One way or another, you can’t blame the people who made key decisions on what to do with the Middle East if they allow themselves a little moment to worry that things haven’t gone quite so well as they’d hoped.
Luckily, there are plenty of calm rational ideas about what to do next. Hours of coverage has consisted of MPs insisting we have to start bombing somewhere, because: “These terrorists are vile, repellent, evil, rancid, stinking, foul, ignorant, medieval, barbaric scum.” This would be a fair point, if the people opposed to bombing were saying: “I don’t think so, I think they’re just misunderstood lovable rogues.”
Or, for light relief, we’re treated to the radio phone-ins. On Radio 4’s Any Answers, for example, one woman proposed all refugees coming into the country should be conscripted into a special army and sent back to Syria to fight Isis – and if they refuse “we know they’re not genuine refugees”. I’m sure the ones who fled Syria to get their families out of the fighting in the first place would see the funny side. At least they’d know the way back.
Next up was a man who insisted anyone who knew someone who’d gone off to Syria to join Isis, should be put in a concentration camp in an island off Scotland. He didn’t specify which island, or what we do with the people who already live there, but I’m sure we could iron out those details on arrival. You may find an old woman knitting a jumper, saying: “This is my wee croft, my ancestors farmed this land in the 8th century,” but an official would have to say: “Never mind that love, we’re taking it over to imprison Mr Worthington – he used to clean windows for a bloke who went to Syria. Pack your bags, chop chop.”
After a while this becomes normal, and you wouldn’t be surprised if someone said: “We should fill the River Euphrates with Alka-Seltzers to make it fizz and overflow everywhere and make their falafels go damp, that’ll teach the evil bastards.”
Then come the reports from Paris that say: “I saw one woman buy an apple, which makes you realise the people here are determined to carry on as normal and are refusing to let the terrorists win.” But we’ve been brave in Britain as well. On Monday, Radio 5 asked for anyone to call in “if you’ve been to a concert this week” to tell us “if you felt safe” or felt it was necessary to go to “defy the terrorists”. So we should award a Victoria Cross to Alf and Eileen, who courageously attended a Michael Bolton tribute act in Southend. This demoralised jihadists everywhere. “We were banking on a disappointing turnout for that show – damn you plucky Brits,” they scowled.
As the week has gone on, the coverage of the aftermath of the Paris attacks has subtly changed. Now you’ll hear a shouty eccentric person who doesn’t seem all that well spitting that we have to bomb somewhere, even if we’ve no idea where, and it turns out that person is the Minister of Defence. But whether it’s an MP or someone on a phone-in, they don’t appear to have any plan of what we bomb, in alliance with whom, or what outcome we want the bombing to leave behind. Or, in fact, how the bombing will prevent people becoming attracted to jihadists. Even so, it’s delightful to hear someone so excited that if you suggested bombing Peru or Shrewsbury they’d say “yahoo, that will do for a start”.
To add to the puzzle, the bombing will presumably be in defence of Assad. Two years ago the same people were equally insistent we bombed Syria against Assad because he was vile, repellent, evil, rancid, stinking, foul, ignorant, medieval, barbaric scum. And the “rebels” they wanted to support back then included some of the jihadists who became Isis fighters. So if those in favour of bombing Syria had got their way two years ago, now they’d be proposing we went back to those rebels, saying: “You know those weapons we gave you? Do you mind if we have them back please?”
If we’re going to keep changing sides like this, perhaps our bombing should support one side or another on a zero-hours contract. That way we can swap about without any fear of legal action, or without having to carry on bombing a side we now support because we’re committed to giving them one month’s notice.
But the politicians who seem most confused are those who have become “persuaded” about the need to bomb Syria after the in Paris atrocities last week. Does this mean that up until last week they thought Isis wasn’t much of a problem, it just needed a stern talking to?
Maybe these politicians should consult Tony Blair, an expert on these matters who helped create the “war on terror”, and who now accepts that one of the consequences of bombing Iraq was the creation of Isis. If this was a task set by Alan Sugar, Blair would be slumped in a chair as he was told: “You were asked to eliminate terror. Instead you’ve managed to make a country ruled by a psychotic even more psychotic, and helped create the most murderous group of terrorist sociopaths in modern history. Get out.”
Instead, it appears our politicians have decided the lesson of the past 12 years of bombing a series of countries – leaving each in turn in even worse chaos than before, and with growing support for jihadist psychopaths – is that we need to randomly bomb one more. It will all turn out all right.
Can we just agree in advance that when Britain is inevitably bombed, we don’t expect people from other countries to have to sing our dreary national anthem at sporting events. If that happens, I’m afraid the terrorists have won.
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