Syria in perspective

Many people in the country agreed with the Prime Minister when she said she had no plans to involve the UK in the Syrian civil war. We also agreed with her achieved aim of  not adding to the death toll by the limited and targeted military intervention she authorised.

It would be wrong for us to seek to engage in the civil war at this late stage when Assad supported by Russia is close to victory. No clear Opposition force has emerged that could displace the current regime by force and then go on to establish a decent democratic government in its place. Arming rebels and offering them military support against Assad would pitch us against Russia as well, add to the length and violence of the war and offer little prospect of a good result.

The truth is President Obama decided to leave the Syrian crisis to Assad and Russia. If the West had wanted regime change in Syria as they tried elsewhere then it should have been done years ago.   Russia has occupied the space the West left, and now has a strong military presence there in its own right and as advisers and supporters of the substantial conventional forces of the Syrian government.  The West’s more recent interventions  have been air based engagements against the forces of ISIS, which Assad is also  fighting intensely on the ground along with Russian help. The West makes sure Russia knows what they are doing to avoid a clash.

The West wishes to enforce the world ban on the use of chemical weapons. Mr Trump has led  short targeted strikes against chemical weapons use on two occasions following particularly bad atrocities with their use, but otherwise has confined US action to a supportive role against ISIS. It is true he has also worked with the Kurds, which is a difficult complication in the north of Syria. The Kurds want an independent state.  Neither Turkey nor Assad’s Syria wishes to give them independent territory and self government, and both see them as enemies.

The recent strikes were against just three installations connected with chemical weapon production and use. There are more such facilities which were not attacked. The UK government argues that it has helped “degrade” the chemical weapons ability of Assad, without ending it. It also argues that the use of “appropriate” levels of force against some of these chemical weapons facilities should act as a deterrent against their future use, as of course the Western Coalition could target other chemical facilities should the regime use them again. Clearly the Western coalition did what it set out to do, destroying three facilities and avoiding any civilian or Russian casualties.

The West has intervened extensively in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. It has mainly been there to  fight extremist groups like Al Qaeda and Isis and has wished to help establish democratic regimes to replace the dictators it has helped pull down. It has not sought to be taking sides in the Sunni-Shia religious war, though it has often been closer to Sunni Saudi Arabia and her allies than to  Shia Iran and Syria. The USA has a network of allies including the Gulf States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and now Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia has strong links with Iran and Syria.

It is not easy to see any negotiated peace in the violence ravaged country of Syria, but it is to diplomacy, negotiation and to talking that the allies should now turn. If killing more people solved Syria’s problems they would be solved by now. There have been all too many deaths. The future of Syria is not in the West’s control. That decision was taken some years ago.

 

 

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63 Comments

  1. hans chr iversen
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    John,

    thank you well written and analysed perspective.

    • Hope
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      JR, factually incorrect on so many points. What a specious term many people agreed… the majority disagreed! She failed to justify action, why she never called parliament when it was known well in advancemeta. The whip made you all agree, as it did not protest against giving away our waters and fishing stock! You might recall your govt helping the rebels with taxpayers’ money which was reviled by the public when Hague was champoing to get involved. Your govt did not know who the rebels represented! The majority of the public disagree with May and thinks she is not telling the truth, again. There are many attrocities across the world where she has not acted, called for a UN meeting and has supplied arms!

      The dull swamp of Westminster might agree with silly useless chit chat, but the country is far larger than corrupt Westminster or thinking in the liberal elite bubble.

      The Lords confirmed yesterday it is of no use to the public at large and serves no useful purpose. Filled with PM cronies, who again, only think in liberal Westminster think mode. It also confirmed the overwhelming bias in the civil service as all former heads voted against the Govt. Again, no need for double pension civil servants in the Lords.

      Johnson might have used his time better than write a dull article today to convince us why the Govt is caving in, again, to the EU on its mass immigration policy.

      I think your govt underestimates the feeling across the country for its appaling capitulation over Brexit to date, the charade over the Irish border timed with Lords votes does not go unnoticed nor will it be believed to be a coincidence to surrender customs union and single market.

      Out May or be forever in the worldliness.

    • formula57
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Agreed.

