Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Are we to bomb ISIS in Syria?

There are so many reasons not to do so - every refugee being another one - and so few for it.
As Christians, we are called to search for ways to end violence, not to increase it. It would be a desperately black irony to increase the bombing at the same time as we are building up for the Birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace!
Has anybody asked the Syrians whether they want this intervention? Some recent "vox pop's" on TV seem to suggest (and it can be put no more strongly than that) that they are not in favour. They believe the real problem is Assad, and once he is deposed then they will be in a position to get rid of ISIS... 
We do not have a very good track record in our interventions in the Middle East - ever since (at least) 1918 all western interventions in the region have resulted in greater problems a few years down the line, and there is no reason to suppose this one will be any different.
We also have a very poor record for looking after our service personnel when they return from combat (with the possible exception of their physical health) - whether or not they remain in the forces. If we are to commit the military to combat we need to have far better care for them when they return - if only for the sake of our civilian population, who will have to cope with trained killers with PTSD!
No was is won by air power alone but by ground forces. There seem to be very varied ideas about whether or not there are sufficient ground forces which we are happy to support. Also, look at what happened when we last supported local ground forces in the region - they turned into the Taliban! Can we be sure this will not happen again? 
Removal of ISIS without some process already in place to fill the power vacuum is likely to result in a far worse situation than is currently the case, and in any case can not be done without this being the will of the local population. You only have to look at Afghanistan for confirmation of this. We have NO right to decide who is to govern them.
We also have to bear in mind the strife we will be causing to the non-ISIS civilian population in the region. There are already huge streams of refugees from the country. Adding our bombs to the mix will only make this worse. Every single person who is forced to flee their home is another reason why we should not do this. 
The weapons system we would be using may be smaller with fewer civilians killed than those of other countries, but there still will be such casualties, and I do not believe that adding our planes to the mix will result in a decrease in missions flown by other nations, nor that not adding ours would mean an increase from them. There would also be a greatly increased risk of 'friendly fire' incidents.
If, as Mr Cameron asserts, we are already in the top group of targets for terrorist attacks from them (or people inspired by they) is this not a direct consequence of the fact that we are as deeply involved as we already are? We are bombing them in other countries, and gathering a lot of the intelligence on them within Syria. Does anyone suppose this has gone un-noticed by them?
Yes, they do need to be tackled, but not militarily. It would be far better to do so through diplomacy - and please don't try to tell me that we 'never negotiate with terrorists'. This is exactly what we did to end the Troubles in NI, and is the only way to persuade them to lay down their arms voluntarily. Their (partial) military defeat is likely to inspire more recruits to their cause, whether there or as terrorists around the world. Like a Hydra, if you cut off one head nine more are likely to grow.

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