Four Middle Eastern countries, 4 different approaches


Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.  All four of these countries have been through brutal civil wars recently, and three are still  suffering from conflict. The UK’s approach to each is different.

In Afghanistan we fought a full war with our allies, put troops in on the ground, policed territory and are now handing over responsibility for security to local forces and taking our leave.

In Iraq we have fought two wars, and are now helping others fight another  war against a militant insurgency, limiting our military involvement to a few missions by planes flying on long round trips from Cyprus. Our previous wars have not produced a settled country.

In Libya we used missiles and bombs delivered from the air and offshore to help topple an authoritarian regime, and are now leaving the civil disruption and war to local forces.

In Syria we are not intervening at all, though the government did wish to last year. It then wanted to intervene to help bring down the unpleasant ruler. More recently it has been more inclined to intervene against the militant insurgents who are seeking to topple that same government.

UK interventions are sometimes helpful to Sunnis, and sometimes to Shia. The underlying religious civil war continues. The current tilt of UK policy is pro Shia, seeking to defeat the nasty ISIL forces.

What can we learn from these different approaches?

Some in the military say the Afghan model is the right one. They believe  the west does have to intervene, bring down   bad regimes, and then use its forces on the ground to offer protection to an emerging democratic process. Some say Afghanistan will now settle down to a better peaceful democratic future. Others think the west should keep forces there for longer and offer stronger guarantees of stability to the latest civilian government. This would of course require consent from the Afghan authorities, in a  country where some  may be weary of foreign troops on its soil as well as weary of war.

Some say the Libyan model was right. A short sharp military intervention ended a bad regime. Time might then produce a better answer as the competing forces try to sort out a new future. Others say that so far the breakdown in law and order has been most damaging to the Libyan economy, with death and destruction stalking the land.

Some say we need to be more wholeheartedly engaged in the Iraqi conflict. We need to be prepared with our allies to commit more force to destroy ISIL  more quickly, and will need to commit western troops on the ground yet again because local forces do not seem so far to be up to the task of defeating the insurgents.

I think what I take away from all this is it is very difficult for the west, despite its massive force led  by the USA, to intervene successfully, to create stable and peace loving democracies. I am glad we are now leaving Afghanistan and support non intervention in Syria and Libya despite the obvious problems there. Sometimes you have to accept you cannot solve all the world’s problems. If more force is needed to kill more people in these countries the local powers with armies and airforces on the ground have plenty of ways of bombing, shelling and occupying territory.

When it comes to Iraq I remain concerned about our limited intervention.  Is the coalition giving the necessary support to local forces to recapture the territory lost to ISIL? Is there a good political strategy in place from the new government to win over Kurds and Sunnis to a unified Iraqi rule? Will arming the Kurds lead to demands for a separate Kurdish state, and how would this be accommodated? What is the strategy for dealing with the Syrian part of ISIL, and with Russia which retains influence in the region?

I am as appalled as any by the mindless evil of some ISIL people with the organised murders of humanitarian aid workers. I agree with the US and UK governments that discussing ransoms could encourage  more such detentions of westerners and would fuel the ISIL forces as it filled their treasury. It is tough having to tell families of those captured that it is likely their loved ones will die, but if the USA and UK does not know where they are being held it is impossible to rescue them. Usually with bullies the best approach is to hit them back.  These people are however both bad and mad. They are mad enough to deliberately provoke and take on the forces of the mightiest military coalition of the world led by the USA. I am not sure the usual rules of how to respond to bullies works with them.




  1. Lifelogic
    October 5, 2014

    I agree fully. Furthermore I do not really understand how anyone rational can disagree with much/most of what you say.

    Sometimes, as you say, you just have to accept you cannot solve all the world’s problems. Indeed you are very likely to just make the position worst and incubate further hatred, wars and terrorism.

    The dreadful high profile & videoed murders are not a sound reason to take any action and they should not have been used by the government, Cameron and many others to justify any action. They should have been kept low profile and largely ignored.

    In the scheme of things they are dreadful & tragic, but irrelevant to the bigger picture.

    After all thousands die due to often very poor quality, dysfunctional, delayed & rationed NHS care every month. About 6 people die on the roads every day and there are about 9000 alcohol related death a year. We could easily do far, far more and save far more lives in these areas quite easily. Without killing yet more with bombs from ageing RAF Tornados.

