What is a just war?

The legal base for the UK’s military engagement in Syria is founded according to the written briefing I received last week on the Iraqi right to self defence against ISIS.

The UK government is always stressing that when it comes to attacking ISIS the Iraqi/Syrian frontier is of no relevance, because ISIS do not recognise it and operate from both sides of that frontier. In other ways, of course, the border is important. It does represent the line that segregates those who live under the government of Iraq from those who live under the chaos of Syria.

The UK government has been invited in by the government of Iraq to help it destroy the ISIS insurgency in that country. Iraq has a right to use lethal force in self defence against the ISIS insurgency. The fact that ISIS moves across into Syria and can finance and support its Iraqi operations from Syria extends the UK’ s right to assist Iraq in its plea of self defence by taking action in Syria as well. Will the same extend us into Libya where ISIS are also active? The Uk government also argues with its US and French allies that its position in attacking ISIS has been confirmed by the general words of the UN resolution asking member states to use all means against ISIS, though they did not base their legal case on this. The Russians, allies of Assad in Syria, confirm or accept the rights of the Coalition forces to attack ISIS in Syria. Russia presumably bases its intervention on Syria’s right to self defence against ISIS, as they co-operate with the Syrian regime. Assad, leading the official government of Syria, does not accept the legality of the Coalition action. He sees it as a violation of Syrian sovereign territory, but is himself visibly unable to police or control large parts of the country.

The issue of what is a just war is sometimes easy, sometimes complex. Two recent UK wars that I wholeheartedly supported were the war to liberate the Falklands Islands from illegal invasion and occupation by the Argentinians, and the UK’s participation in the coalition force to liberate Kuwait. In both cases sovereign territory had been invaded by a hostile outsider. In both cases the settled population in the violated state wanted to be liberated. The moral and legal cases were overwhelmingly clear for our military action.

Our other interventions in the Middle East have been more complex. They have sought to prevent mass slaughter by local tyrants, to prevent extremist insurgencies taking over large areas of distressed states, and to support forces within those states that seek more moderate and democratic government. The West’s governments claim that all have been well intentioned. In each situation a legal basis for military action was part of the argument for intervention. None have been to gain territory for the West, all have been to influence the personnel and style of government in Middle Eastern countries and territories. Others claim that these interventions have been unhelpful. Critics of the West have sometimes argued they have been illegal.


  1. Mark B
    December 9, 2015

    Good morning.

    The fact that ISIS moves across into Syria and can finance and support its Iraqi operations from Syria extends the UK’ s right to assist Iraq in its plea of self defence by taking action in Syria as well.

    So by the same logic, if ISIS forces attack Russian interests and the attacks were planned and instigated by those living in a UK city, Russia has the right to bomb us do they ?

    You need to be very careful when entering into this kind of mental gymnastics, less it be applied to us.

    You still need the permission and cooperation of the elected Syrian government. Even when the UK were fighting insurgents in Malaya, we still obeyed the rules of the game even when the terrorists were being trained and housed over the border. I do not see any difference here.

    Driving ISIS out of Iraq should be our initial aim. Leave ISIS in Syria to the Syrians and the Russians, they seem to be doing a good job.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 9, 2015

      So France has the right to bomb Belgium then.

  2. Mike Stallard
    December 9, 2015

    There are no good guys in this.
    It is a religious struggle between Sunni and Shia with the Kurds thrown in: President Assad is fighting for his life and he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. His army is now largely Afghan, Hezbollah and Iranian. The young men are coming to Europe to avoid conscription into an army which they see as the enemy.
    The “70,000 rebels” are just a set of groups of armed gangs fighting each other and being bombed by the Russians and Assad. They are piggy in the middle.
    IS have behaved in an abominable way and are utterly barbaric. But they do represent the Sunni majority in Syria and in the areas of Iraq which they dominate.
    US equipment is being used everywhere – as ever. Russians are bombing markets, villages, hospitals. We are in there too, splashing around in our minor little way too.
    The Turks are just out to wipe out the Kurds.

    Dennis Skinner put it best: Enemies to the right of us, enemies to the left of us: KEEP OUT. We have made our (minuscule) point. Time to let them get on with it. Eventually, when enough women and children and prisoners of war and Londoners and Parisians have been hurt, the status quo will no doubt be ratified in a Treaty.

  3. Dame Rita Webb
    December 9, 2015

    Hats off to Max Hastings for his piece on Donald Trump on the “Mail” website today. Its BS wars like this give him traction amongst the voters. Dave’s comments yesterday are another great hostage to fortune should hopefully Donald win. The alternative of a Hillary win is just what civilisation really needs another Wall St “friendly” president. Perhaps she can compare notes with Dave on creating the situation that we face in Libya today when she was Sec of State?

    1. Anonymous
      December 9, 2015

      It annoys me that clowns such as Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins, Richard Littlejohn are the ones that supposedly represent us.

      Where are our Thatchers and Reagans ?

      Sir Max was wrong by the way. Yes we are annoyed with politicians lying to us about this situation. But Sir Max said that we needed mass immigration to cover the demographic gap and that our borders cannot be secured.

      Well until very recently we had secure borders. And Sir Max failed to tell us how importing largely illiterate people who will need to subsist on various forms of welfare or struggle in the black economy is going to pay taxes to support our pensioners.

      1. Lifelogic
        December 10, 2015

        Nothing wrong with Richard Littlejohn, clearly he is a journalist and has to and does entertain nearly every day, but I would far prefer him to most of the current politicians and certainly to Cameron/Osborne types.

        Trump is just trying to win the nomination, if he wins that he will change policies for ones to try to win the election and then if he wins that he will change again. It is rather a shame the other candidates are also so dire.

