Letters: War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy

These letters appear in the September 26 issue of The Independent

Independent Voices
Thursday 25 September 2014 19:08

Do we learn nothing from history? When Hitler attempted to bomb the UK into capitulation, the effect was quite the reverse of what was intended. Indeed, history would seem to show that particular episode was not an isolated case.

I remember the US trying to bomb North Vietnam and Cambodia into submission, and that seemed to lead to success for the Vietcong and the rise to power of Pol Pot, and in the latter case the subsequent massacres were truly appalling.

Again, we bombed Iraq in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein – which we did, but the consequences of removing him has led directly to the situation we have today.

Nor is it just the Western powers who fail to appreciate that the use of bombing has a detrimental effect to international relations. Israel and the Palestinian forces seem to be bound together in an endless cycle of violence.

As Tony Benn said: ‘‘War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy’’. What we need to do is to try to reach hearts and minds and have dialogue with others. That, after all, was what has allowed peace in Northern Ireland to flourish. This will only come about through education, understanding and a wish to enjoy ‘‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’’.

John Broughton


Military action in Iraq or Syria is counter-productive. It undoubtedly results in innocent people being maimed and killed. This, in turn, attracts more people to join the extremist cause. We need to remember that it is our horrendous legacy of intervention in this area which helped increase this anti-West extremism in the first place.

Furthermore, it is double standards to single out extremist groups yet happily allow Israel to continue its illegal occupation of Palestine.

Mark Richards


David Cameron called the Islamic State (Isis) fighters “vicious terrorists”. Geoffrey Robertson says that it is “legal” for the UK to use the military to go after Isis because they are “criminals”. (As a matter of law, we do not need the United Nations’ permission to attack these criminals, 25 September). But in 2011, international lawyer Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell stated quite clearly, in Congress and later at Chatham House, London, that “terrorist acts are criminal offences, and therefore properly dealt with by law enforcement agencies”. To reinforce her point, she added that armies should not be used when dealing with terrorism.

But then, the Ministry of Defence has no remit to do law enforcement.

Lesley Docksey


Isis didn’t exist and couldn’t have existed under Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. The West spent more than 10 years attempting to establish a stable, pro-Western government in Iraq and training the Iraqi army to withstand insurgency from extremist Islamic groups.

Yet this army appears to be incapable of defeating Isis without the support of the Kurdish Peshmerga and Western air strikes. What makes Western governments think they can achieve in a few years what they failed to achieve in 10 years in Iraq, or nearly 14 years in Afghanistan, especially without putting more ‘‘boots on the ground’’.

Julius Marstrand


Robert Fisk (22 September) claims that defeating Isis must involve “an alliance” with Iran and Hezbollah. Has he forgotten that even if Hezbollah doesn’t kill or mutilate women, Iran does, and if it doesn’t sell girls as sex slaves, it allows them to be married, even if they are under 13; not to mention imprisoning, torturing and executing political dissidents of both sexes?

A better way to defeat Isis is to starve them by buying oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada, or better still – as Anthony Hilton recommended in Wednesday’s Standard and as the Rockefeller Foundation is now doing – to stop investing in fossil fuels and change to alternative forms of energy.

Carolyn Beckingham

East Sussex

To describe the new Middle East war as messy is a masterly understatement. As your leading article (24 September) states, this is a proxy war between two strands of Islam, Sunni and Shia. It is not a civil war but a religious war.

The two sects have been at bitter loggerheads for 1,300 years (the battle of Karbala AD 680) and the end of their conflict is nowhere in sight. The West, which is nominally a Christian demesne, should have absolutely no participation in this war or any other religious upheaval in the Middle East.

At last the Sunni kingdoms have woken up to the fact that the so-called Islamic State, a Sunni organisation, is trying to impose a cruel and barbaric theocratic regime on their own doorsteps. Let them assume the burden of quelling this monster. They have the financial clout to do so (it will make a change from buying football clubs or running horse-racing stables in Europe).

As for our Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, saying that he hopes Parliament has “the mental strength to take on the challenge” of Isis, has he seriously taken leave of his senses? Has he learnt nothing from our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan?

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

Camden school is right to ban niqab

Camden School for Girls is absolutely right to ban the Muslim student from taking her A-levels until she removes her niqab (24 September). The young girl involved may indeed be just trying to express her individuality as teenagers do, but she is being either badly advised or cynically manipulated. Dressed like this her job prospects are zero. Not only is the niqab a health and safety issue and an impediment to the face- to-face contact that good teaching requires, it sends out a provocative signal that rejects everything that this liberal school and British society hold dear.

We should not tolerate intolerance. And once one student is allowed to wear the niqab, others will surely follow. Far from being Islamophobia, this is Islamophilia – embracing Muslims who wish to integrate and flourish in a pluralistic country.

Stan Labovitch


It isn’t perfect, but thank God for the NHS

In response to T Sayer’s ill-informed letter of 25 September about the “NHS and Labour not fit for purpose,’’ I say – from recent personal experience – you have got it wrong.

There may be a number of highly paid middle- managers that fit your description of “too many overpaid employees” but when I recently suffered a stroke at the age of 48, I was treated from start to finish at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading by caring, kind, professional and brilliant staff –motivated not by profit but by compassion. Thanks to their efforts I can now walk, talk, and write this letter. I am incensed by such lazy criticism of an institution which we should all fiercely protect. Nothing is entirely perfect – but in my mind the NHS comes close; I thank God it was there for me when I needed it.

Sarah Walsh


T Sayer’s letter is just a series of assertions about the NHS and no evidence to support them. Since its inception my grandparents, my parents, myself, my wife, my siblings, my children and my grandchildren have all had cause to be thankful for its existence at one time or another. I don’t think my family is unique. If T Sayer wants to class me as one of the ‘‘ignorant’’, it is a badge I shall wear with pride.

Dr Les May


She wasn’t purring but snoring...

David Cameron claims the Queen was ‘‘purring’’ over the Scottish referendum result. I suspect he is mistaken. If she was having to listen to him, is it not more likely that Her Majesty was gently snoring?

Pete Dorey

Bath, Somerset

Hacking payouts should go to charity

While the press should be brought to justice for hacking if it is a criminal offence, there is absolutely no justification for payouts to celebrities who have suffered no damage to their careers or person. These people crave publicity and while their privacy should be protected the perpetrators should be fined and the money paid to the state or charities. These people, who tend to be well off, get more publicity while victims of violence or fraud are usually left without compensation. Damages should be paid only when justified.

Peter Fieldman

By email

Pedantic message? Not if you speak Latin

Will Dean’s TV review (25 September) uses the phrase ‘‘high jinx’’. This should be high jinks – a jinx is a different thing altogether. Also, I can’t believe Geoffrey Robertson QC wrote ‘‘hostis humanis generis’’. I’m sure he’d have put ‘‘hostis humani generis’’.

Humani is genitive singular to agree with generis. I find that well- produced books make errors over place-names and foreign quotations. Maybe the spell-check can’t deal with anything out of the ordinary.

Alan Langley

Market Harborough

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