  2. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Can’t argue with any of that John. Sometimes it is better not to intervene especially when it is not clear what the better alternative would be. Chemical weapons are a whole different ball game though and intervention can be justified if proof has been established they were used and by whom.

  3. Eh?
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    “No clear Opposition force has emerged that could displace the current regime by force and then go on to establish a decent democratic government in its place.”
    Of course not. Even if the regime were to simply fade away, our kind of representative democracy would no be established. Having a handful of people in a Syrian House of Lords telling the whole of Syria what to do would be regarded as tyranny and dictatorship.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      Agreed, the unelected lording it over the results of a national referendum is a rather disappointing example of ‘democracy’.

    • acorn
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Western style democracy does not work in that region they are still tribal. Ruling tribes and ruling families, emerge over decades if not centuries. Feuding tribes form alliances against a common enemy for periods. Libya is a case in point; more tribes and sub-tribes than you can shake a stick at. Gaddafi’s tribe got rich, which allowed him to rule by force; handing out the cash and government sweeties to the tribal elders.

      Now Libya it is a complete mess, thanks to Westerners. Take al-Assad out of Syria and you will get Libya squared. Alas, it appears only the Russians understand how this region actually works.

      • Mitchel
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        “Alas,it appears only the Russians understand how this region actually works.”

        Exactly-just as they beat us in the Great Game during the late 19th century.

        “There seemed some affinity between the Russian envoy and the Asian prince,some Tartar filiation in the hooded eyes,black moustaches,and the mixture of bravery and cunning” as,in his family history, former Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wrote of his aristocratic Russian forebear,Count Mikhail Ignatiev,conqueror of central Asia for the Tsar.

  4. Stred
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    The HoC accepts that the PM has a right to order military action. However, this should only be used in an emergency and in the case of the missile strike against facilities for research and storing chlorine, which was clearly of no effect, as release of chemical weapons did not happen, the only emergency was political. May owed Trump and Napoleon a favour for backing her unproven claim that it could only be Vlad what did it.

  5. Adam
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Whereas we dislike enmity anywhere, we ought not to interfere, unless we reduce harm. Our tripartite strikes may have destroyed only chemical factories.

    If we assist innocents without inducing their aggressors’ hatred, we may add goodness, safe from endangering our own people too.

    • eeyore
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Reducing harm is but one of many reasons for intervention, nor can it be the most important. All nations have their strategic imperatives which may merit action, even if they are inconvenient to acknowledge publicly.

      Syria is one of the world’s crossroads and not a negligible place. Thanks to Mr Obama’s masterly inertia there Russia is firmly on the Med, where for three centuries it has desired to be. It will not be content to stay in one naval base. This is what happens when vacuums are allowed to develop.

      • Mitchel
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        It has also just been awarded special docking rights at the Chinese-controlled Pakistani port of Gwardar(which is undergoing massive redevelopment)near the Persian Gulf,albeit,not at this stage,for military vessels.

      • Eh?
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        There is no evidence that Syria or what stood for it in time of yore intervened in the American civil war. They did however have a discussion about it on BBC Syria at the time and decided it was for Americans to choose if and how they fight one another and none of BBC Syria’s or Syrians in general businesses.

  6. Mark B
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Well I see that the PM judged parliament right – they have no ability or desire to hold the government to account. What a cop out !

    Many people in the country agreed with the Prime Minister when she said she had no plans to involve the UK in the Syrian civil war.

    Err, but you have just by attacking them ! Syria never threatened the UK, its allies or any of its interests. There is no evidence that chemical weapons were used, by either side.

    . . . . establish a decent democratic government . . . .

    . If establishing a decent democratic government is our aim, then why not start in the many Gulf States and just about the whole of Africa ?

    The West has intervened extensively in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. It has mainly been there to fight extremist groups like Al Qaeda and Isis . . .

    In Iraq, Libya and Syria before the West and its Middle Eastern allies got involved, there was no Al Qaeda and Isis. Al Qaeda and Isis only came after they governments were overthrown. And compared to before, they are a complete mess.

    It has not sought to be taking sides in the Sunni-Shia religious war. . . .

    But perfectly happy to sell SA weapons. Weapons it used in Yemen. Don’t hear too much about Yemen these days do we ? 😉

    I know this will not be posted for sometime, if at all, but at the end of the day it is because you have written something I and many people, contrary to your above statement that many people support the government actions in Syria, do not agree with.

