Syria: The intervention issue summed up simply

An email exchange I have had this morning with Richard has generated the neatest summary of issues surrounding the proposed Syria intervention.  In a nutshell…
The government (Cameron, Hague and Clegg in particular) feel that, because the reported chemical attack in Damascus was so horrible (it was) something should be done about it (desirable, but there are many options).  But they then divorced action from outcome and fixed upon a single option – military action.  But military action should only be deployed to achieve a known or predictable effect – and the effect was, by common acceptance on both sides of the argument, unknown.
What we saw yesterday and what was narrowly defeated in Parliament, was the government simply wanting to express moral outrage… by shooting off missiles in a howl of rage, triggered by something by which they were hugely offended, with no idea of the likely effects, and most importantly, with no certainty of it having a humanitarian effect.
This is the politics of the playground, not the actions of cogent and rational adults in positions of responsibility.  Opposing the intervention on that basis was the right course of action.  However there still needs to be a focus on humanitarian relief for those who are being caught up and affected by the fighting.

14 Responses to “Syria: The intervention issue summed up simply”


  1. 1 dc96 30/08/2013 at 10:01 am

    I agree although I suspect for many who voted against this wasn’t the rationale for their decision.

  2. 2 qed 30/08/2013 at 10:11 am

    As usual the “intelligence” is sketchy at best:

    Intelligence officials say they could not pinpoint the exact locations of Assad’s supplies of chemical weapons, and Assad could have moved them in recent days as the U.S. rhetoric increased. But that lack of certainty means a possible series of U.S. cruise missile strikes aimed at crippling Assad’s military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack.

    Over the past six months, with shifting front lines in the 2½-year-old civil war and sketchy satellite and human intelligence coming out of Syria, U.S. and allied spies have lost track of who controls some of the country’s chemical weapons supplies, according to the two intelligence officials and two other U.S. officials.

    U.S. satellites have captured images of Syrian troops moving trucks into weapons storage areas and removing materials, but U.S. analysts have not been able to track what was moved or, in some cases, where it was relocated. They are also not certain that when they saw what looked like Assad’s forces moving chemical supplies, those forces were able to remove everything before rebels took over an area where weapons had been stored.

    In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/ap-sources-intelligence-weapons-slam-dunk-20102965?singlePage=true

  3. 3 maureen gannon 30/08/2013 at 10:17 am

    What I saw yesterday was democracy working the will of the people took control , I cheered at the result , just maybe now we will see the begining of this country being governed as opposed to being ruled ,and I put my hands together that Cameron will now realise Blair’s legacy is one of corruption and he will no longer wish to be his heir.

  4. 4 Sue 30/08/2013 at 10:43 am

    I completely concur. It is one thing for them to murder and slay the innocent (as you said, bad enough), but it is another for us to do it (completely hypocritical & immoral).

    It’s not as if we can target individuals with a laser beam for elimination, we will end up causing more damage and also increase the danger for people in the UK. There’s always some nutter around who likes to blame the West for the ills in the Middle East.

  5. 5 PeterMG 30/08/2013 at 11:09 am

    Even if we could do a surgical strike and takeout just the Assad regime with no collateral damage what then? Who takes over? The Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, or any one of 10 other factions. How about Iran.

    I just cannot believe how naïve and stupid our Politian’s are, or is it that they think we are all so stupid that we have no idea what’s going on.

  6. 6 Restoring Britain 30/08/2013 at 11:19 am

    I fear nothing good will come of any of this. I fear doing nothing will have similar consequences doing something militarily. Nothing will be right and it will all be a bloody mess. That’s the consequence of having a world run by shot term thinking political pygmies, who rush into previous flawed conflicts. This is their chickens coming home to roost.

    I also fear that we will still be in there with military before we’re done. There will be something else that happens and Cameroon bloodied from this encounter will choose to bypass Parliament and commit to action.

  7. 7 magwitch 30/08/2013 at 1:02 pm

    As you say, “This is the politics of the playground, not the actions of cogent and rational adults in positions of responsibility.” Additionally commentators have lambasted Milliped’s performance but at least he got a commitment that the Royal Prerogative wouldn’t be used.