    2. dame rita webb
      December 9, 2015

      May be but the top and bottom of it is that the Anglo American political elites could not give a toss about ordinary people. If that’s the worst Max can say a about Donald just consider the recent deeds of our leaders

    3. ian wragg
      December 9, 2015

      The politicians only have themselves to blame for the likes of Trump, le Penn , AfD, UKIP etc etc. The electorates are fed up with being lied to.
      In this country we have CMD saying he will reduce immigration to te3ns of thousands and his silly sidekick pencilling in 1.3 million more in the workforce by 2020.
      Then we have the clown Alan Johnson telling us we need the EU for our security when Mutty is inviting (lots? Ed)of would be 5th columnists into our midst.
      Etc ed

    4. Lifelogic
      December 9, 2015

      Perhaps not his best work, but he make some good points. I think he cannot help being condescending and elitist, I suspect that is just how he is built.

      He is surely right on this though:-

      Cameron promised a major renegotiation but then merely asked for the deckchairs to be moved. He has repeatedly claimed that he would repatriate important powers from Brussels, yet is no nearer to doing so today — nor even of asking for them — than he was five years ago.
      The British people, not being stupid, can see all that.

      He also promised “no if no buts 10’s of thousands”, “a cast iron guarantee”, “£1M IHT thresholds” and that he is a “low tax Conservative at heart”. He did however nearly abolish the loony HIP packs.

      He is alas not even a Conservative at heart, still less a low tax one – he is a Libdem at heart and we saw how popular their policies were at the last election.

    5. Tad Davison
      December 9, 2015


      Ever done a search on YouTube for documentaries on the Clintons?

      The ones I have seen suggest they aren’t whiter than white – quite the reverse – but hey, this is American politics we’re talking about!

      I’d say if Hilary Clinton became the next US president, the world would be a far more dangerous place in which to live, but I could level that criticism at any number of them!


  4. Lifelogic
    December 9, 2015

    What indeed is a just war? Perhaps just the two you highlight above from the list. Where a clearly invasion has taken place and they can be removed and the situation restored. In other situation you at least need to be almost certain that the outcome at the end of the war will be far better than it would otherwise be. You rarely can be sure of this.

    Yet more flooding and Catastrophic warming propaganda from the BBC radio 4 today. Complete nonsense on “Crass Religious Thought for the Day” from some Bishop and yet more drivel from the BBC itself about moving to 1.5 degrees rather than 2. These loons really do think passing agreements in Paris is some sort of World Thermostat.

    If I lived in Carlisle and had been flooded I would just waterproof my basement as it was being repaired or move to higher ground. The BBC idea that Paris agreements will prevent a recurrence is clearly bonkers.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 9, 2015

      Interesting to hear Andrea Leadsom (Energy and Climate Change – Political Science Warwick) thinks that the extra “half meter” of water in the flooding was “consistent” with climate change. What completely meaningless twaddle. “Consistent” and “climate change” are both totally meaningless. Consistent means “not ruled out by” and “climate change” well it always has and always will. Of course more rain/sun or less rain/sun is consistent with climate change. It is also consistent with me having four cups of coffee that day.

      It is also consistent with the rain being a few percent more in the relevant valley
      area that day, or with the wind direction/strengh being slightly different that day, the the ground being more soaked than usual, or the flood defences shifting some of the water to a different area…..

      Does Political Science just teach people how to use lots of words while saying nothing all of substance? This while still trying promote the green religion & convenient excuse?

      Of course if Osborne was not pissing so much money down the drain or wind energy, PV and BIO (destroying countless jobs in the process) then they could have made rather better provision for the people of Carlisle and other flood areas.

      1. Denis Cooper
        December 10, 2015

        Whatever’s happening there may be some kind of trend to it getting worse which is very unlikely to be reversed by shutting down most of our industry and turning from reliable to unreliable sources of electricity so that we have blackouts, but could perhaps be prevented from causing so much damage and misery through some serious civil engineering. For example, by creating some large upland storage lakes to delay down the flow of rainwater off the hills. It might even be possible to generate some useful hydroelectricity from that, as well as forestalling water shortages in the summer months. I guess that is how our Victorian forefathers would have gone about it, by putting in enough money to construct a permanent solution, and with some spare capacity to boot just in case.

  5. Anonymous
    December 9, 2015

    We are told repeatedly that these wars are to prevent terror on our streets.

    Clearly this is rubbish and the things that would prevent terror on our streets cannot be done because of political correctness, our own government’s desire to mass immigrate from the third world and our subservience to the EU.

    The Iraqi government that invited us to help them is not legitimate, by the way. Their real government was ejected in an illegal war instigated buy us.

    1. Anonymous
      December 9, 2015

      IS was born of our intervensions and destabilisation of the Middle East. That includes the creation of the government that ‘invited’ us to intervene in Iraq.

      1. Tad Davison
        December 9, 2015

        I’m right with you! And the ill-informed public carry on swallowing the bilge put out by the British MSM.


  6. Ian wragg
    December 9, 2015

    Before we decided what is just or otherwise it would be interesting to know who the Americans are fighting. It certainly isn’t IS.
    I’m amazed that oil installations and supply lines are only just being disrupted by UK and Russian bombs.
    Obama seems intent on protecting US interests in the oil industry and keeping the funds flowing to IS.
    Just who is brokering the sales and banking the money.

    1. Dame Rita Webb
      December 9, 2015


      1. ian wragg
        December 9, 2015

        and who else?

        1. Dame Rita Webb
          December 10, 2015

          JR keeps deleting who else is. Perhaps if you ask him kindly he will tell you.

