Friday, 30 August 2013

The Mother of Parliaments versus the Mother of All Wars


As I'm sure you already know, the British Parliament just about managed to prevent the government from bombing Syria yesterday, by a slim margin of votes. I expect that the dissenters were more upset about being called back from their Summer holiday than they were about spending a few billion pounds on cruise-missiles, but maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Former soldier and former M.P., (now Lord) Paddy Ashdown has been running around saying he has never been so ashamed to be British before in his life, but I expect that the experience of having to stand by as an armed UN officer and impotently watch the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia may have turned his head, both against the United Nations and the international 'isolationists'. There again, the tipping-point may have been when he was caught knocking off a Parliamentary Advisor a few years ago (allegedly). All those late nights in the office away from home, bring a danger of a different kind to a retired soldier, and anyone who has witnessed death at such close quarters will always be driven to celebrate life to the fullest extent possible.

This little British vote-loss has had a bigger effect on Washington than any other in the entire history of our 'special relationship' with the U.S., and now President Obama has to face the Senate without little old England standing right behind him for back-up. Parliament has - at last - packed a punch precisely because it has pulled a punch, and the biggest winner (if you discount a few hundred thousand Syrian civilians) is the Leader of our Opposition, who has - by default - turned himself into a figure of authority who has a bigger say in Foreign Policy than the Leader himself.

It is truly heart-rending to hear Syrian civilian women cry and beg for help to save her family and country from Assad and his murderers, but the only reason that we do is because of modern technology - this sort of thing has been going on for thousands of years, but now it is also modern technology which enables us to bomb a country from the safety of our own air-conditioned office at home, then go back to our own families after a hard day's work at the computer monitor.

It has to be remembered that some companies make a huge amount of money from cruise missiles and drones, and they just love conflicts like this. I wonder what the shelf-life of a Tomahawk missile is? Does the high-explosive start to sweat and become unstable if it is not ignited within a certain period of time?

This 'isolationist' slur began when America refused to get involved with what it saw as a European war to be fought by the Europeans themselves, but that was before they fully realised what was going on in concentration camps and before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. Recognition of World War status was granted very shortly afterwards, and without America and Russia, Hitler would probably - no definitely - have won.

I don't think it is 'isolationist' to worry about setting Russia and China onto a collision-course with the USA over a bloody squabble which - at the moment - is roughly contained within the borders of Syria, even if the squabble (as all civil wars do) kills as many civilians as soldiers. Yes, there is a difference between a child dying by hot metal and a child dying by gas poisoning, but chucking more hot metal in from the outside is hardly going to help the child.

A woman from Slough ('Come friendly bombs...') who likes analogies said on the radio this morning, "If you see two people fighting in the street, you don't just go up and knife one of them to stop the fight. You try to break it up by peaceful means, don't you?"

27 comments:

  1. If I saw two people fighting in the street, I'd call the police, who'd turn up and decide what amount of force was required to eliminate any threat - to the people fighting and others. If those fighting were using knives, the police would use a similar form of offense to stop the threat. If those fighting were using chemical weapons, I'd hope the police wouldn't stand around talking about it.

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    1. Good point. But what if the police had to take orders from a committee, who stood on the sidelines and took a month to vote against intervention?

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  2. Tom, I have yet to read that it was Assad who used chemicals against his own people.There is a strong possibility that it was the rebel forces i.e. Al-Qaeda who actually used them.
    Now if the US go on and attack Syria (Assad) surely it will appear that they will be seen as backing their long term enemy?

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    1. At present there's a 50/50 chance of the chemicals having been used by either side. But no mention was ever made of what they would bomb had it proved to be an 'International sympathy seeking act' by the goodie 'rebels'. Hmmmmm.

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    2. Not quite 50-50, I believe, but - as yet - there is no hard evidence. There is no hard evidence because days passed before Assad allowed the inspectors anywhere near the site, and when he did, they were shot at within the first mile. Nobody knows who fired the shot, because - as yet - there is no hard evidence. It's tricky, which is why we should storm in, I believe...

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    3. I mean NOT storm in, of course. Love, Stormin' Norman.

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  3. Ordnance, rather like Scotch eggs, has a sell-by date. The likes of Paddy prefer to see how they really work, rather than have them dismantled. No wonder he's fuming.

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    1. Give any pacifist a gun and - sooner or later - they are bound to pull the trigger. It's only human nature.

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  4. And note that Miliband had the sense to ask Cameron for assurances that no action would be taken by way of use of the royal prerogative, that back passage way of avoiding parliamentary control.

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    1. Yes, he wobbled toward the correct stance, being pushed by back-benchers all the way.

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  5. For the first time in living memory Tom my Friday morning coffee group talked about the Syria question rather than our usual local gossip. Incidentally, on-one was for intervention - I have not met anyone who was - have you?

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    1. No, not yet, but I try not to hang around with people like that. A friend of mine works for the US Defence Department, and has been an Obama voter -twice. He is not for intervention either.

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  6. The French will stand behind Obama unlike the Bush era when they wouldn't and french fries was a dirty word in the US. But I think I see the Saudi puppeteer's hand in this scenario. Remember Wikileaks on a leaked memo of a Saudi-Iran war to be fought by USA . . . this one has the same smell.

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    1. The French also make much money through arms deals. Algeria is now almost forgotten for most of them, but it was French missiles fired at the British Navy during the Faulklands conflict.

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  7. Because I simply do not have the physical power or political influence to help at all in this situation I will do instead what I am capable of. Pray.

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    1. Pray to Allah while you are about it, then.

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  8. I wish we would intervene. Most people I know agree. I feel bad that we are allowing it to happen!

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    1. Got any children in the military? My US Defence Department friend has.

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  9. So nice to read something intelligent on this subject on my return from an East Anglian whistle-stop tour. I can find nothing to disagree with. I'm absolutely staggered at the result of the vote...in a good way.

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  10. America isn't behind this, Tom, so it may play out British-wise. Mother of all Wars? A bit of a stretch, but then, you do have a point to make.

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    1. I was just quoting Saddam, an erstwhile close neighbour of Syria's.

      Ordinary American folk are not behind this, I know. It's the extraordinary ones I worry about. I believe that - like us - the US cannot afford this strife, for more than money reasons.

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    2. It would be the Mother of All Wars for they say that should a Third World War begin, it would be in the Middle East.

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  11. Thank you for this post. The whole country (the United Kingdom) must have breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when they heard the news, I know I did. This country has no appetite for war and it is wrong for us to be dragged into yet another futile and ancient conflict. Thank whoever you like that the MP's saw sense for at least once in their cocooned and priviledged lives.The only thing I would disagree with in your post would be the sentence 'President Obama has to face the Senate without little old England'.....tut tut Mr. Stephenson.

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    1. Quite right, Nana - I should have said, 'Congress'.

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