Syria – all they are saying is: “Give war a chance!”
So, the Government’s strategy of dragging MPs back a couple of days early in an attempt to bounce Parliament into agreeing to military strikes on Syria backfired. It has left the leadership licking its wounds and refusing to countenance any further action!
I voted against the Government not because – as my critics claim – I was “turning my back” on innocent people in Syria who have suffered at the hands of the appalling and tyrannical Assad regime. But because I judged that military intervention would just make the situation worse. Whilst it may change the problem, it wouldn’t resolve it.
This is not “appeasement” or “surrender” or the many other accusations which I have had thrown at me by those who – with sincerity no doubt – support military intervention. I’ve supported military intervention before – in Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone – and have visited (twice) Helmand Province in Afghanistan to demonstrate my strong support for our service men and women engaged in the most difficult battle of all – invited in by the legitimate Government of that country to assist with peacekeeping and nation building whilst being a target for the insurgents.
The Government’s motion, in its back-pedalled and watered-down version, would have taken the UK across a threshold onto a slippery slope of becoming drawn in to an appalling civil war from which it would be difficult to extricate itself.
No matter what I may think about the appalling Assad regime and the almost conclusive evidence that they used chemical weapons to kill hundreds and injure thousands of their own people, it is not sufficient to persuade me that the UK should engage in or support military strikes in Syria at this time.
Yes. Bomb them with diplomacy, inspectors, humanitarian aid, shelter and support, “humanitarian corridors”, negotiations with Russia, Iran and its Arab neighbours. But military action would be a mistake. The strikes were intended to be punitive; to have a “deterrent” effect. But this presupposes that (i) the Assad regime would respond rationally; (ii) it wouldn’t provoke an escalation of the civil war; (iii) it wouldn’t draw in its Arab neighbours and risk inflaming a wider Middle East conflict; (iv) provoke the Assad regime to take a calculated risk of goading the West by using chemical weapons again; (v) appear to strengthen Assad as he “successfully withstands” the attacks.
Even if the so-called “limited” strikes didn’t result in “Mission Creep”, as now appears the case, all that may happen is that a repugnant tyrant would be replaced with Jihadists and perpetual sectarian strife.
This is not the first alleged war crime in this or indeed other civil wars and conflicts of recent years. The widespread slaughter of over 100,000 people in Syria has been accompanied by convincing allegations of war crimes involving the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and the killing of many innocent men, women and children. What is the difference between a war crime involving the targeting of a child killed with a bullet or conventional bomb and a child killed by a chemical weapon? The West would be inconsistent if it simply chose to intervene with only one type of war crime and not with another.
The Government would be wrong to say that Parliament should not revisit this issue and reconsider further action should the situation change. That would be “turning our backs”.
The Hansard record of the debate can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130829/debtext/130829-0004.htm . My speech is at Col. 1519.
Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Constituency of St Ives
3rd September 2013