      2. bigneil
        December 9, 2015

        The £?bns given to Turkey will inevitably end up in someone’s bank accounts. Nothing will be done about the problem that the money is being given for and, whichever comes first – Turkey in the EU or Turkey dragged into the war – we will inevitably end up with millions of them coming here with the outstretched arms for their houses, healthcare and handouts.
        The end of Europe has been started by TB and his HRA, along with Ange and her invitation to the 3rd world to invade Europe. God knows how importing millions of car washers is supposed to help Osborne save this country.

      3. Tad Davison
        December 9, 2015

        Spot on!

        And in that, there’s an enormous potential for a very serious conflict escalating seemingly out of nothing, as happened prior to World War One with so many complicated and contentious alliances and allegiances. An unthinkable outcome came about because no-one foresaw what might happen if one domino were to topple over thus presenting a whole different set of circumstances. That tells us much about the shortcomings of our present crop of politicians. I have been saying for the last decade that I have never known a situation more dangerous than this in my lifetime, and that includes the Cuba Missile Crisis – and it’s getting worse!


    2. Dennis
      December 9, 2015

      I’ve been told that oil installations are not being attacked because they are operated by civilians (non ISIS) but if true why is this not common knowledge?

  7. Denis Cooper
    December 9, 2015

    Somebody wrote in a comment on a previous thread:

    “The just war is said to be one that is: declared by lawful authority, is in a just cause, is made with the right intentions and is a last resort. And these criteria are slightly modified by St Aquinas.”

    It seems to be begging the question to state that a “just war” must be in a “just cause”, but apart from that I would say that this list of criteria is incomplete.

    Firstly it takes no account of human suffering, military or civilian and on either side or on neutrals, which could arise from the war in the short or medium term, and secondly it takes no account of potential environmental damage which could add to the sum total of human suffering over the longer term.

    There may be cases where the cause is undeniably just but the potential collateral damage of a war would be entirely disproportionate to the magnitude of the cause and it would be better for the aggrieved party to stay its hand rather than embark on war.

  8. Bert Young
    December 9, 2015

    I do not accept that we had the right to bomb Syria . Sentiment ran high following Paris and retaliation seemed justifiable , but , the fact remains Syrian territory belongs to Syria and until there is regime change , Assad and his government have the right to decide ; as things stand , Assad has said “no”. Russia was invited by Assad .

    Our intervention in the Falklands was an entirely different affair ; the Falklands was – and is , a British overseas territory and , as such , we had every right to send the Argentinians packing . That there are ISIS extremists and terrorists in Libya , Morocco , Europe and elsewhere is beyond doubt ; that we would like to destroy these evil influences everywhere is also beyond doubt , however , we have no right to mount an armed interference in these places without the consent of the governments involved .

    We have signed up to the code of practice established by the United Nations and we must abide by these rules ; if the UN comes out with a clear decision on how ISIS should be defeated worldwide and the mandate to do so stands the test of international scrutiny , then we can and should intervene , until then , we must bite our nails ,tighten our own security and deal aggressively with the perpetrators within our own borders .

  9. Douglas Carter
    December 9, 2015

    I don’t wish to commit the crime of a historical pun, but to disregard (in Political\Legal terms) the historically-recognised borders of the current Syria would be a case of crossing the Rubicon.

    Just because ISIS doesn’t care about these particular nicities is not a good reason for a Government to conduct itself similarly. The comparison is not exact but the USA frequently permitted itself to disregard borders during the conflict in Vietnam – that caused as many problems as it solved.

    Ultimately there has to be a post-conflict settlement, and that settlement will be impossibly confused if the nations involved in the peacemaking have inferred they have not been particularly interested in recognising a national legal border. If the UN\NATO doesn’t care – why should the Kurds? There is also the (admittedly simplistic) notion that if we don’t care about the Syrian border so’s we can attack known ISIS assets, then why should we care about broaching Belgian airspace so we can attack them in Brussels?

    There is a lesson from the Falklands over the Belgrano sinking. At first contact with HMS Conqueror, the Belgrano was outside the legal remit the Commanding Officer had to make an attack. The Prime Minister conducted immediate legal discussion and the rules of engagement enlarging the Exclusion Zone were changed to bring an attack into a legal framework. The legalities weren’t simply disregarded as a nuisance.

    If the borders are to change, it will have to be those who live within them who make their case. Not for Governments which, on current observation, find it difficult to justify their involvement in terms which hold water, and similarly find it difficult to articulate a credible strategy.

  10. Kenneth
    December 9, 2015

    The only just war is surely self-defence, whether that is unilateral or collective (NATO).

    As we have no invaders at our borders and Turkey is not under attack, I cannot see any justification for the Syrian action.

    1. Stephen Berry
      December 9, 2015

      Kenneth, this is absolutely right. A just war is a defensive war and I think that the Falkland war fell into that category. It goes without saying that not every request by a country for UK support should be agreed to. Like any nation state, the UK should look to its own interests and treat any request for military support on its merits. This applies also to requests from members of the EU and requests that are backed by UN resolutions.

      The last 15 years have seen British foreign policy high-jacked in an attempt to remake the Middle East. The governments of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi and President Assad did and do not present any threat to the UK but we have attacked all three countries. This policy has cost lives, money and reputation and yet it continues.

      One wonders when this error is going to end. Terrorism, as we saw with the IRA, is basically a policing affair. Bombing can only boost it, not least in the desire of the displaced people for revenge once they get to Europe. ISIS is what happens when Islamic fundamentalism meets a liberal interventionist foreign policy.

    2. bigneil
      December 9, 2015

      We cannot have invaders at our borders – we have no borders apparently. And when illegals get here they are severely punished for their “immigration crime” by being put in hotels, no council tax, waited on, rooms cleaned and bed made, free tv, free wifi, free meals, free heating, free water, free money and let loose to go/do whatever they want. Untraceable, due to false details, so they can’t be deported they sit and watch the rest go to work and pay taxes – just so the newcomer can do nothing. Of course, some will just wait for their ride in a chauffeur driven stretch Hummer – paid for by us.
      A govt that prefers illegally-here foreign who-knows-what to their own people. Shameless.

