Yes, I still oppose British military intervention in Syria

The moral case for intervention in Syria remains strong, the Ba’ath regime continues to commit atrocities, and yet still I oppose British military action.

The moral case for intervention in the Russo-Finnish War of 1939 was equally strong. Hitler’s ally, the Soviet Union, issued an ultimatum to democratic Finland and invaded. It was proposed that the UK should send troops — an Anglo-Finnish expedition was prepared.

Both are daft ideas, one is forgotten now almost totally, and one will be.

The end of the cold war, and the illusions of uni-polar power, led to the restoration of war as an instrument of policy in the Middle East: clean war, limited war, surgical war and all the other delusions.

It was said of Stalinism: “we can see the broken eggs, where is the omelette?”

British Foreign Policy since Iraq has not attempted to learn the lessons, to overcome the delusion of Western puissance. Mostly it has been an attempt to roll the clock back to 2002, to get permission to break some more eggs.

“To get the sort of military presence in Syria that the UK had in Northern Ireland in 1972 would require 1.6 m troops — the ‘debate’ in this country has been about sending a handful of aircraft to join the long line of other countries bombing Syria.”

Sinn Féin’s triumph in Ireland stemmed not from 1916 and the executions, but the abandoned Irish Conscription Bill of 1918. With the near civil war of 1913 still raw, Ireland was exempt from conscription at first. By 1918 conscription was an anathema.

On the shooting of Padraig Pearse, Cathal Brugha became the soi-disant President. After he was released from internment he took the boat train to London and wandered around the Commons to see how many gunmen he would need to kill the Cabinet in the lobby — on the evening they voted for conscription.

These ghosts, armed with a hail of ballots now, haunt those lobbies still. We sing songs of Diet War in our Disney Valhalla.

By contrast the first levies born after September 11th are already fighting in Afghanistan, their Iraqi cousins join them next year.

*

This is a regional war, with the Iranians, the Lebanese, the Turks and the Saudis making the running, the Assad regime retains considerable support. It is not in the gift of the Americans, or the Russians, or us — unless we want conscription, boots on the ground, and Cathal Brugha.

It seems clear that the Syrian’s happy broadcast of their use of chemical weapons is related to the ‘success’ of the attack in Salisbury — success in moving thresholds.

Putin’s regime is not the Soviet Union redux — it is not as strong as say, the Iranian regime. Its main players, including Putin, have such little confidence that they squirrel their money away in the West, or London if you prefer.

What is needed is not virtue signalling in the Fertile Crescent — but hard action against Putin where it can hurt him.

Firstly, against his money launderers, his cronies, to staunch the great flood of dirty money being cleaned in London.

And secondly by supporting Ukraine — which is actually taking him on, helping it at war, and to bring it into the European Union. The UK, with the US and Russia, was a guarantor of Ukrainian territorial integrity, not that you would know it now.

*

The old post-war institutions are collapsing, in particular the UN.

Trump and Bolton, ‘nuff sed.

That particular broken egg will not be put back together the same way: the UK will never get back its leadership role it had in the last world war.

The UK currently doesn’t even have a foreign policy — Brexit has subsumed all points abroad. England doesn’t even have a domestic political agenda — the Brexit double Queen’s Speech crowds domestic English legislation out from Westminster entirely.

Westminster, this congested parliament, remains England’s only parliament.

The Syrian War is not a ‘new’ war, its a phase in an existing war. It exploded when the refugee population from Iraq surged into Syria — reaching 10% of the population. Palestine in ’67 to Jordan in ’71 to the long hell of Lebanon in the mid-’70s: we have seen this film before.

Syria cannot be separated from Iraq, or Libya or Yemen, or the new swelling wars south of the Sahara that we are drifting into fighting.

I will support any positive measures to contain these wars, to bring them to and end, and, if possible, to bring better government in their wake.

As the Nuremberg Judgement said:

“To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

War is the evil, and evil things flow from it, always and without exception.

Peace is required, albeit not at any price.

But peace will come by somebody winning.

Peace is made with enemies.

The current demands for ‘intervention’ won’t bring victory.

The everybody-Hitler rhetoric precludes peace. Nasser, Khomeni (with Saddam as a good guy), then Saddam (with Assad and Ghadafi as good guys) then Ghadafi and now Assad again. All the Hitlers: Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Quaeda (before it became in part the noble Syrian opposition).

Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, endless war, endlessly unfought. Berlins uncountable unstormed, no voters’ sons conscripted.

Israel only ever made peace with the Nazi-flecked Islamist Anwar Sadat.

British foreign policy in the Middle East has long not been about victory, military or political, it is not even about fighting — it is about virtue signalling, and playing the role of a great power long since lost.

You may find this view makes me repulsive, so be it. But then you must find the Britain that disdained the plucky Finn repulsive too.

Comments (38)

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  1. TFS says:

    Did I miss something linking Putin/Russia to the Nerve Agent Poisoning/Poisoning of the Skripals?

    Call me cynical, but I’m still intrigued to find out what they eat at the restaurant.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Aye. Will this be the War of Bad Shellfish?

  2. Iain McIntosh says:

    The Syrian government is murdering its citizens, some Syrian citizens are murdering other Syrians, including Syrian government forces.

    On the Syrian government side we have Russia and Iran, Iran is in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. In the middle we have the Kurds, being attacked by the Turks.

    There are Syrian opposition forces fighting, they are fragmented, fighting amongst themselves with no overall leadership. IS spilled out of Iraq, they, Sunnis, are killing Shia’s, Christians and Alawites. IS have affiliations with other fundamentalist warlords and foreign fighters.

    We have the US, France and uk, they are bombing here and there occasionally, they have no troops on the ground. But a uk soldier was killed recently, suggesting they have troops on the ground. Israel is involved, primarily as they wish to see Iran cut down to size.

    Great ancient cities have been levelled to the ground and nearly half of Syria’s 30 million population are displaced internally and 6 million have fled abroad.

    Syrian government forces “may” or “may not” have used chemical weapons? I am split on this, the Assad regime is with out morals or humanity, but why do this now when they have all but won and risk bringing the fury of others down upon them?

    I need independent proof, I will not accept what US or uk governments tell me with out it. Looking back on history, unpopular governments are prone to engaging in conflict to deflect the population’s attention from other matters and to galvanise opinion by looking strong.

    In sum we have a humanitarian disaster with 500 000 people killed. The root cause of the conflict was the Iraq war that led to the Arab Spring and IS. The trail of guilt leads back to US and uk over Iraq.

    Now it looks like the uk will join the US in action against the Syrian government. So our taxes, but more importantly our name, will be used to kill people, prolong the conflict and risk the conflict escalating out of control.

    I have no solution to Syria, but sometimes doing nothing is the best plan of action, this may lead to a swifter conclusion of the war.

    Not in my name Mr May!

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Hear! Hear! to this comment and to the thrust of the article.

      1. Willie says:

        I’m afraid that all the fine words, all the fine theories, all the fine comments, will come to naught.

        If establishment interests within the UK decide it is war, then war it will be.

        UK troops are already on the ground in Syria whilst the RAF pound the country from the skies.

        What mandate have the little people given to their military to participate in this war.

        What mandate has been given by the little people’s elected representatives to go to war.

        We go to war with no mandate given. End of, and we better get used to it.

        As to fodder, well we’ve never had a shortage of that, and of course, God is always on our side too.

        Just read the Day Mail and you’ll understand all about our humanitarian bombing. It’s simple, simples.

        But maybe, just maybe, when England and the US are at war with Russia, their difficulty could be Scotland`s opportunity.

        That of course assumes that Failing , Coulport, Rosyth and environs, haven’t been melted to magma in a nuclear attack.

        Makes you proud to be British.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Some interesting cometary on the current situation in Syria here: https://www.corbettreport.com/syria-chemical-weapons-attack-an-open-source-investigation/

    “No sooner has the idea of a US withdrawal from Syria been floated than Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus…or so we are being asked to believe. But this is not the first time we have been lied to about chemical weapons claims. What is the evidence about this situation, and what are the latest developments with regard to the international response? Corbett Report members are asked to contribute to this open source investigation by posting information and links about this breaking news event.”

    1. Ross MacRitchie says:

      Governments pick two or three incidents and construct them to fit the scenario they want you to believe.

      I feel that striking Syria at this time has more to do with Trump’s domestic troubles, Mrs May and Brexit and Macron and modernising French industry.

  4. Jo says:

    How can you talk about the “moral case” for (western) intervention when, on Syria, morals were never involved in the first place?

