Wednesday, 8 February 2012

When to Intervene?

The situation in Syria is dire, but what to do?

In the last 30 years, since 1982, we’ve deployed British forces to The Falklands, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq again, Afghanistan and Libya to name just the big ones. There have also been innumerable small scale operational deployments and of course our special forces are always helping some country somewhere rather quietly. There are places we could have ended up but didn’t. And there are places where there is a problem where we could never go: Iran, almost any of the Arab Spring countries and now Syria.

The question is, when these situations blow up, what should we do?

Now all you Lefty intellectuals out there will probably assume that as an ex-military type I am all for a fight, a ‘guns blazing’ approach to international diplomacy or military action. If in doubt, let’s shoot Johnny foreigner, no?

You’d be very wrong.

You see, us ex-military types actually understand the consequences of war, the reality, the limits, the timeframe, the terrible human cost. We’ve all had close scrapes and lost good friends on operational deployments and then had to look their widows and children in their eyes on our return. War is always bad. It’s just that very occasionally it’s the least worst alternative. Almost always, when the Chiefs of Staff brief the Prime Minister on his options, they advise ‘you don’t want to do this, and here’s why’. Politicians, from Thatch, the Grey One, Tony - forget Gordy - and Dave, all like war. They love standing on principles, their egos love ‘speaking for the nation’, they probably get off on controlling awesome military power with all its ultimate responsibilities. We know they love it, or they simply wouldn’t do it.

But what should we good Christian men do when a country is massacring its own people before our very eyes - Syria? Or lying and cheating in order to gather the ability to be able to threaten war at a later date - Iran?

Gone is the ease of the ‘gunboat diplomacy’ era, unless you’re dealing with Argentina. But should we be the world’s policeman?

And when we try and use diplomacy and sanctions etc, we get no help from the spineless ‘League of Nations’ which can only ever move at the speed of the awkward ships in the convoy – ie Russia and China.

Today, the Defence Select Committee has produced a report essentially saying that Libya was a one off, only possible because the cuts in the recent utterly tragic Defence Review have not yet taken effect. We’re cutting the defence budget by 8% over 4 years, remember. We are now a Third World defence spending nation.

The cold, hard, economic, political and military reality is this: from 2012, we need to have much less grandiose views about what the UK could and should do internationally.

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