Saturday, 27 September 2014

ISIL: can we just get this straight, please?

I am pleased to report that the Mother of all Parliaments has finally decided that, although it was perfectly prepared for two hundred thousand Syrians to die over the last three years, a great many of whom have died since its vote on the matter last year, it has finally relented on military action in the Middle East, in order to try to stop ISIL and, quite probably, the disintegration of the entire region. 

However, in order for the West not to be seen to back down on its earlier decision against intervention in Syria, it is only intervening in Iraq (where there are some ISIL fighters) rather than Syria (where there are a lot of ISIL fighters and is their main stronghold). 

We shall see if it is not too little, too late, but what is certain is that a stitch in time would have saved nine. Our last brush with Syria

As a sideshow, we are also being treated now-familiar symptoms of the current political malaise of neo-isolationism, i.e. the onset of chronic logical contortions. In this case, the argument is that we are defending a sovereign, democratic state and that therefore this all perfectly fine where it wasn't before in Syria, a case of mere genocide.

That is not to say, of course, that we do not have good reason to act.

I realise this is churlish of me, and that I should be happy that we are doing anything at all but I can't help but be disappointed at the consistency of my own party on the issue.

Compare and contrast Tuesday's Leader's Speech:
We support the overnight action against Isil, what needs to happen now is that the UN needs to play its part. A UN Security Council resolution to win the international support to counter that threat of Isil.
With yesterday's statement in the Commons debate:
"Third, there must be a clear legal base to provide legitimacy and legal force to our actions. We support this motion today because we would be responding to the request of a democratic state in Iraq fighting for its own survival. This is recognised in the UN Charter."
In other words, in the space of three days our insistence on UN backing we has gone from requesting a Security Council resolution to saying, er, it's in the Charter, so this is all fine.

It is not, I hasten to add, that we need either. We do not even need a Commons debate; that is a very recent convention, introduced by one T. Blair. Our last brush with a vote related to Syria, which faltered over a similar quibble regarding legitimacy, ended disastrously.

But, whether you agree with military action or not, why insist on something in a Leader's Speech which - as I pointed out in my review of the speech here - is not remotely on the table, because the Russians (and quite probably the Chinese as well) will veto? And so you will then have to back down on it and look silly?

Because, I'm afraid, one did not think carefully enough about the realpolitik before opening one's mouth.

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