Brian Monteith: Syrian bombing will show West’s weakness

These protesters in London got their wish when Westminster voted not to authorise a strike on Syria. Picture: Getty
These protesters in London got their wish when Westminster voted not to authorise a strike on Syria. Picture: Getty
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SO, should it be more jaw, jaw, or is it time for more war, war?

Yesterday we had the recall of Parliament to debate the possibility of the RAF taking part in air strikes to “punish” the forces of the undoubtedly inhumane Syrian leader President Assad for the use of chemical weapons in the capital, Damascus.

There is no doubt that chemical weapons have been used – but confusion remains just who actually used them. The suggestion that they were used by rebels seeking to force Western intervention against Assad remains a possibility.

The West – by that I mean the US, EU and Nato nations – has stood by and watched atrocity after atrocity across the Syrian nation and previously felt powerless to act – in sharp contrast to how it intervened to turn the civil war against Colonel Gaddafi.

Women and children have been deliberately targeted by Assad’s Syrian Air force and both sides have committed summary executions of people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Much of this has been witnessed nightly on our TV news or can be accessed on our computers and mobile phones.

There was a time early on in this war when the West could have made a difference by supporting one side or the other with aid through a proxy – but it stood by, paralysed and unwilling to act.

Since then the conflict has lost sight of what it was originally about and descended into religious sectarian killings. Recently a Christian priest was dragged out of his church by rebels and beheaded, while other Christians have been hunted down and killed by Muslim rebels. The idea that one side is somehow saintly and the other is evil evaporated a long time ago.

War is a terrible thing, but a civil war is often more bitter, more savage and more unforgiving – and this Syrian civil war reminds us of this truth.

To sum up the situation, let me paraphrase a letter I read in a recent Financial Times: Iran is backing Assad but the Gulf States are against Assad, while Assad is against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Obama against Egypt’s General Sisi; but the Gulf States support the US while being for General Sisi, which means they are against the Muslim Brotherhood that is supported by Obama.

Iran is supporting Hamas but Hamas is pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood but Hamas is anti-US.

Turkey is with the Gulf States in opposing Assad but with the Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi, who is being backed by the Gulf States.

And we want to get involved in all of that – do we honestly think we can sort any of this out?

The current crisis in the Middle East is a failure of Western leaders to understand what was really happening during an Arab Spring that could have been liberating had our governments backed true democrats that would support pluralism and secularism. Instead, novices like Obama and Cameron, Hague and Clinton have consistently backed individuals who – like Hitler and Mussolini, Lenin and Mao – were willing to use Western liberalism for their own ends and subvert the constitutions they were sworn to uphold.

That’s why Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are all enduring an Arab Winter – meanwhile so-called allies in the Gulf States and Arabia invest billions in arming those committed to exporting murder and bloodshed – and we say nothing.

Our foreign policy is not so much immoral as amoral, lacking any consistency or coherence, our leaders have all failed to define what we believe is good and desirable and how it should be achieved – leaving us open, repeatedly, to charges of double dealing and hypocrisy.

We end up with the “you are the enemy of my enemy (Iran) so you must be my friend” type of diplomacy rather than trying to reward good behaviour where it exists and expose to worldwide condemnation the bad that happens even from reliable trading partners.

If British governments continue to believe we should be the policeman of the world, or at least the contracted-out traffic warden to the White House, then they should put that role to the people in elections rather than allow these catastrophes to suddenly arise as if by surprise.

Just what are the UN inspectors expected to find, at what point does what they find justify Western intervention?

The United Nations is a busted flush – an organisation that would allow Castro’s Cuba, Gaddafi’s Libya and Khomeni’s Iran to run its Human Rights Committee has no place in deciding what is a just war.

If the West were to lay out its own credo of what we expect of countries that are not full democracies, we would know from the start under what terms we might have to intervene.

Only one British political leader has come out completely against involvement in Syria from the start – UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Meanwhile Ed Miliband has self-destructed in full view of the world. How much worse it might be with Miliband in number ten is a really scary thought. Knowing that truth might be the silver lining we are all struggling to find.