    1. Lifelogic
      October 5, 2014

      It is quite funny to read of the increase in a UKIP donation from £100K to £1M Thanks to Hague dismissing the donor (an ex conservative) as a “nobody”. We have already had Cameron’s UKIP smears (fruit cakes and closet racists), Boris’s people who have sex with vacuum cleaners and Anna Soubry’s moronic “like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it”.

      Surely these juvenile insults actually help UKIP by deterring their supporters from returning to the Tory fold and by make the people issuing them look rather pathetic and lacking in real arguments.

  2. Andyvan
    October 5, 2014

    Last time I checked the invasion and occupation of a country that has not threatened us merely because we don’t approve of it’s government is a war crime. There are no grey areas despite what so many of our leaders want us to believe. Aggressive war is illegal under international law. I understand that legality is only of interest to western nations when it suits their purposes but it does not change the law. Then there is the matter of morality. Who are we to judge these unpleasant governments especially when we do so much to install and support evil dictatorships? Let’s think back to the Khmer Rouge, the Shar of Iran, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, the Saudi royal family and dozens more. All of whom were or are installed, supported or encouraged by the west, most particularly Washington. Now we have the likes of the BBC beating the war drums again, spewing out propaganda and giving air time to war mongers like Colonel Bob Stewart and US senators all of whom seem to have slept through the last 50 years of the abject failure of violent intervention. More violence is not the cure for violence.

    1. Tad Davison
      October 5, 2014

      You’re dead right Andy!

      And then we need to look at who is not following international law, why not, and the gutless cowards in the House of Commons who dare not tell it like it is, condemn them, and stand up to them.

      Bullies and cowards get my contempt in equal measure, and while we have cowards in Westminster, and one big international bully in particular, who reserves the dubious right to destabilise or invade another country whenever it sees it’s own interests threatened, the world will never see peace.


    2. M Davis
      October 5, 2014

      Absolutely, well said. Hear! Hear!

  3. Derek Hoxha
    October 5, 2014

    Four wars later, hundreds of British servicemen dead and not one of the states mentioned above are now “beacons of democracy” as predicted by the neo-cons and the “right to protect” harpies in Washington. It just shows the stupidity of the UKs political class that they keep on falling for this rubbish. Anyway with IS around 50 miles away from the US embassy in Baghdad you can guarantee it will be soon “boots on the ground” time again, with the British Army following on the Americans coat tails. If IS get to their ultimate objective of Saudi Arabia there will be more funeral parades in Wooten Bassett than ever.

  4. Excalibur
    October 5, 2014

    As you suggest, JR, we are delaying the inevitable in Iraq by our limited intervention. Only dedicated soldiering will defeat the ruthlessness of ISIL. To provide adequate support to local troops, I think US, British and Australian and Canadian Special Forces should combine to put a useful deterrent force on the ground. Small units operating selectively would disrupt ISIL and provide tactical leadership. Longer term, we should recruit again into the British army several battalions of Ghurka soldiers. See how the ISIL cowards enjoy the cold steel of a kukri on their throats.

    1. bigneil
      October 6, 2014

      Regarding the Ghurkas. Is the idea to recruit them so they can be kicked in the privates when the UK has had enough of them, while the people who they would be fighting could come here from Calais, say the magic “a” word, and be granted a free house, money, NHS care etc etc?

  5. The PrangWizard
    October 5, 2014

    The difference is that ISIL is expansionist and if left alone it will go further. Some elements have stated an aim to regain by force the rule of Islam in the parts of Europe it once controlled. It wishes to return to Spain for example and not simply stop there. Many will say this is this not so, but listen to what they say and watch what they do.

    Complacency, and the view that such a thing could not happen ‘today’, or that ‘it’s only talk’ and they can be reasoned with, is to be guarded and warned against. We ought to know from history where weakness like that can lead. We must take a long view and act to protect the future.