    What was involved was an attempt by the UK & US to impose regime change in Syria just as in Iraq and in Libya. This included training and arming rebel groups to fight against Assad. These groups later were shown to be affiliated with IS and al Qaeda. They were slaughtering civilians loyal to Assad, executing them in the streets.

    So please, Mr Guthrie, drop the “moral” thing. It’s an insult to the intelligence of the many out here who have watched at every stage the arrogance of western nations as they’ve tried again and again to get that regime change task finished!

    The real tragedy is that we have a spineless media which is willing to spin the lies over and over.

    1. Gordon Guthrie says:

      the headline is “yes I still oppose British Military intervention in Syria” so there is that…

      1. Jo says:

        Mr Guthrie
        I have highlighted the quote I have the issue with. I have also shown that the UK and the US cannot possibly claim a moral case when their sole aim in Syria was to impose regime change despite having no authority to do so.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Jo, indeed.

      Why a ‘moral’ case (which implies some individual obligation) rather than a legal or ethical (as in just war ethics) case? Surely there is some collective framework required for perspective, rules, evidence, judgement, appeal?

      Why ‘the’ case and not ‘a’ case? If someone claims to be convinced by such a case, we should look to see who manufactured the case, set it before us, and drowned out other cases and viewpoints.

      Gordon Guthrie writes of illusions and delusions, refers to a category of war called a “regional war” (what is the special distinction of this category?) and not only cannot I follow his rather wild ride through his own chosen set of images, but I cannot see how they are appropriate to the apparent need for sober, just and inclusive deliberation that warmaking might be supposed to require. Or “military intervention”, exact purpose and conduct unknown.

      Apparently cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States of America. Is the moral case for (military) intervention clear here? Should we build a global coalition to launch attack after attack on the headquarters of tobacco corporations, intern their shareholders for trial on charges of crimes against humanity, raze their factories and laboratories to the ground and make the culprits answer for their atrocities?
      https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm

  5. James Mills says:

    Tony Blair ,during another interview , has predicted that British troops will inevitably be involved in Syria.
    Why is anyone asking this man’s opinion of the mess in the Middle East ?
    And why am I not surprised that he wants troops on the ground in Syria ?

  6. SleepingDog says:

    For an article considering whether we should attack another country, perhaps some rigour would be appropriate in absence of satire.

    “The moral case for intervention in Syria remains strong” fails on the who, what, when. Why is presumably “atrocities”.

    For certain fundamental Christians, perhaps the moral case for intervention in the UK remains strong because of the “atrocities” of legalised abortion. So who is morally impelled to intervene?

    What is the model of just war you are using? Even if you have just cause, would it be possible to conduct a war in a just manner (without, say, mass civilian casualties), and would the consequences be justified (perhaps instability would spread due to asymetric conflict patterns observed elsewhere)?

    The when generally involves due process, exhausting the least damaging options first in the sequence.

    And I am interested in the possibly pejorative use of “Ba’ath regime”. As far as I can tell, the Ba’ath parties are socialist, secular, anti-colonial and tend towards pan-Arabism, and were responsible for high levels of health, literacy and social equality in the region. The other commonality is that their countries were all invaded by the USA and its allies, which had the opposite effect.

    Furthermore, it is not always clear exactly what one’s government is doing. The UK quietly invaded the fledgling Soviet Union to intervene on the side of reactionaries in its revolutionary civil war. The UK has been more-or-less secretly involved in many conflicts round the globe before and since. Advisors, pilots, missile strikes, cyber war, special forces, economic blockades and sanctions, drone strikes, arms and logistics supplies, assassinations, training death squads, subversion, corruption, media distortion, terror bombings, infiltration of civic groups, false flags: who exactly knows what the UK has been up to in Syria already? Perhaps we should find out.

  7. tartanfever says:

    What a bizarre title. I should hope you oppose military intervention because supporting it would be supporting a war crime under International Law and the United Nations Charter.

    Bella is a strange place, mirroring many liberal or democratic voices. It’s all fine until foreign policy comes up and then it’s let’s go to war. It’s the only time they ever support Trump.

    Here’s a question.

    If it is ‘moral’ to attack Syria, then is it also ‘moral’ for a 27 year old Iraqi male who has known nothing but Western violence his whole life through the sanctions of the 90’s (who can forget Albright’s ‘It was worth it’ on the death of 500,000 kids) to the illegal invasion 0f 2002 and continuing violence that dogs his life, to then take up arms and attack the UK or US ?

