It is likely, by the end of the week, that the RAF will be attacking ground based targets in Syria – in an effort to quell the continued rise of the so called Islamic State. I’d like to discuss why I personally think this is a huge mistake.
To start with, our record in recent military adventures has hardly been an unending story of success. The forces have performed magnificently, but the Taliban are taking back the territory we fought for in Afghanistan, Iraq continues in civil war… This isn’t how we saw it all ending, and that’s one of the problems with military campaigns – their ends are so difficult to predict.
Which isn’t to say that I am card carrying pacifist – I support our forces even when I do not agree with their deployment, and like anyone else I’m singularly impressed with their exploits… We are lucky to have one of the finest bodies of fighting men and women in the world.
Personally, I would have no problem sending them into harm’s way – that is after all what they are there for – but I wouldn’t do it on a whim, or when the goal was unachievable, or for political reasons back home. They deserve more respect than that.
The stated aim of the forthcoming air campaign is to protect our National Security by degrading Islamic State – a band of despicable terrorists who quite deliberately hide within civilian population centres. Can someone explain to me why a bomber is the weapon of choice for a job like that? Whilst it’s true that from time to time you’ll get a chance to wipe an ISIS land vehicle from the face of the Earth, is it really that simple?
How are we to avoid killing innocent civilians? What of our obligations under the Geneva Convention if we have forces on the ground (and you’re a muppet if you really think we haven’t got SAS soldiers on the ground doing recon work now…). If we do injure or kill innocent civilians, what effect would that have on Islamic State’s ability to recruit? Does attacking their forces in theatre make them more motivated to launch attacks on UK soil?
If we are to act against Islamic State, then we need to confront the basic reality that in order to be effective we will have to put boots on the ground – and lots of them. There is no other way to deal with a body like Islamic State – they won’t fight a conventional war, and sadly dealing with them will require ground forces in significant numbers. It won’t, so soon after Afghanistan and Iraq, be popular politically, but there you are. If you’re going to give the forces a reasonable chance to completing the task, that’s what’s needed.
But that isn’t what Cameron is about to do. Conscious of his political standing here at home, he will only commit to an air campaign. At best this will be ineffective, and at worst, counter productive. He hasn’t got a problem sending our aircrews into harms way to achieve very little, but at great risk to the crews involved. That is shameful.
We should do the job properly, or not at all.