  11. alan jutson
    December 9, 2015

    If you are asking if its legal, the government says yes.

    Do I believe the government, not really, especially when the leader of the country which is being bombed says he does not want us there.

    Iraq asked us in, Syria did not and wants us out.

    Aware Assad is not popular, indeed so unpopular we were attempting to provide arms to those fighting against him, now we all appear to be on the same side until ISIS or whatever other name you want to call them are routed, then what do we seek to do, fight against Assad again.

    Me thinks the circumstances/facts were made to suit the occasion.

    As you comment, what next, bombing in Libya again.

    Can I ask why you did not vote against it John, but instead abstained.

    1. Dennis
      December 9, 2015

      ” until ISIS or whatever other name you want to call them ..”

      I want them to be called, ” a piece of old dusty carpet with a melting ice cream on one corner”. This is the term which should be used in future by everyone.

  12. stred
    December 9, 2015

    As you say, the previous interventions in the ME may have been unhelpful, although Blair and Eural may have tried to cover their actions with the help of lawyers. Libya is really not a state anymore and as IS has a base their and has been waging war against us and our allies. It would be reasonable to exterminate them there too. Many Libyans would be delighted. Perhaps our PM could go out and give them another encouraging speech.

    In Syria, the best hope for people enslaved, raped and killed by these holy nuts, is for the Syrian army to come to a truce with the rebels that are more reasonable and leave them in their areas. Then ground troops could flush IS out with the help of the Russians and the Kurds could mop up any escapees to the north, with the help of the US, UK and French. In order to facilitate this it would be a good idea for our aircraft to keep away from areas where the Syrian army is fighting and avoid bombing them.

  13. Dixie Hughes
    December 9, 2015

    I heartedly agree with all you say; and by now we (the West) should have learned the lesson, tat however well intentioned, the removal of dictators is not always beneficial. Even if “moderate” potential successors are identifiable; they’re not always strong or popular enough to take over.

  14. Mitchel
    December 9, 2015

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Falklands and Kuwait.Significantly,these two conflicts took place before (or not long after)the collapse of the Soviet Union-before the western(for that read US) mindset changed and were conducted to right a wrong,not impose regime change on the aggressors.The (it would now seen temporary)absence of another military superpower meant that the US could be increasingly confident about exploiting/creating opportunities to pursue its globalist ambitions without fear of starting WWIII or having the targets of its neo-imperialism finding anyone to run to for effective assistance,whilst equally more easily co-ercing its allies/vassals into support,be it diplomatic or military,for it’s agenda.

    Unfortunately.we now have a situation where the world seems to be splitting into a Euro-Atlantic bloc(based on an ever-expanding(why?) NATO)-and a Eurasian bloc based on Russia,China,Iran and their satellites.The former needing to expand its economic influence to prevent debt-implosion,the latter determined to resist it.A very dangerous situation.

  15. stred
    December 9, 2015

    Off subject. During the Paris conference, there has been a constant barrage of misinformation put out by the BBC and Ch4 about the effetcs of climate change, even though the temperature change has not actually happened much so far. This morning they are trying to blame the floods on CO2. One of the strangest claims is that sea levels have risen fast and that countries like Bangladesh are about to go under. A while ago, Prof Dame Slingo, the £239k head of the Met Office was warning of a huge increase in sea level rise. Some experts have been saying it will be 5 feet, some 3 feet, while until recently the rate was supposed to be 3,2 mm pa, which is 1 foot per century.

    The reason for the inreased estimates comes from NASA satellite measurements that have been used instead of the physical markers, which have been recorded all over the planet for a very long time. Any person with an enquiring mind might wonder how a measurement can be taken from space to establish the level of a surface which is constantly changing. Richard Feynman said ‘science is the belief in the ignorance of experts’, and other scientists have been looking at the NASA figures.

    There is a very interesting post from Steven Goddard, dated 6.11.15 , which shows the tidal marker measurements taken in the past and since NASA started to revise upwards. The average over the world is actually 1.14mm pa. One of the graphs shows a rise from 1930 to 1990 was around 100mm. The difference is so marked that it must be asked how any competent person could not have questioned the forecasts and felt certain enough to warn of such a huge change.

    etc ed. ref unchecked

  16. Antisthenes
    December 9, 2015

    “The law is an ass” to quote I believe Dickens because it is applied rigidly. That would seem to suggest that the law as written and applied is irrefutable. However if that was so then there would be no need for lawyers just judges who would read the law and then just make a judgement based on their sole understanding of it. Unfortunately laws are not interpreted exactly the same as one judge which often happens will give a different decision to that of another judge. Lawyers love this because it keeps them employed. The rest of us hate it because it makes litigation expensive and risky.

    So trying to determine the legality of actions on an International scale if even domestic laws are not at all clear cut is never going to be one hundred percent successful. Far from it so determining the legality of UK bombing in Syria is a waste of breath. No doubt everybody is right and wrong at the same time unless they are absolutely impartial, extremely knowledgeable and have no prejudices or biases. Not many of them exist I would posit.

    The only question here is not legal jurisprudence but because there is one overriding irrefutable law and that is for a person or state to use all means possible to defend itself and it’s interests. Bombing Syria I believe falls under this law and passes that test. It may be the wrong means and history tells us it may well be but at this time it is the only one we have. Hopefully Western leaders will come up with better ones but the track record of our current ones does not make me believe that in the short term they will.