    Would it also be moral for Syrian civilians to take up arms against Israel for illegal occupation of their country and murder of civilians, or the US for that matter who have a military presence in the north, are supplying jihadist groups and have illegally bombed the country ?

    If that is the case, can these people not also ‘morally’ attack mainland US or Israel or indeed Britain ?

    Isn’t consistency the hardest thing in politics ? But if that is to be a goal, then surely the author must agree that others may have a ‘moral’ case under his definition, because if they don’t then we can only assume that the author has a stench of superior British Imperialism about him.

    1. “Bella is a strange place, mirroring many liberal or democratic voices. It’s all fine until foreign policy comes up and then it’s let’s go to war.” – responding to an article saying don’t go to war. How bizarre.

      1. Jo says:

        To be fair Mike, the article is pretty much, by saying the moral case for intervention is strong, saying all sorts.

        There are other parts that made me mad. For example, the author appears to be complaining that the UN is on the brink of collapse. He doesn’t say why! It’s because countries like our own and the US ignore it, have rendered it irrelevant. So that they can do as they like.

        I feel this guy, by saying there’s a “strong moral case” for intervention is also saying that while he’s not for intervention himself, he’s cool with anyone who is.

      2. tartanfever says:

        ‘Yes, let’s not go to war – even though we can because we would be morally justified to do so.’

        That’s the message from this article, and frankly, with this websites history of supporting right think tanks and politicians when it comes to the ‘official enemies’, it hardly puts my mind at rest. Once you have cleared the ‘self-justification’ with yourself after a chat in the mirror or following a few like minded neo-cons on twitter posing as ‘liberal thinkers’ we’re meant to actually believe the self delusion of your morality is some kind of rational thought.

        How about a reply to the rest of my post, or the many other ‘moral’ dilemnas that can be posed ?

        Would Iran be morally justified in attacking Tel Aviv for the atrocities currently playing out in Gaza ?

        Should Jordan take a moral stance and bomb Ankara for their interventions of Afrin ?

        Maybe if I had a reply to some of these instances I may have a little more faith in your ‘moral’ judgement as the editor of Scotland’s ‘5th Estate’.

        1. I think you’re deeply confused, morally and politically and its kind of an indictment of a whole political era

        2. Gordon Guthrie says:

          Yes it is immoral of the Israelis to kill Palestinians, no I would not support an invasion of Israel either.

          No I am not a fan of Western attacks on Middle Eastern countries – and I have never been.

          Reading the article would be a good place to start.

    2. Jo says:

      I share your discomfort. When the British start getting all fired up with “moral” outrage it can even bring on nausea. And what’s that other phrase? Oh yeah, when we complain about others not sharing “our values”.

      Wonderful post. Thank you.

    3. J Galt says:

      Well said Tartan – you’ve nailed this bizarre article.

      The British Establishment has never been short of “Socialists” to administer it’s Imperial dirty work whether Malaya in the late 1940s, Ireland in the 70s or indeed Scotland in 2014.

      1. These comments get more and more bizarre. The author gets lambasted for saying soothing he (clearly) didn’t say, then gets abused for being a ‘socialist’ and a pawn doing the British Establishment’s ‘dirty work’. Unhinged.

        1. james says:

          bella caledonia editor… no…. just look at the opening line of the article… that sums up this article and what many are coming to conclude is bullshite..

          “The moral case for intervention in Syria remains strong, the Ba’ath regime continues to commit atrocities, and yet still I oppose British military action.”

          consider the moral case for british military action in iraq or libya…. it is empty and devoid of any morality and both these countries remain stuck in much worse… that someone wants to talk about the ”moral case” for intervention in yet another country – syria – tells anyone all they need to know on where this article is centered… sorry – but it is an ill informed post that has learned nothing from the past.. bella caledonia can do better..

          1. Gordon Guthrie says:

            I am not a fan of governments using poison gas, on their own civilians or on anybody else. That is a moral point.

      2. Gordon Guthrie says:

        I am not a socialist, and I opposed the Iraq war and intervention in Syria

        1. james says:

          Gordon Guthrie quote
          “I am not a fan of governments using poison gas, on their own civilians or on anybody else. That is a moral point.” i don’t know anyone that is gordon… i think the idea that one is guilty until proven innocent is the wrong is not a moral approach either and it sounds as though it is one you are advocating here – “The moral case for intervention in Syria remains strong…” would you care to provide some proof, or do we all go along with the script as given out by the msm? same deal the skripal affair…. russia was guilty before any examination of the facts…. sorry gord, but your statement ‘moral case for war’ must be based on facts, not supposition..