    One of the 6 Demands is that we separate the power of the executive from the legislature so would this have allowed a ‘schoolboy Dave’ president to vent his moral outrage without recourse to the will of the people? Are there checks on Obama to prevent him ‘acting tough’ and embroiling the USA in another conflict?

    Also, with a separation of powers, I wonder how many of the 272 ‘ayes’ would have voted against without worrying about their careers.

    Just asking……

  8. 8 Bob Fox 30/08/2013 at 1:02 pm

    The Assad regime must fear a slaughter of Alawites if they lose, so it is likely they will use chemical weapons if they become desperate. They will avoid using them if they are winning, because they know Obama is itching for an excuse to attack them, which increases their likelihood of losing.

    Thus the correct humanitarian policy would be to support Assad! The best policy for the most optimal outcome without an escalation of the war is to do nothing. There are several parties with a close interest in this conflict, and our interference in something that is nothing to do with us will only have adverse consequences for us, and probably for the wider middle east as well.

    Doing nothing is a perfectly valid policy if doing anything would be disastrous.

  9. 9 Adam West 30/08/2013 at 1:09 pm

    “What we saw yesterday and what was narrowly defeated in Parliament, was the government simply wanting to express moral outrage… by shooting off missiles in a howl of rage, triggered by something by which they were hugely offended, with no idea of the likely effects, and most importantly, with no certainty of it having a humanitarian effect.”

    Like Clinton’s response to the 1998 US embassy bombings – firing cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical factory and some terrorist training camps.

    This is what much of politics is now – appearance over substance. The missiles would be fired, civilians would be killed and reprisals would be stepped up but Dave would do his best impression of Tony Blair and insist it was ‘the right thing to do’. The action matters more than the outcome.

    Perhaps Dave and his chums should be asked what he would do if we didn’t have cruise missiles and drones. The options would then require putting British forces in direct danger.

    Is there a Syrian group in exile trying to use western governments like there was with Iraq? It then becomes easy for western governments to convince themselves that gung-ho regime change followed by installing a friendly administration would make the aftermath easier.

  10. 10 Vanessa 30/08/2013 at 2:58 pm

    “This is the politics of the playground….” What an indictment of those who think they are good enough to govern us. It is absolutely true, nobody in Westminster seems able to step back and think about what the consequences might be.

    This knee-jerk reaction to everything these days is so dangerous but none in Westminster is able to see how stupidly they are behaving. As a country with the “seat of democracy” something needs to be done about these schoolchildren.

    I suppose it comes from the EU which really governs us leaving the “toddlers” very little to do now.

  11. 11 cosmic 30/08/2013 at 9:19 pm

    This account gives too much credit to Cameron and Hague who have been trying to work up support for intervention in Syria for some months, with suggestions that we supply arms to the rebels.

    These suggestions have not made much headway for various reasons. For instance, it appears that the rebel factions are islamic fundamentalists, and probably less humane and tolerant than the current regime. We really don’t know who the rebels are and it isn’t enough that they are against Assad.

    It strikes me that Cameron’s moral outrage has to be seen in the light of a pre-existing determination to have the UK involved in Syria. It then becomes a vehicle to promote their scheme on a wave of emotion. The reasons for their determination have never been convincingly explained.

  12. 12 xmfclick 31/08/2013 at 9:57 pm

    Various blogs and Twitter are linking to a aeport datelined August 29th by Dale Gavlak, an experienced Middle East reporter of 20 years’ standing who has written for the BBC, Associated Press and NPR …

    http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

    Summary: The chemical weapons “attack” by Assad was actually an accident on the part of a group of rebels who had been supplied with the weapons, but no training, by Saudi Arabia.

    *If* the report turns out to be accurate it would cast a huge shadow over the “intelligence” on which Cameron’s Commons performance was based. I think it unlikely that the UK’s spooks would have been unaware of Saudi intentions, much less the CIA (who would have supplied Saudi with the weapons).


  1. 1 Britannia Radio » Media: listening to itself …..Syria: an unlucky thirteen Trackback on 30/08/2013 at 9:30 pm
  2. 2 Britannia Radio » UK politics: the world is not a better place…….EU integration: a shaggy horse story Trackback on 31/08/2013 at 2:03 pm
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