Firstly, let me begin by getting a few facts out there. ISIS make up for 0.08% of the population in Syria. When we bomb Syria we will kill thousands of innocent civilians – civilians who hate ISIS more than us.
“We’re only bombing ISIS bases and specific targets.”
Incorrect. Just take a look at this video to see the effects air strikes are doing already. This dramatic footage shows Syrian families fleeing from air strikes hitting civilian homes in rebel-held areas of Syria. These are civilian homes, not homes of terrorists. Western air strikes have not enhanced the reputation of the West among Syrian public opinion. Members of Syrian civil society, to whom journalists like Mary Kaldor have talked to, do not understand why the West is bombing ISIL. They wonder why the West isn’t doing anything to protect civilians killed by the regime.
No money for the poor, yet money for the war?
In recent months, problems have risen surrounding the NHS and other important factors in need of money and solutions, but that the government are unable to solve due to a low expenditures. If we have no money to solve these problems, then why has the military got a huge £12 billion increase? To give you an idea of the kind of sums in play, this would be enough to build at least twenty new hospitals. This UK government review of military spending reeks of war. Another consideration is the expenditure of air strikes. One air strike mission costs Britain £508,000. This same amount of money could pay for 20 paramedics, or 20 police officers, or even 18 junior doctors. The other item focused on by the mainstream is plans for a military force of 10,000 soldiers to be deployed on British streets in the event of terror attacks. The decision on whether to use air strikes in Syria was only agreed on December 2. Military preparation is already underway.
Why does Britain need to get involved?
We definitely need to end IS’s control of its territory. It is increasing rapidly and needs to be stopped, but are air strikes the only answer? Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, believes that actions have consequences. Ford believes the added value of UK air strikes in Syria will be piddling. IS leaders have mostly moved to Mosul or are hiding among the civilian population. British people will die and be maimed as a direct result. If the government was sure of its legal case, why is it unwilling to seek an unambiguous UN Security Council resolution? Perhaps they know it would not pass? Why hasn’t the government discussed other options rather than air strikes? It is very difficult to understand why air strikes are the only option on the table. Is it because they are the easiest way to show that we are “doing something”? We should not reply to terror with terror unless we have very good arguments.
Is there an alternative?
Ending this conflict requires serious commitment to an inclusive political solution that is supported by regional and international consensus. Very strong emphasis needs to be placed on restoring governance in opposition-controlled areas, especially those most vulnerable to further ISIL expansion.
To aid this we need to revive the legitimate economy and introduce specific measures such as imposing much stronger controls on the borders of ISIL areas with Turkey and Iraq, or providing fuel for opposition-controlled areas in a legitimate way with a reasonable price, and make jobs available for men of fighting age to reduce their vulnerability to combatant recruitment.
Rather than ruling out everything and focusing on air strikes we should discuss better strategies for Britain, like focusing on the policies as discussed that are not being undertaken by others. Britain could also make use of its assets, such as its long experience of providing aid in conflict areas, rather than joining a crowded and mistaken fashion for air strikes.