    Reply I and others made it clear we wanted no involvement in the civil war and no casualties. Parliament debated it very fully

  7. Mick
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Off topic
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/947967/brexit-news-house-of-lords-vote-european-union-customs-union
    Who do these people think they are trying to overturn the 17.4 million and growing to stop Brexit, I’ll tell you who they are they are nobody’s who’s only bloody interest is themselves and keeping us tied to the dying Eu so as to continue to rake it in £££, it’s about time this unelected chamber was shut down, we have a elected chamber that should be enough just make them work harder for there constituents and get rid of the unelected muppets who are past there sell by date

    • Mick
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Just been watching Clarke on the daily politics show and him saying that nobody is going against the will of the people I’ve news for you Clarke yes you bloody well are going against our will and to insult our intelligence that we didn’t know what we voted for, you would have to have been deep in the amazon jungle at the time of the referendum because Remainers and leavers told us we would be leaving the single market and custom union once we leave the Eu ,etc ed

    • Stred
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      There is a petition for the abolition of the House of Lords and it has attracted 50k signatures after one day.

      • Eh?
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Stred
        That we need a petition to get rid of an unelected chamber of government actually proves representative democracy too is not cracked up to what it says it is.
        What in theory would a representative body like the House of Commons do with something like the unelected House of Lords? Why , they would get rid of it as a priority even before a referendum on the EU.

  8. Peter Wood
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Good morning,

    There’s a lot wrong with this action. First, proof- has the government got proof that chemical weapons were used, AND they were used by the Assad regime. The time when we the public blindly believe the Prime Minister at the despatch box, or indeed any minister, has long passed.
    Second, to what effect? 3 probable chemical weapons establishments destroyed. Were these the ONLY chemical weapons bases in Syria? Our host suggests not. So did the attacks remove chemical weapons from further use? No.
    Did the attack, in any way, cause Assad to be concerned about his own wellbeing or of those he relies on? No.
    Has there been any benefit to those ‘coalition’ partners, USA, France and UK as a result, for example a strong message to Russia? None so far discernible, in fact a more belligerent Russia seems to be the case.
    Who would like to score this effort out of ten?

  9. Lifelogic
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Spot on on that topic.

    But what about the Lords vote? I note that all the ex-cabinet secretaries in the Lords effectively vote against a real Brexit. I recently watched Inside Number 10 Ten series (on iplayer) they gives quite a good incite into how these top civil servants think. Basically (rather like May) they think government and ever more of it is the answer to everything. They think government could be wonderful if only it we properly resourced with endless money. To them the private wealth creating sector is basically the enemy. If you have a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail.

    I see that May is of off on another one of her very silly (and very expensive) distractions (from the Lords vote, Windrush and the gesture war). Things like her idiotic gender pay gap agenda, the sugar tax, ordering developers how to run their businesses …… this time a bogus war against plastics. How can anyone get into Oxford (albeit only for Geography) and reach to her age but still have developed no sense or judgement? Why did she join the Tories when she is just a rather nasty LibDim at heart. Very similar to all those second rate Cabinet Secretaries and the many deluded people in the Lords in fact.

  10. Norman
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    It as a mercy we got away with it (so far, anyway) – seems incredible no one was killed.
    The best thing we have done in Syria is to fund refugee camps in neighbouring countries, such as Jordan.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-dedicates-1bn-in-aid-money-for-syrian-refugees-and-host-countries

  11. Epikouros
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Democracy it appears is more in the theory than in the practice. In fact it is not practiced in its pure form anywhere except in the marketplace and only then when it is left to its own devices. Quite often it is not as government loves to interfere with the resulting damaging consequences. We love to interfere in our neighbours affairs from the ones that live in the same street to those who live in far off countries. Always because we do not like the way they do things or tit for tat because they interfere with us as they do not like our ways.

    High on our list is a wish to impose democracy on those we perceive do not already practice it. There are two problems with that they either do not want it or at least wish to impose it themselves without our aid and/or it does not work for them as their culture is unsuitable. The other problem is that we are trying to impose something that we do not practice very well ourselves and increasingly replacing anyway with a more authoritarian system that progressives and socialists are promoting with considerable success.