    We have no legitimate right simply to get rid of a tyrant we don’t like, or to replace regimes which have different political outlooks from ours but don’t threaten us, but we do have the right to defend our interests, to punish and kill barbarians and murderers of our own citizens, who carry out these acts in a deliberate and provocative way against people who have committed no crime, and who threaten our own territory and who have killed, and plan to kill, more of us, any of us, on our own soil, using agents who live secretly and with deceit amongst us and are being gradually increased in number. There are people, hundreds, possibly thousands, living here who should not be.

  6. Richard1
    October 5, 2014

    Certainly it is right to say we will use every effort to bring to justice the ISIL murderers of UK and other citizens. But this on its own is not enough to justify a war. A war can only be justified if the UK or our allies, to whom we are bound by treaty, are under direct threat, and cannot deal with it themselves. I do not understand why it is that after more than 40 years of supplying top class weaponry to rich Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, they are not able to crush these criminals themselves. It is even said IS has received financial and other support from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy states. If so the utter folly of those governments must be shouted from the rooftops both in public and private. Perhaps we should have travel bans in the West against princes and other wealthy citizens of regimes who fund Islamism? What has been the point of selling these states all this weaponry? The old cold war justification is now irrelevant. We should tell them we expect massive military engagement by the gulf states to crush IS and hunt down and preferably extradite the IS murderers (to the US where there is no danger the human rights industry will interfere with justice).

    The bigger picture again of course is that we should utterly reject environmental lefitsm and get shale gas going somas to reduce dependency on oil from this troubled region.

    1. Tad Davison
      October 5, 2014

      ‘What has been the point of selling these states all this weaponry?’

      Richard, do you really need to ask that question? Upon leaving office, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave us notice that the ‘Military Industrial Complex’ were getting above themselves. I’d go further, and say that the 250 year-old banking system is just as bad, just as rotten, and just as dangerous, if not more so. But people in so-called ‘high office’ and ‘positions of power’ are too sacred to breathe a word in its condemnation!

      No honest man could possibly fail to denounce what we presently have in the most bitter terms. The death and misery these people have brought is incalculable, yet still it goes on through the failings of those we elect to do our bidding. We need a clear-out!


    2. zorro
      October 5, 2014

      Arms manufacturers make an lawful lot of money from selling arms to these regimes…..


      1. zorro
        October 6, 2014

        Of course, I meant awful!


  7. Douglas Carter
    October 5, 2014

    Of the four conflicts you mention, really only the first Iraq conflict – that of January-march 1991 – is of a traditional conflict which required military involvement. The other three were/are all in some notional frame civil wars or internal conflicts.

    Personally, I think there’s been a rush to judgement on the kind of future conflicts this country will face on the basis of recent years. Some figures may point to the fact that post-WWII the UK has contested guerrilla wars or insurgencies with frequency, by far the most numerous of them were associated with withdrawal from Empire, territorial tensions the UK had an obligation to attend. Afghanistan, Libya and Syria do not come into that category and the importance being that guerrilla wars and insurgencies invariably need a political solution – here those political solutions need to be arranged regionally. The involvement of western alliances frequently not only prevents those regional settlements, all-too-often, it conveniently absolves regional powers from inconvenient complications. Somebody else is doing their dirty work – why would they then complain?

    There are other factors, but to retract back to Iraq\Kuwait of 1990\91, there are unique factors also involved which often escape attention. In August 1990 the UK had a competent and experienced Prime Minister. A factor often overlooked. That Prime Minister was highly respected internationally and was presented with a crystal-clear strategic and tactical problem. The recovery of Kuwait was a perfectly simple matter of recovery of territory, and the recovery of the Government of that territory. No need to comment on the legitimacy of the borders of that territory, nor to comment on the legitimacy of its rulers. UK forces were then given the widest terms of reference to action the aims of that Government. Uniquely, those forces were also sitting on capacious arsenals of equipment which had been provided for a conflict in Europe, the threat of which had definitively retreated at that time. Those forces had also been structured and armed to face a threat which had trained Iraqi forces, and informed their own strategies.

    From the involvement in the Balkans onwards, the political imperative behind the deployment of forces has been disjointed and has frequently lacked clarity. The provision of equipment upon evolving need has been hesitant and resented (politically) at every juncture. When it eventually has been surgically extracted from the Treasury, it has always proven to be at the expense of another branch of the Armed Forces.

