Today Parliament is debating whether RAF jets should be used to drop bombs on IS in Syria as well as Iraq. Cameron wants to do it, as it seems do many MPs, Corbyn does not. Having been a soldier I’m no terrorist sympathiser, but I do think that Corbyn’s conclusion is correct. Let’s review the facts.
Firstly there are plenty of jets from other nations already dropping bombs on IS in Syria. The availability or otherwise of a few RAF Tornados will not make a significant difference as there are already plenty. There is a technical point, which is that only the RAF has Brimstone (a very clever weapon) but this has not been widely raised and although Brimstone may be best other systems are adequate. So whether or not the RAF joins the bombing has no significant military relevance.
Some have stated that it’s time we stand shoulder to shoulder with are allies. We already are, as we have done since the end of the cold war. Bosnia, Gulf War Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq again. Where were the Germans? Or most of the rest of the EU? It’s a fatuous point.
Secondly, as any soldier or historian can tell you, bombing alone cannot deliver a military outcome. The one exception was the nuclear bombing of Japan; otherwise no strategic military result has been delivered by air action alone. Yes, the Vietnamese were brought back to the peace talks by B52s, but at the time there were several hundred thousand GIs on the ground (who lost). Yes Serbia was cowed by a bombing campaign, but it was ground troops who liberated Kosovo. And if you are reliant upon ground action there is no point in starting to prepare their battlefield though air strikes until you have a workable plan. As far as I am aware there is not yet any such plan for Syria (let alone a workable one).
Thirdly, dropping bombs always causes some collateral damage, which is jargon for demolished buildings and dead innocents. While it is not the case that the infidel west is waging war on Moslems, pictures of bomb damaged buildings adorned in scattered Arab body parts is an image that is easily exploited to support this argument. This risk is of course exacerbated by the bombs that miss their target, and many bombs do miss. Even when they hit, there is often some question as to whether the target was legitimate, or the intended one. There are better, more accurate ways to destroy individual terrorists, but these can only be performed on the ground.
Anyway, all the evidence points to the perpetrators of the Paris killings coming from within Europe. They may or may not have received their motivation, training and equipment from IS in Syria (as opposed to IS in Iraq – which we are bombing already) but they were home grown, as were the 7/7 bombers and that maniac who killed Fusilier Lee Rigby. As Rod Liddle pointed out in last week’s Spectator, the logical retaliation for the French Air Force wold be to bomb Brussels (which, incidentally, would probably get UKIP support).
Finally bombs are expensive, and so are the planes required to drop them. Flying two Tornadoes from Cyprus to Syria and back is not cheap; I estimate the fuel alone as costing £50,000. One Brimstone bomb is another £100,000 so a cost of £250,000 per sortie in fuel and bombs seems sensible. Add in some maintenance, supporting aircraft and 100 or so airmen and £1,000,000 per day seems about right. Let’s just remember our country is bankrupt.
If you want to prevent terrorism in the UK (which is part of Dave’s job) then all you need to is secure the borders and keep the militant parts of the domestic population in check. That has far more to do with getting a grip on immigration control, the UK Border Agency and supporting police and security services than dumping HE in middle east. We are in a more secure position than mainland Europe as we have the additional vetting opportunities arising from being an island. We also have very strict gun controls and more cameras than France and the rest.
The terrorist threat IS poses to UK is not existential. It is far more akin to Bader Meinhoff and the Red Brigades than the IRA. The clue to defeating terrorism is not to be terrified, and I am not. The jihadist morons are far less likely to kill me than bad drivers and this point needs to be emphasised. Yes, at some stage there will probably be another outrage in UK. If it was as effective as 9/11 and killed 3,000 then my chance of being one of them is under one thousandth of a percent. I’m more likely to win the lottery – and so are you.
If you want to bring peace to the Middle East then good luck with that; my guess is that the choice is either supporting a nasty, secular dictator type like Assad or breaking up the artificially created countries a la Yugoslavia is the way to go. If Saint Tony can’t achieve it then Call Me Dave has no chance. But, lunatic terrorists aside, I don’t much care if there is a caliphate or not. The British Empire had few problems with the Ottoman Empire as we’re separated from them by the rest of Europe. I see no reason to fear one being created, particularly now that there is a world glut of oil.
If Cameron really wants to solve the problem he needs to put reliable (spelt British and other NATO) troops on the ground and keep them there until the job is done. Unfortunately he’s sacked most of them and already demonstrated that he does not have the ability to persuade the British population that it is worth the effort.
While I disagree with Corbyn’s creed, on this matter his analysis is broadly correct.
Terrorism is defeated by intelligence, which seems to be in short supply in Westminster.