  12. Richard1
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Its worth listening to Nick Robinson’s interview with Diane Abbott on the Today Programme on 13th April. Anyone thinking of voting Labour should do so to understand just how absurd and inadequate Ms Abbott and other Corbynist Labour figures are. A Corbyn govt is indeed a terrifying prospect.

  13. Original Richard
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Western politicians have dug an enormous hole by interfering in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and their push for regime changes in the ME has made bad situations even worse by supporting rebellions against stable governments by groups that are often far less civilised, democratic and tolerant than those they seek to replace.

    They should stop digging.

  14. a-tracy
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this bit of clarity.
    Who are the ‘Kurds’ are they the indigenous people of Kurdistan, like the Catalonians? Or are they a religious group that wants to take over part of Syria as their own after moving there from elsewhere?

    • Mitchel
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      The Kurds,it is thought,were orginally an Iranian people(but so long ago and so much has happened in terms of migration and cultural assimilation since that I have seen them described as being the equivalent of the ancient Gauls to modern France.The Turks migrated from central Asia taking over this region which had variously been under the control of the Byzantines,the Arabs and the Mongols over the past millenium and a half.

  15. Little Englander
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    There was never going to be a good outcome against Al Assad and this barbarian warned us from the very outset that to interfere in Syria would allow all kinds of disparate and violent extremists in who would be hard to dislodge and would take years to dislodge. We chose to ignore him and the result was Isis and all the other groups (etc ed). Obama’s Administration was right to leave Syria to the Russians and Syria BUT the West got involved indirectly where we should not have by funding and allowing KSA / Qatar to fund /arm Sunni opposition fighters – one of which became so strong (Isis) and changed the game plan that neither KSA/Qatar could control any longer. Perfectly right to destroy chemical weapons sites and was done. Major mistake was Obama lifting the very successful and crippling sanction against Iran – a major ‘irritant’ in the M.E. The Great Game is still on indeed it never stopped.

  16. Rien Huizer
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    You are right to criticize past actors and policies. Foreign policy should be consistent, in the interest of own country plus treaty obligations (there is the rub, these treaties re war, human rights and refugee problematics are very defective and were never intended to be used in a an increasingly anarchic world. It would be fine to have an effective and responsible hegemony, but not one that lurches from one president to the other and with the current president , from one whim to the other.

    Mr Macron now refers to the use of chlorine gas (the stuff used to purify drinking water) as the chemical “weapon”. Although the list of chemicals that can be used for warfare is basically only constrained by “war fighting” characteristics and potential for collateral damage only a few are considered not fit for production unless one is part of the family of WMD practitioners. ME case, gas is usually used to drive opponents out of tunnels and bunkers, imo a perfectly legitimate way that saves lives on both sides if properly done by using temporarlily incapacitating agents (judiciously) or potent versions of tear gar, but not lethal nerve agents. So it is debatable if the use of chlorine violates -materially- whatever agreement the Syrians are supposed to adhere to. It is of course also debatable why so much credibility was given to the opinions of “rebels” (as nasty as Assad’s men and equally untrustworthy) that a symbolic military operation was deemed warranted. The Tomahawks alone, fired at worthless targets must have costed upwards of USD 100 million. Pure waste imo. Clearly both Macron and Trump could use a military success and fortunately there are no reports of casualties.

    But in essence, let the bad guys kill each other, look after those Syrians who want to leave the country and, like in Lebanon, be ready to assist the reconstruction process whenever parties are exhausted.

    • Stred
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      The only useful research that the Syrians could do on the use of chlorine is to find out where to buy it.

  17. alan jutson
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I see the Lords voted against the Government yesterday.

    What a sad state of affairs when yesterdays men and women, are still trying to fight yesterdays battles against the will of the people.
    Or should I say:
    The non elected privileged against the people.

    The sooner we get this other place reorganised the better.

  18. henryS
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Why should we intervene? I don’t see Finland or Sweden intervening or Germany, or Poland?
    Jeez the notions we have about ourselves that we should even think about intervening in something so alien to us and so far away?