    The lessons? Politically, if it’s someone else’s problem – then it’s not only preferable, but obligatory to leave it in those hands. It’s not for the UK taxpayer to procure equipment to fight a war which is not their responsibility. Nor should the families of UK serving personnel risk the blood of their loved ones because their own Government lacked the political capacity to stay out of a war in which no involvement was warranted. Or, worse still, nor should those same families lose loved ones to a Government which refuses to provide the equipment to carry out operations in an involvement to which the UK must attend, and for which they had ample opportunity to properly prepare for, both militarily and politically.

  8. APL
    October 5, 2014

    “In Libya we used missiles and bombs delivered from the air and offshore to help topple an authoritarian regime, and are now leaving the civil disruption and war to local forces.”

    We intervened in Libya to avoid civil war, and left behind a civil war.

    Yes, we toppled the Gaddafi regime, and replaced it with a bunch of feral Islamic warlords. Libya is still in a state of civil war today.

    This is what our former foreign secretary William Hague calls a foreign policy success.

    As such it makes Robin Cook and his ‘ethical foreign policy’ look positively statesman like.

    1. Terry
      October 5, 2014

      Even worse, we saved the militant inhabitants of Benghazi from Gaddaffis attack. Now these same people are murdering their opponents and wrecking the country. We should have left well enough alone. Ditto Iraq.

  9. oldtimer
    October 5, 2014

    In contemporary warfare, more often than not, the old rules no longer apply. Asymmetric warfare renders much of the US military might ineffective as the transition from the swift conventional victory in the invasion of Iraq transitioned into a long and never ending guerrilla campaign clearly demonstrates. That being so, the idea of effective direct military intervention, certainly by the UK, seems to me to be extremely unlikely and therefore to be avoided. The role of the UK should be to work through diplomatic channels to achieve the outcomes deemed in the national interest. Military involvement should be limited to the supply of advice (including intelligence) and weapons to the faction we support and hope to see prevail.

  10. Tad Davison
    October 5, 2014

    ‘Usually with bullies the best approach is to hit them back.’

    True, yet people still wonder why the western powers are absolutely detested by so many people throughout the world, and feel the need to retaliate, as in Gaza, a country you forgot to mention.

    The acid test of a good foreign policy is whether it works for the local people and improves things on the ground. What ever negative opinions one might have about the deposed and assassinated former Libyan leader, things are far worse now. The country used to work for the people and had stability. His overthrow was a deliberate construct of the west (don’t take my word for it, see US General Wesley Clarke).

    There are other middle-eastern countries whose systems are not democratic, and where human rights are of secondary importance, but we do not intervene in those places because they are so-called ‘friends and allies’. Talk about double standards!

    Had the west not gone gung-ho into Iraq in 2003 under highly dubious pretences (and I would say ‘false and constructed’ ones), I personally doubt if things in that part of the middle-east would be as bad as they are now. Saddam Hussein wasn’t a particularly good role model, but we need to delve more deeply into what he did, why, and for whom. And it was of course the west who provided a lot of his military hardware.

    Mr Cameron says this is not a war against Islam, but the hard fact is that based on their past experience, a great many millions of people find his words difficult to swallow, as there is a predominant focus by the west upon intervention in Islamic countries (and oh how I would love to couple the word ‘west’ with another word that is at the root of most of the problems throughout the world, so strong is its effect upon events, but would effectively ensure this post stood no chance of ever getting used.)

    Bullies cannot go around being the ‘world’s policeman’ (there’s a misnomer if ever there was, designed to give a cloak of altruism to overt and covert interventionism and expansionism!) and not expect some people will then want to get back at them. This is going to come back on us, and makes the world far less safe. I don’t ever want my kids to fight in unjust wars that could and should have been avoided in the first place.

    Tad Davison


  11. Margaret Brandreth-J
    October 5, 2014

    We also need to speculate and use our imagination. As you say sometimes the shias are the baddies, sometimes the sunnis are. ISIL has little purity in intent to anyone. So who can they persuade if they gain too much power? In the wicked scenario of the ISIl gaining power due to non intervention and both the sunnis and shias involved we put ourselves in a extremely vulnerable situation.We have a situation where the more power they gain the greater others will believe in their intention to rule and tag on.

