Today is the day that MPs vote on whether the UK should bomb ISIS targets in Syria.
David Cameron looks likely to secure the majority he needs to okay airstrikes against the terrorist group’s operations in Syria, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn offering his MPs a free vote. The House of Commons will take part in a 10-hour debate throughout today, with the vote scheduled for 10pm.
Public opinion on the subject is fairly divided. Wanting to bomb IS, a group of psychotic terrorists responsible for numerous atrocities around the world, including the recent Paris attacks, is an understandable reaction.
Yet the reality of starting a bombing campaign in Syria isn’t as black and white as the Government would make you think.
We want to rid the world of a group that murders innocent people with absolute glee, turns captured women into sex slaves, and throws suspected gay men off roofs – but is dropping bombs on Syria really the best way to do it? Opposing Mr Cameron’s airstrikes might not make you the ‘terrorist sympathiser‘ he’d have you believe.
As we saw in Iraq and Libya, the West is pretty good at toppling ‘evil’ regimes, but not so good at the bit that comes next – installing stability in the country. The removal of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi left massive power vacuums in their respective countries, vacuums that were filled by extremist Islamist movements, not the Western-loving democracies we might have hoped for.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we left without a clear exit strategy, and we can see how badly that ended. Cameron says there will be no British ‘boots on the ground’, because there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters who will help drive out IS, but his figures have been thrown into question – Sir Mark-Lyell Grant, UK National Security Adviser, has claimed about 40 per cent of those fighters are ‘radical Islamists’, like the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Something else that is largely ignored by the politicians sending our military into another war in the Middle East, is that ISIL actually want us to bomb them. I know that sounds insane, but IS aren’t known for their grip on sanity. They’re awaiting the arrival of an enemy army whose defeat will start the countdown to the apocalypse, as prophesied, so dropping a shit ton of explosives on them fits perfectly into their plan.
It will also kill a lot of innocent civilians. Besides this being a terrible thing to do, it can also create sympathy for the extremist cause they are tragically surrounded by. When people see their friends and family die, or when people see other people who they can relate to die – think the Western reaction to the Paris attacks – they begin to hate the people responsible for the death, i.e. us.
When they feel this hatred they want to get revenge – much like what we are doing by bombing IS – and to get this revenge they start to sympathise with, or actually join, the group that can offer vengeance – ISIS. This increases the group’s numbers and benefits its propaganda machine.
Then there’s the question of where all the Syrian civilians who are displaced by the bombs will go – I’m sure the same people who advocate military action will be the first people to speak out when more refugees start making their way to Europe.
And there will likely be a lot of civilian deaths if we go ahead with the airstrikes. German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer spent 10 days in the Islamic State this time last year, in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Apart from telling us that ISIS are ‘much stronger than we think’, he also noted that their fighters are so spread out over the city that to eradicate them, “[airstrikes] would have to reduce the whole of Mosul to ruins”.
Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Syrian capital of Raqqa would offer similar problems to anyone trying to bomb the terrorists out.
We’ve already seen the devastating effect of Russian airstrikes on Syrian villages:
As we saw with the Iraq War, we can’t just bomb people into submission. Lt. General Michael Flynn, a retired U.S Army chief who was the country’s highest ranking military intelligence official, recently admitted that the war in Iraq was a ‘huge error’ that helped to create ISIS.
On top of that, being directly involved in bombing them is likely to bring us further up the ISIS hit-list, increasing the risk of an attack on UK soil in response.
ISIS is an evil that needs to be destroyed, but by bombing innocent civilians with no clear exit plan, we risk falling into their trap – legitimising, in their mind, their cause, encouraging young Muslims to sympathise with them, and further increasing hate for the UK, hate which could very easily turn into violence.
It’s about time we learnt the lessons of recent history, before we doom ourselves to repeat them.