  19. Mitchel
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Is Qatar really a US ally these days?Sure the US has a presence there but so now has Turkey(first overseas base since the end of the Ottoman Empire I believe) and it has been getter ever closer to Shia Iran-the more so since that (still unresolved) spat with Saudi Arabia and UAE last year.And what was one of the first moves Qatar made when the blockade was imposed….send a delegation to Moscow.They are now trying to buy the much vaunted Russian S400 air defense system amongst other things and it also looks like the two will be co-ordinating their operations in the LNG market as Russia’s surging output is forcast to possibly overtake Qatar over the next five years or so.

    • Mitchel
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      And isn’t Iraq generally thought to be firmly in Iran’s sphere of influence?-part of the Shia crescent from Iran to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon.The Iraqi parliament has recently asked the US for a timetable for the withdrawal of it’s troops from their country.I don’t believe they have had a reply.

  20. margaret
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    My view also . Somebody commented a little while ago on this blog site that the targets the UK struck were defunct . I wonder how much truth there is in this? If this is true the attack was fairly benign anyway.

  21. duncan
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Yes, delete those contributions that try to apportion blame to the appalling events in Syria.

    The true politician. Morality and responsibility cast aside in the name of political convenience

    One day, I hope in the not too distant future, the Tory party will return to its true calling and dispense with grotesque apologists like May and indeed appeasers like you John and all the other Tory MPs who find it electorally convenient to turn a blind eye to the truth for political expediency

    This party is a lie. It is betraying its core vote. It is a living testament to the capitulation to the liberal left narrative

    Pathetic

  22. English Pensioner
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    This was all part of the so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East which many politicians were assuring us was a ‘good thing’ which we should encourage. Evil dictators would be overthrown and all would be peace and democracy.

    Did any good come of it anywhere in the Arab countries?

    • Eh?
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      No, generally in that part of the world they are more into Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, and the equivalent of Barons, Lords, Knights and Archbishops of Canterbury, also Holy Fathers. They are not like us.

  23. forthurst
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    “No clear Opposition force has emerged that could displace the current regime by force and then go on to establish a decent democratic government in its place.”

    In 2015, Assad was re-elected President by a landslide; the election did not take place in areas occupied by ‘Western’ backed terrorists including ISIS and flavours of al qaida.

    “The West wishes to enforce the world ban on the use of chemical weapons.”

    Following an agreement in 2013, Syria’s chemical weapons were destroyed under the supervision of OPCW. In early Secretary of Defense, James Mattis in respect of previous sarin gas attacks stated “I don’t have the evidence. What I am saying is that other groups on the ground – NGOs, fighters on the ground – have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.” Following the latest attacks on three ‘chemical weapons sites’, there has been no reported release of sarin or chlorine. Prior to the attacks, Admiral Alan West and Major-General Jonathan Shaw stated that there was no possible military motive for Assad to use chemical weapons.

    Syria is a majority Sunni state including in the Syrian Arab Army; it is however a secular state whose elected President is Shia. Iraq is a majority Shia state.

    • forthurst
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      In early 2018 Secretary of Defense…

  24. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic:

    https://order-order.com/2018/04/19/former-civil-service-vote-against-brexit/

    “Former civil service chiefs vote against Brexit”.

    And these unelected legislators-for-life can hold the Bill up for about thirteen months in defiance of the will of the people as directly expressed in the referendum. It beggars belief that we are still allowing this.

    It has been suggested before that the maximum period of delay should be cut to one month for all Bills, not just Money Bills as now, for example in August 2016:

    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2016/08/03/uniting-the-kingdom/#comment-827017

    “… this collection of rather pompous self-regarding unelected legislators-for-life still have far more power than they merit and in the absence of any consolidated view of how to reform the chamber it would now be expedient to make a further restriction and only allow a delay of one month.”

    And by now the Act could do that could have been forced through against their inevitable opposition if it had been started in the Commons when that suggestion was made.

    So what is Theresa May going to do now? Get the Queen to create several hundred more unelected legislators-for-life to get a government majority?

    • Bob
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Let’s have a referendum on whether or not to abolish this anachronistic care home for cronies: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209433

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        It’s too late for that now, and in any case there are far too many proposals for alternatives. They would be saying “The people voted to abolish the House of Lords, and we respect that, but there was nothing on the ballot paper about what should succeed it … “. On the other hand, just leaving it as it is now but cutting its power to do harm, drawing its teeth, would be good enough for the moment and would be as simple to enact as the 1949 Act:

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1949/103/pdfs/ukpga_19490103_en.pdf

        “An Act to amend the Parliament Act 1911.”

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Signed anyway.

  25. Dennis
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    If we really cared about the use of chemical warfare we would have destroyed the facilities before they were used not after, so do we really care?

    My friend has said:-

    The aghastment and horrilation about the terrible, appalling, shocking etc nature of gas warfare is nonsense. There is nothing unusually hideous about the use of toxic chemicals. Hideous, yes, but not unusually hideous. Boring old workaday artillery, that nobody criticises, leaves children watching as mummy frantically clutches at intestines spilling from her opened belly, leaves men without legs trying to drag themselves along until gushing femoral arteries end consciousness, causes traumatic brain injury that leaves its beneficiaries drooling and burbling for life. Poison gas can do no better.

  26. Ron Olden
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    From the point of view of innocent people, Civil Wars like this are best ended with one side winning decisively and as quickly as possible.

    A stable Dictatorship is better than abject chaos and endless civil warfare. Anyone who doesn’t agree should go and read Hobbes’ Leviathan.

    Getting involved and prolonging things like this, makes matters worse, especially when there’s no pressing Western interest associated with which side wins. Given the situation there it’s even arguable that we’re better off with Assad winning.

    The only real point the West was entitled to make, is that we do not tolerate the indiscriminate use of Chemical Weapons and when we can, we will try to so something (however little), about it.

    Whether these air strikes have done any good or not I don’t know. But not responding would have been worse.

    But given the way they were handled, there little or no downside risks.

    The risk/reward balance this time was in favour of them. And they were done proportionately, and with due care and restraint.

  27. PaulDirac
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Well stated JR.
    Russia and Iran see the civil war in Syria as a major part of their global strategy, to even try and counter this, after our dire experience of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, is unacceptable to most of the population.
    We have to accept that the war in Syria is NOT over, in fact the worst is yet to come.

    Idlib province will come under intense attack now, it is a “kill box”, it has the only large concentration of “rebel” forces, and Turkey is blocking any large influx from there.
    This is a closed area and will be used by Russia, Iran and Assad to eliminate all resistance.
    There will be mass killings of civilians, starvation, and possibly additional use of WMD’s

    We have to make the decisions NOW, not to intervene, because we can’t help them

  28. PeterL
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad you mentioned the Sunni/Shia dimension. The religious war between the various Islamic schisms has been going on for centuries. We should not get involved. (Its not as if we hav’nt had our own share of religious tussles!) etc ed

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Also off-topic, just look at this rubbish which is being spread around:

    http://ourglobalfuture.com/reports/too-high-a-price-the-cost-of-brexit-what-the-public-thinks/

    “New analysis lays bare the truth behind claims of a “Brexit dividend”: every possible scenario – including a “bespoke deal” – will leave Britain poorer and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds per week.”

    That’s the “new analysis”, actually just a new edition of the earlier pre-referendum analysis which has been produced and leaked to the media by Treasury officials, and which is now being treated as “the truth” even though like “the truth” produced under George Osborne for his “Project Fear” before the referendum it still consists of no more than deliberately biased and highly speculative forecasts.

    Why does the government not forcibly reject these doomladen forecasts and identify and severely punish those responsible for a) concocting them and b) publicising them, in clear breach of their duty of confidentiality?

  30. acorn
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    OK JR, I give up. The attrition rate for my comments is nearing 100%. It is becoming obvious that Brexiteer MPs, increasingly, can’t handle the reality of their Brexit folly.

    • Eh?
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      acorn. I have many comments knocked back. I've been to my doctor about it and he says I should survive and that you can have too much of a good thing. I guess this is why medicines have 20% VAT.
      Anyway , acorn, we're leaving in eleven months time anyway and you'll no doubt need to make plans for emigration so you can eat.

      Reply It woukd be helpful if you tried to distill yor best points in just one or two contributions a day. I am deleting more amd long essays and repeats.

      • Eh?
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply. Point taken.

  31. Ed Mahony
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I blame the Iraq War, to an important degree, for Syria (not the origins of the Syrian War but lack of Western Intervention).

    If the USA / UK hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, the West would, no doubt, have supported intervention in Syria, years ago. And no doubt, brought the war to an end far sooner.

    And it was hubris behind the Iraq War. 1. Blix still hadn’t been given opportunity to finish finding WMD. 2. No proper post-war planning. 3. Opened up lots of other cans of worms in the region.

    Lastly, lots of smart people involved in war behind Iraq. But smartness does NOT equal wisdom. Smart + hubris = tragedy (Iraq War to an important degree).

  32. Eh?
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    BBC Question Time choc-a-bloc with a leftie-liberal audience and even a panel which thinks those teenagers who kill people with a knife will kick the habit if you provide evening five-a-side football matches and table tennis for them. Liberalism is a disease.

    • Bob
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      “Liberalism is a disease.”

      And the BBC is a rich source of the contagion.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted April 20, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I strongly believe this government should re-introduce National Service – for a few months at least.

      National Service is about Self-discipline. Working in a team. Being a man. And patriotism. It’s also great fun.

      (Those in National Service should be allowed to do Community Work i think if they don’t want to take part in military training).

      It’s time Conservatives started standing up for MEN. We don’t want wimps. Or babies. We want our men to be men (and MOST of our women want real men as well, not wimps or babies – it’s only a small minority of radical feminists who are imposing their poisonous values on our country – and, yes, men need to learn how to treat women properly and be gentlemen). Being a real man isn’t about tyranny but competence.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        ‘It’s also great fun’

        – I was in the CCF at school. I come from a British Army family. Plus many of those who were in National Service in this country, decades ago, said they really enjoyed it.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        And, also, I want to see the Conservatives stand up for FAMILY VALUES.

        Women must be given every opportunity as men. They should have the choice and many women don’t have the choice but to work – and work hard.

        But many women find out, often too late, that there is far, far more to a ‘career’ (men must think about career – but not women so much). So many women tell me that having children is a real joy – and the more the merrier. Being pregnant, rearing etc ..

        But many women find themselves tied down to ‘career’ when too late to start a family. Or they rush into marriage. Or they can’t have the amount of children they want. Or they’re so rushed off their feet at work, that they don’t have time to focus on their children, husband—even the great gift and joy of sex. What a tragedy.

        Yes, women need full opportunities. And there are some / many women who thrive at work and in a ‘career’ (perhaps the husbands are able to help a lot more with the family in these cases).

        But clearly radical feminism is telling a lot of lies to women about having a ‘career’ and being ‘independent’ and so on, and turning them against men.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted April 20, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          Strong families help give strength and stability to our society as a whole, including the work place.

          If we had stronger families, we could save our tax-payer billions and billions (we’d have more productivity, less depression and more healthy individuals saving the NHS billions, and we’d just have much happier people in general).

          Politicians can tinker around with the economy. But it’s only tinkering compared to what would happen if had much stronger family life in this country in general.

      • rose
        Posted April 20, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        The PM of Grenada stood up for men today when he said he was delighted about the Prince of Wales being chosen to succeed the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth because it would provide a much needed role model for young men who are brought up by women and taught by women.

  33. nigel seymour
    Posted April 20, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Is May and her government staring at brexit defeat along with 17.4m voters? We are falling into the hands of the EU who can adjust and modify their approach to brexit as they see fit, the aim of which is clearly to stop our exit and then complete our humiliation in the years too come. The lords are slowly but surely siding with remainers to stop brexit…period.
    I think farage was quite clever when he said let’s have another ref to clear the air once and for all – this may be the only alternative to lords, remainers and the courts stopping brexit and going against the democratic will of the people of this UK. I fear that the gen election result has provided ample nails to may’s political coffin…

  34. VotedOut
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    In a post Iraq war world, some hard evidence of a chemical attack might be a good idea before blowing up parts of another country.

    The plain truth is you don’t know that a chemical attack took place – it hasn’t yet been independently identified.

    Do we now convict people before we hear any evidence against them?

    Given that you spend all your time paid for by the British public to make complex decisions on their behalf, it is clear you didn’t.

  • 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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