As I mentioned in my blog after the Paris attacks, the UK needs to be destroying the inspiration (ISIS) that causes such attacks. It’s all very well foiling seven attacks in the past six months, but they will keep coming. They will continue to be planned and carried out because the inspiration to do so remains in existence. So, my gut feeling is we need to be bombing Syria in an attempt to destroy ISIS and therefore the inspiration to carry out attacks. But is it that simple?
How effective would RAF bombing be? Sources suggest that 8 Tornado aircraft could be used. Is 8 enough to effective? Perhaps not. But I feel that regardless of the number of Tornados we have available, they will never win a war. Aircraft simply wont win a war. I’m going to quote myself here from my blog after the Paris Attacks: “Well, British politicians first need to get it out of their heads that the RAF will win a war. Bombers, fast jets and drones are a massive asset and have evolved into a tool essential to any successful military campaign. But they won’t win anything alone”.
The next thing to address is Corbyn suggesting that by bombing Syria we would be “going to war”. But would that be the case? There is a war going on in Syria. There’s no doubt about that. But would we really be going to war? We wouldn’t be sending ground troops. There would be minimal threat to our aircraft (I say minimal after the Russian aircraft was downed by Turkey). I think going to war implies something on a far grander scale than 8 aircraft flying bombing sorties with debatably minimal impact.
Some of those that oppose airstrikes argue that carrying them out would make us more vulnerable to Paris style attacks, because France was bombing Syria at the time of said attacks. I’d counter this in two ways: by quoting David Cameron saying that we are “already under attack”. Said attacks have been foiled but they have been planned. People already have the intention and motive to attack the UK. My second point is that I don’t think Paris was attacked because of bombing. It may have been a factor, but when plotting such attacks, you ultimately want to kill as many people as possible to gain as much publicity for your cause as possible. Paris is in my opinion (you can dispute this in the comments….) more vulnerable than London. In light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year, it was proved that French security service is not quite as good at spotting potential attacks as MI5 is. Paris is an easier target than London from a terrorist’s point of view.
My instinct tells me that there will never be British fighting troops in Syria. As much as I think the decision to deploy them is necessary, it would be a huge political decision and one that I don’t think Cameron is brave enough to make, particularly bearing mind how a deployment of the kind ruined Tony Blair’s reputation.
Today, Jeremy Corbyn announced that Labour MPs will have a free vote after the 2 day debate on the matter, that was requested by the leader of the opposition this morning. A poll on the Daily Telegraph suggested that 85% of those who voted thought this was a good thing. Labour’s official stance is anti-war, but MPs will be able to vote with their instinct. The idea of political parties being forced to vote one way, is in my opinion, not actually democracy. The purpose of votes in the House of Commons is to determine what the majority of members feel about a certain matter. But when free votes aren’t allowed, you get a misleading conclusion. Forcing people to vote one way is preposterous. We want the opinion of the House of Commons to be the opinion of the majority of the British Public. But when you don’t allow people to vote with their opinion, you break democracy! Another slight issue is the fact that the House of Commons don’t really represent British society. If the vote on bombing is passed, it will have been decided by 650 people from a certain class. MPs can’t really claim to be middle class. Neither can they claim to be working class. The MPs represent the views of, in my opinion, upper class society.
Despite Corbyn allowing a free vote, Labour has claimed that 75% of their party members oppose bombing. Its been suggested that this is just a way of pressuring the remaining MPs into voting against. Labour released this statement:
A sample of this weekend’s consultation of Labour Party members, carried out in response to an email from Jeremy Corbyn, issued Friday 27th November, has shown that 75 per cent of Labour party members who have responded oppose UK bombing in Syria. 107,875 responses were received of which 64,771 were confirmed as full individual Labour Party members. The remainder included affiliated supporters and registered supporters. Random sampling, of full individual Labour Party members who responded to the email, has shown: 75 per cent are against UK bombing in Syria; 13 per cent are for UK bombing in Syria; 11 per cent are undecided on the issue.
I am going to finish with a tweet from former Labour MP Andy Sawford that reflects what I have said:
**Update: MPs to debate air strikes on Wednesday, according to the BBC**
**Further update: one day commons debate and vote will be held on Wednesday. one day debate, not two as requested by Corbyn in the letter below**
As of this morning we have not had a clear proposal from the government on when you plan to bring forward a motion to the House on air strikes in Syria or on arrangements for the debate.
In the view of the Opposition on a matter of such critical importance there must be full and adequate time for any debate in the House and only a full two day debate would ensure time for all Members who wish to participate to be able to do so.
As has happened previously a one day debate would inevitably lead to important contributions being curtailed. It is incumbent on us all to ensure the country feels there has been the fullest parliamentary discussion of what you have rightly described as a highly complex situation. In addition the debate would be much better informed by views from the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committees following your recent statements.
Please can you provide an assurance that any proposal the government brings forward will be on the basis that there will be a two day debate in the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Opposition
©Henry Jones 2015