  12. Anonymous
    October 5, 2014

    “Sometimes you have to accept you cannot solve all the world’s problems.”

    Pretty much all the time, in fact. Especially where ‘regime change’ leaves a country with no regime at all.

    IS is our creation. Britain has been run by people with the intellect of idealistic sixth formers.

    1. Anonymous
      October 5, 2014

      “Usually with bullies the best approach is to hit them back.”

      On which the war mongering Blairists seem to agree.

      Strangely this does not seem to apply when it comes to criminality in our own country.

    2. Lifelogic
      October 5, 2014

      Idealistic, rather dim, sixth formers too.

      Rather like the BBC in fact.

  13. Bert Young
    October 5, 2014

    The involvement in Afghanistan is not just a recent affair ; we were in conflict in Victorian times when the notorious Khyber Pass was the scene of so many of the lives our red-coated soldiers . History shows that trying to solve the problems of the Middle East by armed intervention was , and is still now , a mistake . My father was sent to Palestine as a young soldier in 1919 and , after several years of occupation with the army , came back and said ” The place is a mad house of different tribes all trying to take over “; it is still the same today. The tribal in-fighting has , in the past , been controlled by dictatorial leadership and , however distasteful it is to us , we should recognise that it was relatively successful ; Sunnis and Shias were made to co-exist and accept their status quo . Whether we are involved with limited or more long term intervention , the result will be the same – we will be hated more and remain the focus of different forms of revenge . Were it not for oil , we would not be concerned .

  14. Alan Wheatley
    October 5, 2014

    Those wondering what is the best plan of action can do no better than to read Margaret Thatcher on Statecraft, a book I heartily recommend.

    One of the key principles is that, while conflicts that resort to the force of arms can not be satisfactorily resolved for the long term other than by political processes, those political process can not work until the rule of law has been establish. It is hardly surprising that people choose to “support” those holding a gun to their head.

    Hopefully we have all learnt the stupidity of recent war zone policy that became known as “grass cutting”. We need to look back to Malaya to see what worked.

  15. Terry
    October 5, 2014

    I have little faith in the Afghan regime and expect the Taliban to move back in and takeover within months. There remains nepotism and corruption in high places for there to be any other outcome. I can envisage the Taliban joining the IS hordes in a move to over run the Gulf States and Afghanistan, again, becoming the centre of Global terrorist training and murderous attacks on Westernised societies. Short of an Armageddon in the Middle East I can see no resolution to the woes.

    Consider the current hellholes of the World – Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. What is their common denominator? No prizes for guessing the obvious. And that is the root of the problem that goes back to Blair in Iraq and Cameron in Libya. Political posturing has created this unholy mess but it will not correct it. Until the likes of the Gulf States themselves make a serious and belligerent stand against these blood thirsty and repugnant barbarians there will be no peace in the region. Ever.

  16. Stephen Berry
    October 5, 2014

    JR: “In Afghanistan we fought a full war with our allies, put troops in on the ground, policed territory and are now handing over responsibility for security to local forces and taking our leave.”

    Will John be going down to Paddy Power to place a bet on this? We have just completed our Fourth Afghan War, can he be confident there will not be a fifth – and soon?

    From the internet I see that ISIS is now within striking distance of the Baghdad suburbs. Given that the Iraqi forces seem to have the fighting spirit of the South Vietnamese army, how long before we get the call for boots on the ground there, a decision which I trust would require a further vote in parliament?

  17. BobE
    October 5, 2014

    John you forget to mention “Who controls the oil. Thats why we ignore other conflicts as in Africa. Its all basically about oil.

  18. Eddie Hill
    October 5, 2014

    I think I’ve said before on your blog that I’m confused as to why we are intervening in other countries’ domestic problems at all, leave alone why we are doing different things in different places. After all, countries such as North Korea and Zimbabwe are under the control of madmen, and Somalia is in a state of anarchy, yet we’re not intervening in any of these places.

    Also, why do we tend to think that it’s our responsibility to pay for the implementation of democracy in such countries round the world? Few of them have ever had it and if we foist it on them, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to maintain it, notwithstanding our belief that it’s superior to other forms of government.

    Aren’t we thereby engaging in cultural and moral imperialism, and didn’t we subsequently get into similar trouble last time we tried that?

