• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Incoherence and Bombing Mania in the British Commons

“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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail