Gerry Farrell: Syria air strikes not the answer

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Does David Cameron think we’re idiots? The other day, he stood up in parliament to make the case for bombing Islamic State in Syria. By the time he’d finished we were no wiser.

He said that we needed to mount air strikes in Syria because IS are “a threat to our way of life”. Well, we’ve been bombing them in Iraq for a year and they’re still a threat to our way of life, whatever that phrase actually means. If it means we are under a constant threat from terrorism, that needs putting into perspective. There have been fewer than 100 people killed in Britain by terrorists since 2000. It’s dramatic and heartbreaking when it happens but it’s not a war. If anything, it’s a failure of our intelligence services.

He also said that we can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing when our Allies – the French and the Americans – are sending their planes in. That’s not an argument either. It’s macho posturing.

I’m prepared to listen to anybody’s reasoning for extending air strikes. But I expected the Prime Minister to unfold a military strategy, with objectives and outcomes.

The closest he came to telling the truth was when he admitted that airpower alone stood no chance of defeating IS. In that respect, most military experts would agree with him. Bombing has done little to inhibit IS in Iraq. Bombing Libya did nothing to bring that country democracy.

But Cameron won’t be sending British troops to fight IS on the ground while British bombers drop their payloads. He expects his dirty work to be done by the Kurdish Peshmerga and any of the other ragtag anti-Assad armies already fighting in Syria.

Very few military top brass would go along with that, though. General Sir Richard Shirreff, Nato’s former deputy supreme allied commander in Europe, said these local fighters would not be strong enough and would need western forces alongside if they want to recapture the terrorist group’s strongholds such as Raqqa.

“It’s not something you are going to achieve with 70,000 so-called Syrian moderates,” he said. “To take a city of 350,000 is going to need a massive force. Any fighting in cities soaks up troops in a massive way. It’s very heavily attritional, it’s bloody and it’s a grim business.”

Meanwhile, the tyrant who started this war, Bashar Al-Assad, continues to drop barrel bombs on his own people. If I was a world leader, I would bring together the most creative brains in the world to figure out a way to assassinate him. He’s responsible for 250,000 Syrian deaths. He should pay with his own life.

Hot tips to beat winter blues

Did you know that you can book a direct return flight from Glasgow to Barbados for £300-400? You could be lying on a hammock sipping rum punches under a palm tree while the rest of us are bending our shoulders into horizontal sleet and cursing as the waterproofing in our anoraks gives way.

A Scottish winter can turn the nicest person into a bear with a sore head. A bear who starts to feel sleepy when darkness falls at 4pm. A bear who doesn’t want to get out from under the duvet next morning. If you run a business, you’ll see an upsurge in Monday sickies. If you’re prone to depression anyway, the winter blues can develop from a tendency to grumble into full-blown depression. I’m aware of this weakness in my own mental chemistry so I try to be ready in advance. I’d like to share my Ten Top Blues-Beaters with you:

1. Eat Marmite

It’s fortified with mood-boosting B vitamins including B12, which will lift your serotonin levels.

2. Fly to Barbados

If you book now, you and your pal or your partner can fly with Thomas Cook Airlines direct from Glasgow to Christ Church in Barbados for less than £800 return.

3. Embrace your bed

Don’t fight the darkness, roll with it. The minute the daylight disappears, get into your jammies. Have your tea. Then retire to the depths of your duvet with your beloved and binge on film until you get sleepy. Netflix has brilliant Oscar-winning movies like Nebraska. BBC iPlayer has The Hunt, with David Attenborough.

4. Take the stairs

We live five flights up. When you feel wabbit and wimpish, you’ll be tempted to take the lift in your flat or the escalators in shops and stations. Don’t. Push yourself. Get some easy exercise in. If you need extra motivation, buy yourself a FitBit and measure the exercise you’re getting.

5. Adopt your street

I’ll own up, I’m biased here, when it comes to litter and dog mess, I don’t moan about it, I go out and deal with it. We pick up the litter in our street at least three times a week and we spray piles of dog poo pink so people can avoid it. It takes us outside into the daylight and it makes us feel good to see our street clean.

6. Help someone worse off than yourself

Seeing somebody homeless in this weather can make you feel helpless. Get over that reaction and do something. Stop and chat. Find out how they got into that mess and see what you can do to help. If you don’t want to give money, buy them a hot meal or cup of coffee. Even a five-minute

conversation with somebody in a worse situation than you will lift your spirits as well as theirs. They’ll be

doing you a favour.

7. Make time for your family and friends

If you’ve been cutting yourself off from your family or your mates because you feel low, give them a ring and invite them over. Cook them dinner and share a bottle of wine with them. These are the folk who know you best and just being with them will do wonders for your mood.

8. Laugh at yourself

A Slovenian friend of mine said that the way he shakes himself out of a bad mood is to force a smile at his reflection in the mirror and keep it going till it turns into a laugh. It sounds ridiculous but it works.

9. Make a Spotify playlist

List the most uplifting music you know and play it round the house.

10. Buy a Philips EnergyUp Light

Half the price of a flight to Barbados, using one of these intense blue lights in your home every day will revitalise your mood and boost your energy levels.

Where it’s Att

Sir David Attenborough’s latest series, The Hunt, is well under way. In the old days of nature documentaries we were happy to watch exotic wildlife in beautiful surroundings with an educational voiceover. But the BBC’s taken the format to a new level.

Now it’s the story that matters most. We watch a pack of Arctic wolves fanning out and targeting a huge muskox in a gully. With a reinforced skull and pointed horns he looks mean enough to kill them all. They close in. The music pulls us to the edge of our seats. We feel the muskox’s fear as the first wolf bites a lump out of his hindquarters.

You can keep your Bournes and your Bonds. If it’s action you want, Attenborough’s the man.