Michael Fallon thinks military action should be back on the table. But the past 15 years suggests use of force wouldn’t be just ineffective, it would make things worse.
You could see this coming. With British tourists killed by a Tunisian terrorist trained in “free” Libya , the solution advocated would be to look again at bombing Syria – as Michael Fallon, the defence secretary is now suggesting. Isis, we were told by the prime minister on Tuesday, has joined Napoleon, Hitler and the late Soviet Union as “an existential threat”.
Many readers will remember that a highly efficient, well-trained group supported by radicals in several nations including indeed mainly the US, killed 20 times more British citizens than Isis and al-Qaida combined. Yet no one who lived in those times can recall the IRA being regarded as undermining our very existence.
Still, surely air strikes by a militarily emaciated post-colonial power might accomplish something in turning back this “threat”. The formidable force currently in the region – and unlikely to be reinforced significantly – consists of half a dozen obsolete RAF Tornadoes and a few drones redeployed from killing armed peasants in Central Asia. What then will the military prowess of the Royal Air Force accomplish? Fortunately, we already know.
According to what appear to be the latest Ministry of Defence reports, in May the might of the Royal Air Force destroyed four Isis machine-gun positions, some bulldozers and two “vehicles” (one of them “large” the other probably a Toyota Hilux with a gun on the back).
Three “buildings” were also reduced to rubble. As Crispin Blunt has rightly said yesterday, our contribution achieves very little, and will continue to achieve little.
Rather more importantly, war being a political act, aside from reducing SUVs to their component parts, what exactly is this new element in our mission to stabilise the Middle East supposed to achieve, and how?
As well they might. For the current conflict environment consists of heavily engaged combatants from Iraq, Iran, the Syrian government, the “moderate” Syrian rebels (many of them formerly known as al-Qaida), what is left of the Free Syrian Army, Isis, at least two Kurdish armies and Lebanese Hezbollah.
We might also include genuinely interested parties such as our stalwart Nato ally Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Israel pitches in occasionally as well, usually against Hezbollah. Then there are the less genuinely interested parties such as ourselves.
One might hope that our generals and politicians might have learned from their recent spectacularly disastrous interventions that inserting one’s metaphorical hand into such a strategic hornet’s nest and hoping for a friendly hornet might be a fool’s errand.
One might hope that the quagmire of Afghanistan and the Iraq fiasco might encourage the view that before engaging in battle, one might understand that war is indeed a political act which requires a political end state to which your military force is actively contributing.
Our leaders might consider that the solution to the Iraq-Syria war will only come when we deal with some unwelcome political realities; that Iran is a key player is obvious but unacknowledged; similarly Russia stands to lose far more from Isis success than the UK; have these countries been consulted? Are they involved in these piecemeal and counterproductive operations?
Has anyone spoken to the Syrian government about our bombers invading their airspace? Because if they succeed in shooting down one of our aircraft, it is highly unlikely that surviving aircrew will be well treated. Dozens of other questions remain; none of them asked, let alone answered.
While defaulting yet again to the easy option of ineffective force, no politician has articulated a key national interest in Syria (or indeed Iraq) let alone a political strategy into which that military force must fit. This is not entirely their fault, as our allies in the US have also significantly failed to provide coherent strategic leadership. Until they do, we have no place in the region.
Meanwhile, Isis and the Sunni uprising they represent can point to the skies and say, “see, we told you, they’re coming back”……. And their recruits roll in!
source : theguardian / Frank Ledwidge