The Moral Vacuum
All war is terrible, I know. We should learn the lessons from history, I realise. And, our recent calamitous involvement in wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan exist as stark examples of the wrong kind of wars based upon poor and even incorrect evidence and serve as sober examples to our political and military leaders.
But, history also has examples of good wars, even just wars. Who would argue that the UN (and British) intervention in the Bosnian war of the 1990s was not correct, justified and effective, if obviously tardy?
History also warns us of the dangers of doing nothing, too little too late, even in the face of overwhelming force and potential disaster such as the British Government faced in their appeasement of Germany in the mid-1930s.
Many of Bill Clinton’s wars and foreign interventions were moral, sound, and effective. He launched multiple attacks against Saddam Hussein’s chemical capabilities, and many would argue that this was one of the reasons that no WMDs were discovered after George W Bush’s later and less successful intervention.
I remain to be convinced that the decision for war or not should be left to a democratic vote of Parliament or of Congress. That vote can never be fully informed as military intelligence sources need to be protected. And, it is impossible for any such vote to be devoid of political bias and posturing. It is always (or should be) easier to say “nay” to war than to shout “aye”. Let fully informed and democratically elected leaders take the timely and difficult but morally and ethically correct decisions themselves.
The UN, the British Government, and the other Western democracies are guilty of taking a self-interested, war-weary, and dangerous stance towards the terror of Assad’s regime in Syria. Years of appeasement and inaction have created a political and military vacuum and allowed the rebel and opposing ranks to be swelled by extremists, Islamist fundamentalists and Al Qaeda terrorists who are as ruthless and dangerous to the future of Syria as the present regime and military.
But, chemical weapons have been used against innocents and non-combatants. And not for the first time. Over 1400 have succumbed to a gas and nerve agent in the last week, including 400 children. Napalm or incendiary bombs were dropped on school children. The rebels do not have planes. They cannot drop such bombs.
The US Government, which can have no interest at all in an Islamist opposition winning the Syrian war, asserts that they have compelling evidence that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons in the suburbs of the Syrian capital. They have monitored troop movements and listened in to orders given.
A week of inaction allowed most of the scientific evidence of the attack to dissipate or be removed. No doubt it has also allowed the supplies of further terror weapons to be moved or hidden. The political wavering in the UK, the US and elsewhere has shown moderate freedom-fighters that they are on their own and have little choice but to throw their hats in with the extremists.
Over 100,000 Syrians have died already. More die every day. Over 1.6 million have been displaced and seek refuge in countries which many would never have considered friendly.
I do not want boots on the ground (yet). I do not want another protracted war in which too many of the best of our young fighting men have their lives taken, wasted. But that famous red-line has been crossed. Even Hitler knew the horrors of chemical attack and refrained from using such weapons.
A message needs to be sent. It should be shocking and awe-inspiring. It should be clinical and well-targeted. We have the capability. We need the moral fibre. We need to do the right thing. Let the cruise missiles fly and the stealth bombers send a message to Assad and all such tyrants and killers of innocents. Such actions may have dire consequences, but inactivity can surely only lead to worse.