    4. james says:

      tartanfever.. thanks for your comments.. a voice of sanity in what is a bizarre article indeed..

  8. james says:

    this article is a real disappointment from what i have come to know reading bella caledonia for about 2 weeks.. i live in canada…. whoever wrote this piece needs to educate themselves on what is happening in syria as opposed to expressing their ignorance, or willful propaganda on the topic.. it won’t happen reading the msm either, as they are complicit in what is going on… i am not sure where the author of this article needs to begin… for one – do some research on the white helmets via vanessa beesley.. this is the organization being given large funding from the uk/usa and other european countries to produce results to help support the overthrow of assad.. they are embedded with terrorists and are always producing false flag type videos that are tailor made for the war machine of the west.. https://t-room.us/tag/vanessa-beesley/
    maybe one could visit the websites moon of alabama, pat langs site – sst, or even craig murray for further clarity.. definitely don’t believe what the msm is telling you as it is packed with arsenic..

    the west under the leadership of usa-uk have been seeking regime change in syria since as far back as 2006 or 7… they never got it, but they have made syria pay as a consequence…they are still trying for it too.. all the lies and deceit on the part of the west doesn’t change anything and has only made syrian people’s lives much more difficult..

    1. J Galt says:

      No, no James – anybody who expresses even the slightest scepticism regarding the neo-con narrative on Russia and Syria is “unhinged”.

      I’d rather be unhinged than on the same side as Theresa and Boris!

      1. Its not a ‘neo-con narrative’ to object to bombing and gassing of civilians, human rights abuses, war crimes. Its just not. The world isn’t composed of a binary simplism in which because the West is Bad the East is Good. If you can’t cope with the complexity that British and American imperialism doesn’t miraculously create Russian and Syrian anti-imperialism then that’s your problem. Neither Putin nor Assad are socialists nor represent some kind of alternative nor have any role in achieving Scottish independence. Quite why people from the left or the Yes movement (or both) should find themselves allying with them is bizarre in the extreme.

        1. Jo says:

          Actually Mike, I’m wondering why you’re insulting so many contributors here while allying yourself with Theresa May and Donald Trump, the man you’re usually lambasting right, left and centre!

          I’d say many who have commented here are deeply concerned that we are short on facts here both on Salisbury and now on the allegations against Assad. Exactly why you don’t think facts matter isn’t clear. You seem to see our concern as a sign we’re “siding” with Russia and Syria. Now THAT is truly bizarre.

          1. james says:

            bang on… it throws into question the mindset of some and the obvious lack of curiosity as well…

        2. J Galt says:

          If you accept “Assad” is gassing civilians then you have a point.

          I don’t know for certain but the evidence strongly suggests not.

          1. Bob Chase says:

            Indeed…this supports your view: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-HkjCkvHlvQ

        3. james says:

          is it the ‘neo con narrative’ to suggest as gordon does “The moral case for intervention in Syria remains strong” absent concrete facts of who is responsible for it? i would say it is… is it the ‘neo con narrative’ to pay for white helmet videos in ‘moderate headchopper’ held areas that provide all the content for a false flag war on syria based on supposition on who was responsible for it? yes, i think it is…. why right today theresa may is hoping to get the green light from parliament to bomb syria – based on ‘outrage’, ‘horrible video footage'( we are not told who provided it) and etc. etc. – but lacking the evidence on the ground necessary… so i would say j. galt is very much correct to use the term ‘neo con narrative’ here, as that is exactly what it is…

          i would just add the whole skripal event is very much another ‘neo con narrative’ from the get go… russia was guilty before any facts were provided… now, much later is appears there are no facts to back up the guilty verdict on russia… but – we have moved on to another ‘neo con narrative’ orchestrated by the msm… why is that??? if you can’t see the rush towards war absent facts showing who is responsible in all of this, there is no hope for you…

          1. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  9. Bob Chase says:

    Some interesting and worthwhile alternative analysis, looking at the “facts” surrounding the alleged chemical attack, from th Liberty Report, here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-HkjCkvHlvQ

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