FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Incoherence and Bombing Mania in the British Commons

by

“Cameron’s approach is bomb first, talk later.”

-Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour leader, The Guardian, Dec 2, 2015

The floundering political establishment in Britain has been engaged in near vicious debates about whether an ineffectual contribution to the Coalition force air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria should be made. French brothers and sisters have been in the firing line, suggested Prime Minister David Cameron. Action should be taken aid the bloodied tricolore.

The government motion to be voted upon later today has been published, and reveals a mentality of extended conflict, with a good deal of fodder being cast to the howling dogs of war.

ISIL is deemed “a direct threat to the United Kingdom”; support is given to UN Security Council Resolution 2249 that the organisation constituted an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security” that required “all necessary measures” to be taken to prevent terrorist acts on its part and to “eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”. The motion duly stresses support for the Cameron’s government “in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria”.

The hawkish sentiment is being more fuelled by the day. Opponents of an expanded air operation are being hounded and blackmailed. Even the morning program on BBC Radio Four attempted this morning, in rather shoddy fashion, to make the false distinction between morality and effect. (Good gracious, morning deontology versus utilitarian bombing arguments!) Part of the problems with perceived humanitarian interventions or military engagements to repel a supposedly international threat lie precisely in their false presumptions: a bombing campaign can itself be moral, and have suitable effect on the ground.

The only actual effect is bloodshed against an enemy that knows no frontlines, and has drawn enormous support from the consequences of fateful decisions in the Middle East. In the case of Islamic State, a double narrative is being constantly circulated: the fundamentalist threat is metastasising like political cancer on the one hand; on the other, it is being wound back precisely because the air campaign, notably from such countries such as Russia, has intensified. Truly aggressive chemotherapy indeed and other powers feel left out.

Much of the Commons role in this is theatre without consequence. Three or more sorties against Islamic State targets, acknowledge many British voices, will hardly push the issue. “Bombing Raqqa,” suggests Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, “won’t solve the problem.” And the refusal on the part of Cameron and the Bush administration to contemplate Assad in any negotiated settlement is self-inflicted handicap. It is a policy problem insulated in a laboratory of failings.

The one loud voice against expanding the campaign against Syria has been Corbyn. The prime minister has essentially stopped short of calling him a traitor, preferring the term “terrorist sympathiser” as a rallying call that he hopes will carry the motion across the line. “You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” claimed Cameron before a meeting of the 1922 committee.

This is all rather smelly stuff, given the fact that Cameron has his own terrorist brigades whom he would prefer to supply. The only problem is that such fictitiously moderate elements tend to vanish when considerations on the ground are taken into account. Out of the ether, come al-Nusra, ISIS and a kaleidoscopic array of Islamic brigades.

Corbyn’s mouth in this debate is regarded as dirty – the trash-talker of peace where peace has been, if not banished, then certainly placed on the longest of sabbaticals. Given that the hawks from all sides are running the debate, his opinions ring as realistic assertions about the inevitable. If you want to bomb, show us prospects of actual success in curbing the threat. On that score, not to mention a range of logistical issues, Cameron comes up short.

As the Labour leader penned in the hope of swaying parliamentarians, “On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.”

The House of Commons foreign affairs select committee has also been critical of the PM’s bombing fetish. They have deemed it shallow, artificially segmented from the broader issues of the civil war itself. “We asked the Foreign Secretary,” went one of the questions from the committee, “whether ISIL could be defeated without a resolution to the civil war. He told us it could.”

Committee members, however, noted how their “witnesses complained about a lack of joined-up strategy to tackle closely interlinked crises.” Sir Simon Mayall, being one such expert witness, suggested that any issue of extended air strikes should also be “linked to a much firmer strategic set of policy assumptions,” one set upon “political, diplomatic, humanitarian as well as military” considerations.

Corbyn’s attempt to keep his own irritable shadow cabinet has forced his hand. Rather than retaining a united force against bombing Syria, Corbyn had to consider a free vote on the subject. The Liberal Democrats, ever the party of shallow compromise, may well throw their lot in as well.

There are enough members of parliament who want an expanded war. They may well get their wishes, despite the rather damning words from the foreign affairs select committee. “In the absence of [a clear international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating ISIL and of ending the civil war in Syria] taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent.”

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail