The plan for air strikes will not bring the war any closer to resolutionby Tim Eaton, Chris Phillips / December 2, 2015 / Leave a comment
Prime Minister David Cameron is today seeking a vote on extending airstrikes to Syria. The Prime Minister acknowledges that they need to be part of a wider strategy for the Syrian conflict, which Number 10 attempted to set out on Thursday in response to criticism from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Military measures against Islamic State are to be accompanied by diplomatic support for a political settlement in Syria based on a negotiated transition, alongside a continued programme of humanitarian aid.
There is little new here. In essence, this is the strategy that has been in place for years, with air strikes against IS added to equation, illustrating the reactive nature of UK policy on Syria. The last bout of discussion surrounding air strikes was spurred by the attack on British tourists in Tunisia, while this debate follows the terrible events in Paris. These are kneejerk reactions from leaders who must be seen to respond to terrorist acts, not part of a well-considered long-term strategy to defeat and degrade IS, let alone resolve the Syrian conflict which has allowed the extremist group’s growth.
It is understandable that the British government doesn’t want to stand by as IS continues to terrorise or as Syria continues to be consumed by chaos, but reaching for a quick military option like the one proposed is not the answer. Instead, the UK needs to re-evaluate its entire Syria policy, which has clearly failed.
Britain should recognise that its capacity in Syria is limited. For over four years many of the UK’s stated goals have not been matched by a realistic capacity to achieve them, whether removing Assad from power or destroying IS. Bold intentions have been accompanied by a reluctance to use substantial military measures while unknown or unreliable local allies on the ground are expected to do the heavy work. It is time to adopt a more realistic position based on what Britain can actually influence. Four things in particular should be encouraged.
First, Britain must not escalate the conflict. The war has seen a steady pattern of escalation and counter-escalation by states supporting…