    Eventually events will dictate actions and what is happening world wide, sectarian conflicts, terrorism, genocide, mass migrations and the like will make what is happening now look no worse than a chimps tea party. Much worse is to come and then we will see leaders being forced to act concertedly and decisively and really use all well planned means necessary and the laws except the one of self defence will be irrelevant.

  17. Denis Cooper
    December 9, 2015

    “The UK government is always stressing that when it comes to attacking ISIS the Iraqi/Syrian frontier is of no relevance, because ISIS do not recognise it and operate from both sides of that frontier. In other ways, of course, the border is important. It does represent the line that segregates those who live under the government of Iraq from those who live under the chaos of Syria.”

    Firstly I would point out that the inhabitants of Iraq do not all live under the government of Iraq because it is unable to exert effective control over all of its territory – which is why we and other foreign powers are attempting to assist it to do so – and in the chaos which is Iraq many people are living under the rule of Islamic State.

    Secondly I would say that while I believe the government is correct to say that we should disregard the Iraqi/Syrian frontier for the time being I do not accept their argument for doing so. Just because a bunch of murderous terrorists see that frontier as irrelevant that is no reason why we should follow suit, and it is not an argument which we are applying to the Turkish frontier which they also dismiss as irrelevant.

    My argument is very simple: that Islamic extremists have not only seized control of swathes of territory which they claim as the territory of a new state, Islamic State, which they can use as a base for their terrorist and other activities around the world including the UK, but they fully intend to expand that territory until it encompasses the whole of the world, including the UK, in a global caliphate, and that must be nipped in the bud by the destruction of their Islamic State and the restoration of that territory to the control of governments which are not similarly intent upon the aggressive expansion of Islam and the elimination of freedom and democracy by whatever means are available.

    I note that our Prime Minister has now chosen to use the Arabic acronym for that new state rather using an English form which includes the word “Islamic”, in line with the official policy of denying that any of this has anything to do with Islam, and there he was on television commending #YOUAINTNOMUSLIMBRUV as a superb vindication of that foolish policy promulgated by the government with the aid of the mass media.

    I would simply point out that the local equivalent of #YOUAINTNOMUSLIMBRUV is pretty much what is said by the more extreme adherents to different variants of the Islamic faith to justify their persecution and slaughter of adherents to other variants of the Islamic faith.

    One example which receives relatively little publicity in this country

    (left out as no time to check ed)

    I don’t believe that government ministers including the Home Secretary are in any way qualified to say what is and what isn’t “true Islam”; and nor do I believe that it is wise or appropriate for them to go along with that kind of line because it actually validates the medieval notion that some people hold the true faith and deserve to live and prosper while others can be considered heretics who deserve to die.

  18. Denis Cooper
    December 9, 2015

    Off-topic, a dispute over who should contribute what towards the Turkish bribe:


    “The EU Commission is under pressure to give more money for the €3 billion destined for Turkey to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees, while some member states are reluctant to send money to Ankara for political reasons.”

    Please could we have a reliable assurance that UK taxpayers’ money will not be used for this purpose either directly or indirectly?

    I reiterate that it is expressly stated in the protocol that our treaty opt-out from the EU’s immigration and asylum policy extends to any financial consequences of that policy.

    1. Chris
      December 9, 2015

      I understand that we are already committed to giving £275 million. See report in The Sun, 30 November which reports on Cameron’s apparent confirmation of this:

      A DEAL giving 75 million Turks visa-free travel in Europe was approved yesterday, leaving Britain “wide open” to illegals.Critics claim the move will see migrants travelling to Calais passport-free to get into the UK. EU chiefs finalised the deal, and revived Turkey’s stagnant bid to become an EU member, to try to solve the refugee crisis.
      As part of the agreement Turkey must toughen its border controls and return migrants who do not need protection to their countries. It has more than two million Syrian refugees.
      Under the deal, which means Turkey’s citizens will not need a visa in the EU from next October, the country will get £2.2billion in aid from Europe.
      David Cameron confirmed at the meeting the UK’s contribution will be £275million….”

      1. Denis Cooper
        December 11, 2015

        Thanks for that.

    2. Tad Davison
      December 9, 2015


      I wouldn’t mind betting they’ll will find a way to give our largess to the EU by the back door, one way or another. When it comes to saying they won’t pay, then giving in and paying, they’ve got form!

      Only a secret aficionado of all things EU would even contemplate that. Cameron’s ‘thin gruel’ is just about to get even thinner.


  19. Mrs Armstrong
    December 9, 2015

    Mr Redwood,

    After reading your comments on the ISIS situation. I would like to understand why you abstained from the recent Vote as a resistant of Wokingham.

    Mrs Armstrong

    Reply Thank you for your email. A previous posting on my website just after the vote explained my thinking.

    1. Chris
      December 9, 2015

      Reply to Mr Redwood: I have pondered your response for some time now and it does not seem to stand up to close scrutiny. Individuals vote for the motion, not the personality, (in this Corbyn you were referring to) nor for the particular arguments Corbyn used. If one thinks that a particular action is right or wrong, that is a decision of principle, arrived at on the basis of one’s moral judgement and any expert knowledge. Just because you personally do not appear to approve of the individual MP/arguments employed by that MP for refraining from bombing ISIL in Syria, that should have absolutely no bearing on your decision.

      To draw another parallel, there are many different parties/groups who believe it is right to leave the EU, and will vote for Leave. Some of those groups/individuals have different politics/viewpoints but that in no way should preclude them voting on the same side, as they should be voting according to their own principles, and not in order to effect a political agenda against the individual or Party he doesn’t normally see eye to eye with. In many EU matters more recently, there are strange bedfellows.

    2. matthu
      December 9, 2015

      You can find the previous posting here:


    3. alan jutson
      December 10, 2015

      Reply -Reply

      Oh Missed it, as was on the high seas at the time.