    And aren’t we repeating the mistakes of the past, having failed to learn the lessons of history, by tormenting ourselves as to the right thing to do, bearing the criticism of people who think it wasn’t, and all the while wasting our money, our diminishing military assets and the lives of our soldiers and aid workers in a futile effort to get water to flow up-hill?

    In P J O’Rourke’s brilliant book “All the Trouble in the World,” he asked an American soldier how to solve the problems in Somalia. His answer was: “Give them better weapons and close the borders.”

    We could do a lot worse.

  19. Brian Tomkinson
    October 5, 2014

    JR: “Four Middle Eastern countries, 4 different approaches”
    We shall never really know what were the real reasons for our government’s desire for military involvement in each of these countries.

  20. Alan Wheatley
    October 5, 2014

    If the politics and the military strategy deem it appropriate then I would have thought there are some very effective interventions that could be made from the air alone.

    The more massed the enemy and the more it is relying on heavy equipment the easier it is to identify it and to combat it from the air. I would have thought this would be particularly effective against, say, forces approaching across open ground to attack a desert town. I think such action would also be a tremendous moral boost for those forces supposed to be defending the town. It should help to maintain their boots on the contested ground, rather then them run away.

    If your enemy can not mass its forces nor deploy heavy weapons then it is reduced to fighting a guerrilla war, which is hardly an impressive action by the likes of a would-be state.

    1. Julian
      October 5, 2014

      It looks (admittedly from far away) like this would be an effective strategy.

    October 5, 2014

    Hard to draw a line under or call British hostage executions a Jenkin’s Ear phenomenon yet however one dissects the problem one cannot escape from the fact there are not any British interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Libya save oil and military geo-political concerns.
    If Britain, miraculously, though I do not know why there should be a Merlinesqueness about it, were to never set foot or fly over these territories again, nothing would change or even get worse.
    I cannot believe anyone from the Middle East will in the future thank external powers for protecting them any more than leaders of countries with many Muslims thanked western interventionists in the former Yugoslavia. It is as if they thought such help was not help at all or worse. Their thankless silences on the subject even to date are eardrum bursting.
    If in doubt, keep our bombs to ourselves!

  22. Brigham
    October 5, 2014

    There is only one answer to IS. Kill them before they kill us.

    1. Mondeo Man
      October 6, 2014

      The bigger threat to the world is probably Ebola.

      Why are the affected countries not in lock-down with UN medics going in to damp down this fire before it becomes an inferno ?

    2. bigneil
      October 6, 2014

      Which English city do we start with first? Our leaders have waved in thousands of their supporters for a free life, telling us they are all peaceful, even rewarding them from our taxes for coming.

  23. ian
    October 5, 2014

    My voting position still stands, the queen form the government not the politician, your only there to vote on new laws and mess around old laws and put the tax up and down to gain vote, also to make speech about your view on how the country should be run. As we all know 80% of are laws come from the EU and our ministration implement them on behalf of the people. Your idea that you can form a government with less than 50% per cent of the people voting is miss guided and need guidance from the queen, the high court the media and the people for a party to form a government with less than 50% of the people voting, it would bring big changes to the way you run your football match because the people are not satisfied with their politician from their constituency doing what they like and by unforeseen forces when they arrive in parliament, the people want more control over their politician on what they can do in their names from their constituency. So I do not agree with your stand.

    Change will come, your economy is run on Keynesian economics which is that bank do not lend out deposits, they print money out thin air, it relies on ever lasting inflation and prices going up no matter what is happens to the majority people, it is an a elites policy bordering on capitalist dictatorship which is not much better than other form like socialist and the rest. You only teach Keynesian economics at schools and university there no free thinking when it come to economic it mandatory and you are running out of runway. The policy is fallacy every time it go wrong the powers to be and economist panic because they can see their money disappearing and the debt that they have taken out overwhelming them so they insist on being bailout by the majority so they can carry on as if nothing has happened. The politician make sure the capitalist dictatorship rolls on without any changes to the system, This would not be to bad if people did not pay tax on they wages but they do, that why it is a salve system. Your lot have not got the intelligence to get yourselves out of it so you keep going till you hit concrete wall. Using war and terror to cover up your failing is also wrong. They do not care about the animals life or the planet all they care about is their balance sheet which are in tatters in most cases. As they try to push on with GDP and wasting as much as they can and bring as many people into the country as possible to make they point that they system works. We shall see what the out come is.

