    As far as I am concerned Islamic State is potentially an existential threat to this country and to those parts of the rest of the world which at present are free from control by those holding its extreme, pernicious and aggressive religious views; it must be nipped in the bud and totally destroyed, and its fighters must be completely neutralised wherever they may be found, whether in Iraq or Syria or anywhere else, which in almost all cases will mean that they must be ruthlessly exterminated.

    It seems to me that Cameron has now informally declared war on Islamic State, and I welcome that insofar as it may mean that the UK will contribute to its destruction and the restoration of its territorial base to the control of the officially recognised states; even though they are badly, and brutally, governed, that is an internal matter and they do not represent the same kind of external threat.

    It is just a pity that Cameron chose to do this informally before an invited audience in a school hall in Birmingham rather than proposing a formal declaration of war before the audience of our elected representatives in the House of Commons.

  28. Posted July 21, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Incidentally I had lunch with five cronies yesterday and we were unanimous in thinking that the government should not try to prevent people going to help Islamic State, on the contrary perhaps it should encourage and even assist those who are that way inclined in the hope that they will die in the fighting and so we will be rid of them, but in any case the main efforts should be to make sure that they never return to this country. Of course we are all old men, and not inclined to the kind of soft-headed apologist views espoused by some of the younger generations, but I suspect that our hardline view is shared by many of the population in general. As I have argued before, if UK citizens, “Britons” as we are supposed to call them, choose to give their allegiance to the self-declared Islamic State then they cannot reasonably plead that depriving them of their UK citizenship would leave them stateless, and there should be no hesitation about doing that on the grounds of some international convention which does not reflect this particular reality. The exceptions I would make being the young and naïve followers who show genuine remorse for their betrayal, which should be treated as treason but who could still be pardoned by the Queen, and of course the poor children who have been dragged along by their stupid, ungrateful, treacherous parents without any real idea of what is happening and why.

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Denis Cooper: “we were unanimous in thinking that the government should not try to prevent people going to help Islamic State, ”


      And I have to smile at the lengths the BBC and the media in general go, to brand these people as ‘British’.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      DC. I also had lunch and found everyone saying that we should help homegrown enthusiasts for IS to take a one way passage, possibly assisted. It reminded me of my chats with a Syrian Christian who worked in my local shop until immigration laws tightened and he disappeared. His family and town have been devastated and people like him would be grateful for asylum. How much better to have them here than the people who wish to destroy us as well as anyone in the Middle East who does not follow their line. etc ed

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      I agree, and it does’nt matter how old we are to have such opinions. Us ‘oldies’ often have much more common sense than we are given credit for. Sometimes I think we are in the position we are, due to our young ‘ wet behind the ears’ politicians, most of whom have never had a proper job in their lives. They are good at making speeches and putting out soundbites, but not much else. I have been vowing never to vote for anyone under 50 to occupy the higher reaches of Government ever again!

  29. Posted July 21, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Attacking Sadam, Ghadaffi and encouraging the overthrow of Assad has landed us right where we are now. I can’t imagine that any strategy except the support of dictators in the middle east will bring the situation back under control. We must stop telling other people to live under our chosen system, many people do not want or need democracy, just look at the disaffected IS recruits right here in Britain!

    • Posted July 21, 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Democracy aint helping Greece is it

      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Iain – Greece does not have democracy – that is the point. The EU rules every aspect of their government/country.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      All in line with the neo con plan which Genera Wesley Clarke outlined in 2007 as having been related to him just after 2001 – 7 countries in 5 years (clearly a bit behind schedule)….. Iraq, Libya, and Syria were on that list.


  30. Posted July 21, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that there are two sides to this. External defence and internal security. Externally, our posture should be defensive. Respond to attacks but otherwise let them get on with it. Internally, we should stop non-EU migrants securing permanent residence. They can enter to work or study, but no dependants and they must eventually go home.

  31. Posted July 21, 2015 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Agreed John – we don’t need actions that kill the civilian population and so recruit more to the cause.

  32. Posted July 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Could bombing Syria work?

    Not really as with the WW2, only this time the bombs/missiles are much more expensive and may miss desired targets for different reasons. And up pops the replacement leaders.

    Special Forces and surgical strikes at the heart of the management and its entrails…everywhere.

  33. Posted July 21, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    “Yesterday I asked the Secretary of State for Defence who would take over the government of parts of Syria if Coalition forces are successful in displacing ISIL?”

    One would also need to believe in fairies in order to take Fallon’s response seriously; the Minister was making a statement to the House entirely as a consequence of a FOI request that exposed the fact that British forces had been engaged in missions in Syria despite CMD declaiming that he “had got it” two years ago when he previously tried to bounce the House into authorising such attacks.