  20. oldtimer
    December 9, 2015

    It all depends on what you mean by “just”. It could be (1) something that is “morally right or fair” or (2) something that is deemed to be “deserved or appropriate in the circumstances” to borrow the words from my OED. In my view declarations of war should be based on the latter definition.

    Defence of national interests, as you point out, offer a clear guide to what is “deserved or appropriate”. It is not normally open to much doubt. The extension of action into Syria vs Daesh/ISIL seems to me to be “appropriate in the circumstances” because the enemy does not recognise the Syria/Iraq boundary and the Syrian government is unwilling or unable to do the job itself.

    In situations where recognised governments on the ground have clearly failed and have been replaced by terrorist or criminal groups, then it may be useful to draw an analogy with the law of the sea and the treatment of piracy. Does it harm the national and/or international interest? If so then military action may be “appropriate in the circumstances” although other means may be better or more effective.

    Morality is an unreliable guide to military action. There will be many instances in international affairs where our sense of morality is outraged. That is not a reason or cause for military action not least because in most instances it would be impractical. If “something must be done” means other than declaration of war should be sought.

  21. Richard1
    December 9, 2015

    We hear that the Stop the War coalition – an organisation Jeremy Corbyn is closely associated with – likens the terrorists of ISIS with the international brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Does this count as ‘sympathising with terrorists’? I would have thought so. If Corbyn continues to be associated with this shameful group perhaps we should acknowledge that David Cameron’s alleged description of the current leadership of the Labour Party is perfectly justified and accurate?

    1. Dame Rita Webb
      December 9, 2015

      Well if you have read your Orwell you would understand that what “Stop the War” is saying is essentially correct. ISIS is just behaving just like the Stalinist International Brigade did. In that it will exterminate anyone who it does not consider to have the same ideological outlook as itself. In Orwell’s time in Spain, it was the anarchists who the Stalinists spent as much time eliminating in Barcelona as fighting Franco. Thats a strange analogy for STWC to use considering that it is stuffed full of Trotskyites.

      1. Mitchel
        December 9, 2015

        Agreed and,furthermore,if the Republicans had won,Spain would probably have become the Albania of South West Europe but commanding a rather more significant strategic location.

        1. Richard1
          December 10, 2015

          I agree much of the Spanish Republican movement were thuggish communists who probably would have been even worse for Spain the Franco was. But not all were. The point I was making was Stop the War are likening IS terrorists to guerrilla movements of the past of which they obviously approve. This all stems from whether or not it is fair to describe certain individuals now senior in the Labour Party as terrorist sympathisers. I say it is, based on the consistent comments over many years.

  22. Gary
    December 9, 2015

    “The UK government is always stressing that when it comes to attacking ISIS the Iraqi/Syrian frontier is of no relevance, because ISIS do not recognise it and operate from both sides of that frontier.”

    well of course they would say this, and of course it’s nonsense. If that were true, all that you would require to invade a country is create a proxy force which operates within a country, label them terrorists, and you can invade the country under these pretenses. And a cynical man may conclude that is exactly what’s going on here,and the real target is Syria. In fact, I believe that there is a paper trail proving this.

    1. Mitchel
      December 9, 2015

      Plus ca change,the Romans were masters of the art of provocation,getting their smaller allies to create an incident on the borders of their next target acquisition and then,treaty bound,come to the rescue.

    2. Tad Davison
      December 9, 2015

      Me too Gary! And my cynicism stems from the fact that it has happened all-too frequently in the past.


  23. Denis Cooper
    December 9, 2015

    Also off-topic, JR, on October 28th you were kind enough to publish a comment in which I asked you if it was a good time to start a war with the House of Lords:


    And yesterday I submitted a comment, not yet published, which started:


    “It seems a cowardly move to have the Lords’ amendment on votes for 16 year olds declared a matter of “financial privilege” for the Commons … ”

    I see this morning that an author on Conservative Home shares this concern:


    “The constitution is too precious to mess with for short-term political gain”

    I note in particular towards the end of that article:

    “Changing the system on the fly in order to win a skirmish over the voting age will produce neither a sustainable solution nor widespread agreement – and it doesn’t take a psychic to see how a future Labour government could exploit this change to force through bad ideas of which we would all disapprove.”

    But before that, before a future Labour government takes office, there is the awkward fact that the Commons have foolishly agreed that the Lords shall have the power to veto any date that the government proposes for the EU referendum; and of course they are likely to resist any Bill to retrospectively deprive them of the power to veto secondary legislation where the parent Act as previously passed by both Houses had freely granted them that power; so will we then be witnessing the ignominious spectacle of our Prime Minister scraping the bottom of the Tory barrel for numerous odd and generally unworthy people to recommend to the Queen for elevation to the Lords as loyal Tory peers, noble sheep, to give him a majority in the Lords?

    If this happened ministers could not say they had no warning, because this silly flaw was in the Tory party draft EU referendum Bill published in May 2013, and was highlighted when it reappeared in the Wharton Private Members’ Bill that summer, and was even mentioned on the first page of the Summary of a House of Commons Library Research Briefing in October 2014:


    “These orders would need both Houses to agree to the detailed rules for the poll and the date … next Parliament. Unless the orders are passed, it would not appear possible to hold the referendum, since the day of, and the rules concerning the conduct of the poll, would not have received parliamentary assent.”

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 9, 2015

      I also note that yesterday the minister stated, at Column 868 here:


      “Mr Speaker has certified that this Bill engages the Commons financial privilege because extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds for the referendum would cost extra. Cost is far from the only reason the Government disagree with the amendment but, for procedural reasons, the House is not able both to waive privilege and to disagree with the amendment so I want to be clear. The Government disagree on principled as well as financial grounds with the proposal to lower the voting age.”

