The leaders of the USA, UK and France seem determined to take “surgical” action in Syria, probably by using precisely targeted cruise missiles.
In the almost 3 years of the Syrian civil war, over 100 000 people have been killed, large areas of the country reduced to rubble, neighbouring countries burdened with huge waves of refugees. Bombings in Lebanon and Iraq may be a direct result of the conflict. The involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in support of the Syrian government is both worrying and a further complication.
But with all that, the Western powers have been reluctant to get involved in what is still a civil war, an internal problem.
Until this week when 350 people were killed in a chemical warfare bombardment blamed on the Syrian government.
As yet, no convincing evidence that government forces were responsible or conclusions on the exact chemical used have been produced.
Russia and China are predictably vetoing any UN resolutions to use force against the Syrian Government, supporting their argument by allegations that it may have been the Syrian opposition attempting to force an “own goal” on the government.
Any escalation in the conflict increases the threat to our two most important allies in the region, Israel and Turkey, but a chemical attack in Damascus in itself, does not dramatically increase that threat.
As awful and inexcusable the use of chemical weapons may be, and as much as we might regret the loss of hundreds more lives last week, the threat to the West or world peace has not been increased by these events.
Why then do we want to get involved? Have we not learned the lessons from Iraq? When the justification for the invasion was later found to be false. Or Afghanistan, when having quickly defeated the enemy, we attempted the impossible task of installing democracy in an undemocratic part of the world, lengthened our involvement by years at huge cost. That cost measured in hundreds of our soldier’s lives and billions of dollars and pounds of taxpayers hard-earned cash.
Have we forgotten Egypt where by abandoning an ally, and tacitly supporting a revolution, we ended up with a ruler far more dangerous, another coup and now a country in turmoil with a wrecked economy.
Why then are our leaders so determined to get involved in Syria after a comparatively small increase in casualties?
Is it really because the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable? Large scale killing of civilians is surely unacceptable with any type of weapons.
Is there a bigger threat to Israel, Turkey and perhaps Jordan that we are not being told about?
Is Iran about to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike?
Do President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron just want to irritate the Russians and Chinese?
Or is it once again an example of Western arrogance and hypocrisy, trying to impose our standards on people who march to the beat of a very different drummer?
Before this incident, it looked as if the Assad government was gaining control over larger areas of Syria, perhaps turning the tide and winning the war. It could be argued that the quickest way to reduce the horrendous casualty rate, stop the destruction of infrastructure and reverse the flood of refugees would be to let the government win the war by what ever means it has at its disposal.
After all we justified dropping atomic bombs on Japan as the best way to end WW11 despite the huge loss of life.
I am not an apologist for Assad, I would be happy to see him removed from power and made to pay for his sins, however deciding on who should rule Syria is a matter for the Syrians not us.
We should beware of assisting in his removal and his replacement by a more anti-Western ruler. We don’t need to risk the lives of our troops in another un-winnable war when that war, disastrous as it may be for Syrians, poses little threat to our own security.
What are your thoughts?