    One matter the Minister failed to explain is why Assad is our enemy, bearing in mind that he was ruling a secular state which respected the Christian community that had existed there before Islam and which now has been devastated by the terrorists operating in Syria. A state that is our enemy is one that attacks us or our vital interests; in what way does Syria qualify by this? Furthermore, a state which can be considered badly behaved is one that attacks its neighbours or arms terrorists to do the same. In what way does Syria qualify? Which of our so-called allies in ME does not? None, which is why attacking Da’ish whilst ignoring our ‘allies’ in the region that have been arming them, bankroling them, buying their pirated oil, treating their wounded, is totally absurd.

    Furthermore, whilst our ‘strategy!!???’ is to destroy Da’ish whilst hastening the removal of Assad, there will always be not only a lack of coherence, but also a concern that our forces, whether ’embedded’ or otherwise, might be required to engage in mission creep to prevent a resurgence of the Assad government.

  34. Posted July 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The Daily Mirror is having a field day with this , but I am out on this one. I agree with Leslie Singleton who makes the point that there is little alternative and how can you reason with these morons?

  35. Posted July 21, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Come on John, you can only use air power for so long before we will have to put troops on the ground, so I say a big No! because mission creep will prevail and just help the recruitment of more terrorist action back home.

  36. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    So. What do YOU have to say about MP’s pay?

  37. Posted July 21, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    When will you discuss MP’s pay?

  38. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    JR: “no more love for ISIL than the Prime Minister. Like him, I would rather live in a world where there are”

    Let us not forget that it wasn’t that long ago that Cameron was itching to bomb Assad’s forces, now suddenly he is bombing the opponents of Assad’s forces.

  39. Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    The way I see it is that ISIS are very much like the Nazi party. Someone has to stop them eventually. We turn a blind eye but how long before perhaps thousands of them are integrated into our society and then start causing problems over here?? Unless someone takes a stand against them they will become stronger.

    On another note – how about this for a bombshell under the renewables developers??

    I just hope Cameron keeps his nerve and goes ahead with his manifesto. I just might start voting Conservative again. Are we seeing some sanity at last?

  40. Posted July 21, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    When bombing Syria was first mooted a few years ago I was instinctively against it. My reasoning was that in taking sides against Assad we would help into power an even nastier regime which would be dangerously anti-western into the bargain. The rationale for such action appeared to be another instance of open ended, utopian muddle. Now, however, with Assad on the defensive and the hideous ISIL poised to take over, might there not be a realpolitik case for intervention in his support? We need to stabilise the middle east and fast; it is just over the med; the refugee crisis born of current instability will only get worse; the EU is doing nothing decisive about it. Surely a comprehensive anti-Blairite programme of arming pro-Western regimes against Islamic fascism and if necessary helping them to remain in charge would be of benefit. Egypt is much better off and far less dangerous minus Morsi and plus Al-Sisi. We should be ensuring that more Al-Sisis take control all around the southern shores of Mare Nostrum.

  41. Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Mr Redwood that because of the embedded nature of ISIL, military action will be extremely difficult. Weapons and soldiers are deliberately housed within civilian areas.
    What about those that are sympathetic to the ISIL cause but aren’t quite ready to fight – do we bomb them aswell. Will those cheering on grotesque public executions ever be a friend to the West. ?

    Because of the actions of fools like Cameron (who wanted to arm the so called Free Syrian Army) ISIL could possible have some kind of surface to air missile and lord knows what else. Really the stupidy and naivety of Cameron MUST end now for all our sakes.
    If he chooses to bomb Syria can someone please have his marbles counted ?.

    I’m afraid for all their faults, the dictators of this region are what was needed to keep this tinderbox from going up in smoke. Gadaffi, Hussein and now Assad – the situation just gets worse as each is toppled. Can we just stop doing the same thing and expecting the result to be different ?.

    Better now to sit back and let the grinding poverty of this evil ideology change hearts and minds. If we really wanted to defeat ISIL we would stop buying their oil for a start…

    Unfortunately Mr Cameron looking through his PC looking glass divides the world between the blameless oppressed and evil oppressors as do his friends at the BBC with their laughable ‘Arab Spring’ nonsense.

    • Posted July 22, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      It’s all part of a bigger plan…… Things don’t just happen, they are caused to happen.


      • Posted July 22, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        Indeed…I don’t buy into the ‘incompetence’ argument – nobody could be that incompetent/stupid. Perhaps the mad fools want to destabilise the world and implement a politically correct world order.

        • Posted July 23, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment….


  42. Posted July 25, 2015 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Assad is a tyrant but he protected Christians. The UK government are in a geo political struggle with Russia as a continuation of the ‘Great Game’ involving pipeline routes which justified us turning a blind eye to arming ISIS via Qatar. The result has been a genocide of Christians in the middle east and for that they will be held accountable before God.

    • Posted July 26, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Amen to that or as they might say so mote it be…..


  • 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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