      And then, again:

      “We cannot waive privilege and disagree with the amendment for other reasons.”

      while also spending much of his time producing other reasons.

      It seems extraordinary that MPs have agreed to a standing procedure which means that they cannot object to an unwelcome Lords amendment both on the grounds of increased cost and also on other grounds, it has to be one or the other, and so they end up sending a message like this to the Lords:


      “The Commons disagree to Lords Amendment No. 1 for the following reason –

      1A Because it would involve a charge on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.”

      I also note that when MPs passed the Money Resolution for this referendum on June 9th just after the Second Reading of the Bill they did not approve any specific sum or budget but just authorised payments “for the purposes of any Act resulting from the European Union Referendum Bill”:


      and it would be absurd to suppose that the cost could not be affected by useful amendments made by MPs themselves in the subsequent stages of the passage of the Bill through the Commons, let alone amendments made by the Lords.

      I am firmly against allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in this referendum, but just £6 million of extra cost is a really feeble argument against doing that.

    2. Bob
      December 9, 2015

      It’s quite noticeable that the proponents of lowering the voting age for the EU referendum are all on the “stay” side.

      More gerrymandering.

    December 9, 2015

    The Iraq government was installed by the US and UK and others. Its oilfields and territory to the north was stolen by undisciplined illegitimate Kurd gunmen. US and UK forces stood by and watched this invasion and theft without giving the Iraq government its requested aid to defend its borders and sovereign territory.

    The UK government in direct defiance of international law continues by its inaction to support and encourage the illegal selling of Iraq oil and the occupation by foreign forces of Iraq territory.

    Within the last few weeks, the US military and the military of Turkey have placed “boots on the ground ” in Iraq contrary to the direct stated wishes of the Iraq government. The RAF continues to fly over Iraq and indirectly supports these two illegal invasions.
    What part of the word Sovereignty does the UK government not understand? The first eleven letters?

    Of course the international press and social media give running commentary of these events but the BBC and other UK media continue with their inadequate, laughable misleading news coverage and commentary.

    No-one in the world seriously considers UK interference in other countries as in any legitimate. For many years now, terrorists in the Middle East and no doubt everywhere have placed low priority in attacking military forces and the wide-open undefended mainland of the UK, a country which they believe is entirely subservient to the whims of the US government.
    “Silly to attack a child-like hand-glove puppet when the puppet master is in full view.”

    The UK is not respected by friend and foe alike as a proper country.

  25. Lifelogic
    December 9, 2015

    People often do not get to choose which side they are on in wars, such is the tragedy of war. It is important that all leaders understand that any blatant invasion will not be allowed to be allowed succeed by the international community.

    1. outsider
      December 9, 2015

      You are right Lifelogic. That is a key purpose of the United Nations, although Security Council vetoes have usually thwarted it.

  26. Denis Cooper
    December 9, 2015

    I will uphold the concept of sovereignty, that of other countries as well as our own country, as a fundamental principle but not an absolute principle. That is to say I accept there may be limited circumstances under which intervention in the internal affairs of another country is fully justified, whether for the sake of its own people or for the sake of other people elsewhere in world.

    1. Gary
      December 9, 2015

      well that’s quite hypocritical from an avowed isolationist. The EU is specifically designed to interfere on a “limited circumstances under which interventionin the internal affairs of another country is fully justified, whether for the sake of its own people or for the sake of other people elsewhere in world”

      all that remains is to quibble over what “limited” means. And bombing a sovereign country is about extremely unlimited as you can get. That makes the EU look like an abstainer.

      1. Denis Cooper
        December 10, 2015

        You know perfectly well that I am not “an avowed isolationist”, or any kind of “isolationist”.

        There is nothing hypocritical about acknowledging that however good a rule may be there could still be exceptions which prove it, exceptions justified by exceptional circumstances.

        But with the EU infringements of national sovereignty are the rule, the normal routine and casual rule, not the exceptions allowed after due consideration of very compelling reasons.

    2. outsider
      December 9, 2015

      Yes Denis, in the case of racial or religious genocide or, as in Afghanistan, deliberately harbouring the people who attack your own country. But “for the sake of other people elsewhere in the world” is rather a can of worms.

    December 9, 2015

    It might be a useful military and police exercise to get hold of some of those natty handheld car counting gadgets. The ones the size of a mobile phone. Then get 10 servicemen to “fire” them like guns as a “well-trained group of terrorists” at various places in a city, making use of the foes inability to shoot through its own people; necessity of the foe to direct its own civilians out of what they “think” is out of harms way. Then get 300 or a 1000 servicemen similarly “armed” to answer calls from “the public” at appropriate time intervals when the “public” will give conflicting information. Allow the “terrorists” to wear normal clothes and changes of clothes and discard “guns” and pick up new “guns” at various hidden locations. Vehicles by “terrorists” not to be used.
    Do the exercise over 6 hours. At the end, count how many 1000s of civilian “dead” and how not even one “shot” has located, identified or hit a “terrorist” target.

    Then immediately dismiss all of the JCC; ISC;SIS; the Defence Minister; and Joint Chiefs of Staff; and, every Chief Constable in the land. Unless they are minuted as having warned of the security dangers time and time again to a deaf government.
    This could be followed by a round of potted beef sandwiches and cups of instant coffee to the wee hours of the night and a thoroughly good time had by all. It’s JUST WAR.

  28. Bill
    December 9, 2015

    Law is not an exact science. Indeed, it may be portrayed as a way of solving problems without recourse to violence. In my view, one of the chief element in any just war (whatever the basis for its declaration) is that civilian casualties should be minimised. Total war attacks all resources and makes no distinction between military personnel and civilians, and total war is also often ‘holy’ war. But though the terrorists attack civilians, we don’t. We retain the distinction they do not make, and this indicates a moral restraint on our part.

