Claims that the world can bomb its way towards a sustainable peace are a perilous delusion.
The urge to bomb invariably gets dressed up as ‘compassion’. In reality, it lives closer to ‘fear’. Grand talk of ‘solidarity’ from the ‘Let’s Bomb’ brigade also masks a more subliminal pull towards indiscriminate retribution. Sometimes even baser instincts are at play…So it is today.
Britain needs a long and hard reflection on what lurks behind a Western Jihad, before succumbing to the Devil’s desire for military answers to (invariably) more complex questions.
It is never more important to scrutinise the demands for war than in the aftermath of horrible events like the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mali and Beirut. It is even more important to do so when political leaders bang the drum for war, for reasons that may be anything but honourable.
Lashing out in anger
Millions will have seen the faces of the 130 ‘lost lives’ in the Paris bombings, or read chilling accounts of the arbitrary slaughter of innocent civilians trying to live ordinary lives. They alone make the case for a global initiative that tackles the poisonous Daesh cult at its core.
So too, would images of those similarly slaughtered in Beirut, Nigeria, Iraq or North Africa, by branches of the same death-cult … except that their photos rarely reach us, their lives seem to matter less, and their losses are placed in a category of ‘regional conflicts’; ‘them’ rather than ‘us’.
The case for international intervention against Daesh was compelling long before refugees started to drown in the Med or make it ‘safely’ to European shores. But this does not make the case for bombing raids on Syria; especially not ones launched from the safety of the Members’ Tea Room in parliament. In a world of asymmetrical warfare, acts of terror are the weapons of choice of those without the guided missiles. Neither can win a war. Both destroy the peace.
What the West is faced with requires a more honest (and painful) analysis of the mess the last ‘Coalition of the (war-)Willing’ left behind, and of the murky politics still being played out now.
The buggers won’t sit still
The first problem about a bombing plan is that there isn’t one. Reports from resistance fighters in Raqaa tell of the Daesh leadership already having decamped to Mosul. The main role of all the Daesh road blocks around the city is to prevent the civilian population from fleeing.
The second problem is that most military analysts say that bombing alone will not get rid of Daesh. Unless ground troops go in as well (for a period of up to 20 years) bombs will merely pile death onto the destruction of homes and cities.
The Kurds will certainly send troops in, but only to secure a distinct Kurdish zone. The Russians know that Assad will send troops in too, if he gets the chance. But this will be a long way from the liberal democracy the Syrian resistance movement originally pressed for. That dream was probably the first casualty of the war in Syria.
Now it is complicated further by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet; the first direct conflict between a NATO Member and Russia. Forget the rhetoric, everyone will rush to play this down. What cannot be ignored is the deep divide between Russian claims they have only been bombing Russian elements of Daesh, and Turkish claims that the bombing has been of Turkman communities opposed to Assad.
This leaves the West with additional dilemmas. The post-war choice is probably between Assad and Daesh. The Russians know this. That is what their troops will seek to deliver. Current meetings between the Russian and Iranian leaders doubtless focus on a co-ordinated role that their respective troops will play in defining the shape of such a post-Daesh administration.
Meanwhile, the West kids itself that the US strategy, of remote bombing raids, has been anything but an unmitigated disaster. Claims that, by joining in, Britain’s bombing involvement would ‘crush Daesh by Christmas’ are utterly delusional.
The Daesh leadership has moved to safer spaces. Whatever districts are targeted, civilians will be the main casualties. No photographs of the innocent dead will fill the pages of Western newspapers. The only images to appear will be in Daesh recruitment videos, directed at disaffected kids in the West. Great plan.
The politics of distraction
David Cameron’s desire to get a ‘let’s bomb’ vote from parliament is more about damaging Labour than destroying Daesh.
Labour ‘dummies’ who can’t see this are an embarrassment more than a disgrace. Cameron points to the West’s destruction of hundreds of trucks supplying Daesh with oil. It’s his big plug for whiz-bang technology. But hang on a minute. Where was this oil coming from?
Bloomberg Finance reported that Daesh gets some $500 million a year from its illegal oil trade; enough to pay their troops for 2 years. Up to 200 trucks at a time can be seen queuing up at oil wells in the desert; filling up before heading off along Jihadi Boulevard.
No one seems to have mentioned that oil wells are a lot less nimble than trucks, and they don’t hide out in people’s homes. These should have been taken out long ago, except that others benefit from the oil too. And oil ‘friends’ have to be placated.
Daesh, of course, has other sources of revenue – from extorting, to looting, to sex-trafficking. These are harder to bomb…unless you are willing to ‘bomb’ their bankers. On this the West has been remarkably coy. Action taken with consummate ease against Russia (over Ukraine) has never been applied against the Saudi and Qatari families who form the core of Wahabi Muslims; the spiritual and financial heart of Daesh.
The sanctity of wealth
Not a single Saudi or Qatari family has had their bank accounts frozen, their western assets seized, their Sovereign wealth funds sequestrated, or their rights to international travel withdrawn. Cameron is hungry for a first-strike against anything but money, for this is what Britain depends on.
Offending the Saudis would threaten Britain’s arms contracts, oil supplies and influence. Offending Qatar threatens the financial interests of those patronised by Qatari wealth. Better to stick to pummelling the poor and pretending there is a plan.
Perhaps, though, that is the plan.
Bombing might just mess up a Russian/Iranian coalition of troops-plus-bombs that delivered a victory over Daesh. The trouble is that the (Sunni) Saudis would be incandescent about any (Shia) Iranian ‘victory’, and the West would hate to have been humiliated by Russia.
Even amongst UK military analysts there are weighty voices saying that Syria needs to be assailed by diplomacy while Daesh gets chased by troops and financial strangulation. Better a longer, more complicated process than an even bigger mess.
Is this what parliament will insist upon? Not if its Members are too dumb or too venal to demand it.