Syria: Something must be done – I mean, anything!

Some people object that we couldn’t have known that Assad would turn out like this

Share

It must be heartbreaking for many of these people who were looking forward to some bombing in Syria. One of them was on Question Time, trying hard to make a strategic case for war, but so frustrated he looked as if he was about to shout “Oh look it’s not FAIR – I wanted MISSILES and EXPLOSIONS and the bloke who wrote Bravo Two Zero on Sky News guessing what would be blown up next. I WANTED it. I WANTED it. I HATE that Putin.”

Their catchphrase is, “We can’t stand idly by”, whenever a war seems possible. If it’s suggested that military intervention will almost certainly make things worse they say “But we have to do SOMETHING,” as if it doesn’t matter what. Maybe there’s a case for that, and seeing as the route to bombing Syria is blocked for a while, the army should be asked to burn down a random village in Somerset. Survivors of a helicopter gunship attack on Templecombe will complain about cruise missiles coming through the cowshed, cluster bombs spoiling the tea shoppe and the struggle of living in a refugee camp in Yeovil, but they can be reassured “Yes but we have to do SOMETHING.”

Eventually it could be a legitimate defence in all criminal cases. Barristers will tell the judge that their client regret any collateral damage from the armed robbery on the old people’s home, but he for one was not prepared to stand idly by.

Because the main issue, for some supporters of military action, appears to be finding a way to not feel bad in ourselves. Then in the future, when people ask what we did to oppose the horrors of President Assad of Syria, we can say “I did my bit. I sat in a pub and said we can’t stand idly by.”

If you’re sceptical of this approach, you can’t help wishing there was some recent example of Western military intervention, against an Arab dictator we’d previously backed but suddenly discovered was evil and had to bomb as we couldn’t stand idly by, then we might have more clues as to the possible outcome of getting involved in a war with them.

Presumably, those people who were most eager for war in Iraq, on the “must do something” grounds, are pleased with how that turned out. Because whatever else opponents of the war might say, there’s no disputing that the war did do something.

Among its achievements were to make the situation incomparably more violent than before, enraging the people we claimed to be protecting, and discovering the weapons that were the premise for the whole escapade didn’t exist. At this point, I suppose the politicians who’d supported the war said: “This invasion has led to utter carnage. We insist on supplying Semtex to the suicide bombers, as we have to do SOMETHING.”

For some people the current anguish about Assad must be especially frustrating. Tony Blair for example, supports bombing him, so how he must wish he’d done it when he had the chance. Because Blair invited him here as a special guest, so special he was put up in a bedroom in Buckingham Palace. The poor Queen can’t have had much say in this, and may now have to answer questions from social security, as that bedroom is unlikely to be occupied by Assad again which makes it a spare room and liable to cause a reduction in her annual allowance.

Some people object that we couldn’t have known that Assad would turn out like this, as if he was such a pussycat back then that to not sell him weapons would have been downright rude. It was true his path to power hadn’t complied with every modern aspect of democracy, in that he took over from his father without a single vote anywhere in the country, but his wife loved to shop at Harrods and you can’t get much more modern and democratic than that.

The same process repeats itself now. We sell billions of pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, adamant that they use them responsibly, as they assure us water canon for example won’t be used against dissenters. And we should take them at their word – it’s much more that likely they’re to be installed as extreme car washes across the desert.

So it could be argued that one way to deter atrocities by dictators is not to sell them the weapons that a few years later we have to do SOMETHING about. In other words, when they ask us for lorryloads of weapons we must be prepared to stand idly by.

As well as these problems, in Syria there’s the conundrum that many of the rebel groups are linked to al-Qa’ida. To get round this, it was reported yesterday, “the CIA has a vetting process to decide which rebels to support”. That’s reassuring then, if there ever is a point when we’re sending weapons out there. Maybe each group will have to fill in a form, as if it’s a community hall applying for a grant from lottery money. Only if the CIA are really impressed with how they answer the question: “How will you use the aid to build cultural bridges between the diverse elements of age and gender within your locality” will they get a truck full of anti-aircraft missiles and a flame thrower.

Because arming Jihadists and groups fighting the same Jihadists and groups fighting a dictator and the dictator – all that may have its critics, but at least it’s something.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Day In a Page

An oil rig in the North Sea  

The Scottish people deserve the truth about North Sea oil and gas

Colin Tinto
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week