  24. Kenneth R Moore
    October 5, 2014

    The trouble is we can’t have the Conservatives compassionate unlimited welfare AND armed forces capable of projecting enough power to keep us safe anymore. So our army and navy has been cut to the bone.

    We need to ditch all the multicultural guff and assert British values..but we are forever told we are so diverse and tolerant these days that these can be whatever anyone wishes them to be – your still British.

    Anyway the game is up now we are as good as bankrupt. Yet all we hear in the news is that a missile that probable cost $200,000 has blown up a pick-up truck.

  25. M Davis
    October 5, 2014

    Maybe we should put our own house in order first, before going prancing about in other peoples Countries. If people of the West choose to go and try to ‘help’ others in the East then they should do so at their own risk and not expect the British Government to bail them out, as suits them. The British Government should leave other Countries alone to sort their own wars out.

  26. Julian
    October 5, 2014

    Whilst there is a civil war within the middle east there is also a war by militants against the democratic west. Just because their capabilities to wage that war are (cuurently) limited does not mean it does not exist. Eventually that realisation will dawn even on the liberal elite in the west.

  27. Sam
    October 5, 2014

    In attempting to build a stable, civilised nation state, the Afghans have one crucial thing in their favour: they play cricket.

    The significance of this cannot be overestimated.

  28. forthurst
    October 5, 2014

    Trying to justify western military interventions on the basis that their original purpose was essentially benign, endeavouring to replace evil dictators by western style democracies, simply will not wash; the reality is that the US government apparatus has become seriously infested by a group who are using the power of that state to destroy regimes whom they believe are a threat to the expansion of that group’s favoured ME state. Our objective as people should be to vote into parliament those who will pursue an independent foreign policy, exclusively in our national interest, despite being told by the USA that we must attack this or that country or impose sanctions on this or that country. We do not need in parliament the type of person who uses every opportunity to call for a war against the Assad government when he knows perfectly well that there is not a British interest involved and then explicitly exposes himself in a way which demonstrates to the world how poor his judgement really is.

    Any purported intention of the ‘West’ to meet the threat of ISIL simply cannot be taken seriously whilst still maintaining a desire to overthrow the Syrian government by arming ‘moderate’ rebels to oppose both that government and ISIL; there aren’t any moderate rebels and there never were. Destabilised regimes are a breeding ground for militias which once achieving critical mass, develop political ambitions for power and wealth, creating groups like ISIL, and a outflow of displaced persons with some heading for Calais.

  29. Rods
    October 6, 2014

    You are right that each war has been tackled differently but they all suffer from the same inherent flaw which leads to failure.

    We do not spend enough time with troops on the ground in an advisory / training role for what should be 20 years, a generation to help and guide the countries to established proper institutions to run the country with a well trained civil service, and police, security and armed forces. Without that immature democracies will revert to type which in Afghanistan and the Middle East is corrupt, unprofessional government systems, for the benefit of the political few at the expense of the majority. These are often little better than the previous regimes that they replace.

    I can’t see or understand how governments think that by toppling brutal regimes from the air and creating a power vacuum like in Libya and what the US and UK wanted to do as an intervention in Syria means that they think they will get anything better? History shows that once a government / dictator is over thrown that there is only about a 20% chance of it being replaced by a democracy. Ukraine has been fortunate in this respect as at 20% it is the exception rather than the rule.

    So if the West is not prepared to have troops on the ground and commit to supporting with direct involvement a newly established government with troops and advisors that are there for the following 20 years to establish the required mature democracy and institutions, then we probably shouldn’t be there at all, as most of the time we will be making things worse.

    I can’t see how the US / US etc. can win against ISIL without troops on the ground, given how poor the Iraqi troops are and with each abandonment of equipment and ammunition that is captured by ISIL for use against the allied backed forces ISIL are gaining more territory and getting stronger. Sadly for the region, ISIL seem to have a much stronger will to win than the Iraqis.