    Christians have been pacifist or non-pacifist depending on whether they read the words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount or the words of Paul in Romans 13. The legacy of chivalry in the Middle Ages (which was largely a Christian concept), was to distinguish between knights and the rest of the population, and that is the surely the origin of the distinction we maintain today between the military and everyone else.

  29. outsider
    December 9, 2015

    Dear Marcia, you say that “the people are not going to stand for this anymore”. I wish that were true. But we seem content to go along with the common Western geopolitical strategy that still holds Russia to be our enemy and Turkey our friend (as indeed it was until its people elected the present party of government).
    Hence we “the people” expressed no collective discontent about the EU’s attempt to wrest Ukraine from Russian influence and seemed quite happy with concerted demonisation of Assad, Russia’s chief remaining Middle East ally.
    For the same reason, the EU has taken no real action, diplomatic or otherwise, to remove the Turkish army of occupation in Cyprus, an EU member state whose territory we are supposed to regard as inviolate.

    1. Mercia
      December 10, 2015

      Dear Marcia, you say that “the people are not going to stand for this anymore”. I wish that were true. But we seem content to go along with the common Western

      It is Merica (as in the region), not Marcia, but nevermind.

      To answer this, the political elite and Intelligence Services (have gravely miscalculated). Like I say, this is not 1980 anymore where we had an existential threat and no one had the internet. The rationale of the Reagon administration in arming Jihadists against the Soviets was “well we all worship the same God”, as opposed to those atheist Soviets. At the time, in the 80s, the masses (not knowing anything about these men) went along with this narrative at the time. Since then we have been mass murdered by these people both on 911 and 7/7 and recently in Paris and Tunisia and yet the political elite and ‘Intelligence’ Services still think they can behave like this in todays context and get away with it? Use these people in geopolitical chess games while my people the Christians are wiped out in the middle east? Like I say, they have gravely miscalculated. A political earthquake is coming if they do not repent of this. Our foreign policy is in the gutter. etc ed

  30. M Davis
    December 9, 2015

    If Assad does not accept the legality of the Coalition action and sees it as a violation of Syrian sovereign territory, then we have no right to be there – end of!

  31. Jon
    December 9, 2015

    ‘What is a just war’ demands an answer on the assumption that the rules of defeating all types of enemy have already been written. What if we face a new kind of threat evolved out of both a medieval and a modern world conjoined that worms its way around existing laws and borders.

    We need to learn how to deal with this greater terrorist threat. Allowed to grow it will most likely acquire all kinds of nasty weapons, dirty bombs and weapons not yet invented.

    We may well be struggling to find the right answers, the right defence the right narratives. But that’s the process of learning and I do believe we do need to learn how to deal with these well funded inter communicated international terrorists.

    I would rather be on that journey making some mistakes than not starting and ultimately being faced with an enemy that I couldn’t defeat. We owe it to the good before us and after us to try to find an answer, no doubt with mistakes along the way.

    Two quotes below, one is from Kirt Cobain (Nirvana) the other is Voltaire:

    “We have no right to express an opinion until we know all of the answers.”

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”

    Is this something where we don’t yet have all the answers but we should try best we can.

  32. formula57
    December 9, 2015

    “The legal base for the UK’s military engagement in Syria is …the Iraqi right to self defence against ISIS.”

    The written briefing that said that risks being a prime exhibit for a future Chilcot (hopefully one that acts with more celerity than the original), if there is any sound basis to Slavoj Žižek’s words in today’s “New Statesman” article that begins with: –

    “The so-called “war on terror” has become a clash within each civilisation, in which every side pretends to fight Isis in order to hit its true enemy. There is something weird about the solemn declarations that we are at war against the Islamic State – all the world’s superpowers against a religious gang controlling a small patch of mostly desert land….”

    and concludes: –

    “…. the “total war” against Isis should not be taken seriously – they don’t really mean it. We are definitely dealing not with the clash of civilisations (the Christian west versus radicalised Islam), but with a clash within each civilisation: in the Christian space it is the US and western Europe against Russia, in the Muslim space it is Sunnis against Shias. The monstrosity of the Islamic State serves as a fetish covering all these struggles in which every side pretends to fight Isis in order to hit its true enemy.”

    Link – http://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2015/12/slavoj-zizek-why-we-need-talk-about-turkey

  33. Bob
    December 9, 2015

    Mr Redwood,

    I just watched the latest party political broadcast from your party.
    The Tories have now morphed into the Liberal Democrats.

  34. Lindsay McDougall
    December 9, 2015

    What can be done to degrade ISIS’s ability to finance its wars? David Davies for one is particularly keen on this. Destroying the oil wells and pipelines that earn revenue would be one course of action. Freezing the UK assets of Saudis, Turks and others known to be financing ISIS would be another. Imposing sanctions on Governments that help to finance ISIS would be a third.

    I would welcome a briefing on how practical such actions would be, because they would involve less loss of civilian life than bombing.

    We probably don’t need to kow tow to the Saudis so much now that there is a world glut of oil. It is a pretty unsavoury government that is no longer a source of stability.

  35. Iain Gill
    December 9, 2015

    Deary me the PM thinks immigration is out of control and unsustainable, and he thinks cutting the benefits of EU immigrants is going to fix it. It is and it won’t. Doesn’t he realise that he is in charge? All those uncapped intra company transfer visas are his doing, all those indefinite leave to remain visas are his doing, and so very much more. The guy is a comedian.

  36. majorfrustration
    December 10, 2015

    Great article unfortunately David Cameron lives in his own Walter Mitty world – just look at what he says re talks with Polish PM and then what the Polish PM said about their talks. What part of “its not working” does Dave not understand

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