    The current intervention in Iraq is a political ‘must be seen to do something’ but it must be different for political reasons to my predecessor. This is by a US president who has no interest in Geopolitics with a proven track record of either doing nothing and hoping for the best (no such thing for good outcomes in Geopolitics) or when he does intervene showing that he is tactically and strategically inept and generally makes things worse.

    The West with our current generation of flip-flop, focus group centric, left-wing liberal politicians who hope by doing nothing and largely pretending that a resurgent aggressive Russia and China can be contained with token actions, pleading words to dictators to show their better sides, with a few ‘pretty pleases’ thrown in for good measure are playing with fire, much like ‘liberal’ politicians did in the 1930’s with their arms limitation treaties, their belief in the League of Nations and appeasement. This doesn’t work with ruthless dictators who will ‘bank’ all they are given and move on to the next acquisition on the agenda.

    Weak ‘liberal’ politicians cause wars by allowing aggressive dictators to get more and more confident, to cross red lines, until the West finally has no choice but to act and this leads to war. Personally, as a Kremlin watcher I think the chances of containing a resurgent Russia with words is remote, now Putin has abandoned the economy and unwritten agreement with the population ‘I will make you progressively richer, but at the cost of political freedom’ to one of nationalism. Taking this route requires regular popularity top-ups which when you have generated the expectation of the restoration of an empire means regaining territory. He will take as much of Ukraine as he feels he can get away with without creating an Afghanistan, the current cease fire is a tool in Russia’s military locker where they are classed as continuing war by other means and there will probably be a major escalation before winter to capture much more or most of the east of the country and also to establish a much needed land bridge to Crimea and no a few more ‘pretty pleases’ from Merkel, Cameron and Obama won’t stop him, only the costs imposed by the Ukrainian army might!

    Within the next 2 years I’m pretty sure he will annex the Baltic countries. Don’t say as part of NATO they are protected by Article 5 as that is open to political interpretation. If Putin infiltrates 500 ‘little green men’ into each country and causes unrest like in East Ukraine by taking over government buildings etc., without a declaration of war by Russia and a total denial that it is anything to do with them. Now if the Baltic countries request assistance under Article 5 would this ‘local unrest’ be classed as an act of war and a need for a NATO response or just that ‘local unrest’ by our current generation of ‘flip flop’ liberal politicians who are always looking to take the easiest political route, that risks losing the least votes? In my view it will be bye, bye, Baltic countries. Especially as NATO is currently configured to handle big wars not ‘local insurgencies’ and it also means that by taking this route the politicians can salvage some NATO credibility for future bigger wars.

    To me, this sums up the current global situation: “While the Western geopolitical will is away, the dictators will play!”

    1. Tad Davison
      October 7, 2014

      It’s amazing how some people will view any given situation from an entirely different perspective, and that has to be down to where they source their information. Could it be that Putin merely wants to keep the expansionist, interventionist, Neo-cons with a proven track record for stirring up trouble almost everywhere they can, out of Russia and has no real intention of annexing the Baltic states whatsoever?

      Could it also be the case that the western media provides a diet of propaganda that brainwashes the people into thinking that everything the west does is good, and everything Russia and China does is bad?

      This is precisely what the Neo-cons are depending upon to carry public opinion with them, and give their interventionist exploits some kind of legitimacy.

      It’s a bit like Gaza and Israel. People in the west are conditioned to think that Israel is all good and is the poor little victim, and the Palestinians are all bad and deserve to be crushed. Yet when we ask our own fellow countrymen what they would do were the UK treated as badly as Gaza, as was the threat in 1940, it’s astonishing how many ‘freedom fighters’ start waving the Union Jack and say they’d fight back (and I count myself in their number incidentally, as I love my country and care passionately about the decent, hard-working people therein.)

      Armchair generals who advocate war as a means of settling disputes should do as all good leaders do, and lead from the front. I suspect many would be less than willing, and far more circumspect.

      I’m convinced only by facts, and they speak for themselves. The massive number of western interventions that destabilise countries and exploit them afterwards, and they use a contrived sense of patriotism as a tool to motivate people who then lay down their lives. We need to wake up to liberal interventionists, Neo-cons, western ‘contructs’, and unjust wars. We’ve been in too many already, and the people are rightly sick of them.


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