Tag Archives: Syria

Vince Cable on Syria

Some wise words from Vince Cable on Syria

With so much complexity and confusion, the public debate should be characterised by humility and open-mindedness.  That is what makes so unforgivable the crude and abusive campaigning.  There is no room in civilised discourse for the Internet trolls and the thuggish activists threatening MPs who voted for air strikes or accusing them of murdering babies.  No less disreputable is the attempt by David Cameron to smear those who oppose strikes, even in his own party, as “terrorist sympathisers”.   Shrill self-righteousness is a poor substitute for the moral high ground.

So, what should the sceptic do who is unimpressed by simplistic and emotive calls to arms or to militant pacifism? It is very tempting to say ‘no’ and to say it is all a terrible mess which we should try to steer clear of.   Having voted against the Iraq War, with my Lib Dem colleagues, I can see worrying parallels in the lack of strategic clarity and the potential for blundering into a Middle Eastern swamp with no obvious exit. I find that most of my friends and party supporters assume that my party would automatically repeat its opposition.

But there are some big differences from the Iraq war.  There is no question, here, of defying international law.  This is not about regime change (indeed we are now de facto allies of the awful Assad regime).  Saddam, however odious, was not attacking us. And we are not on the coat tails of a crass, ideologically driven, US administration. On the contrary, the Obama administration has shown admirable restraint and a marked reluctance to extend its military role.

The whole quite lengthy post is well worth a read.  For such a complex shades-of-grey lesser-of-two-evils situation. those people who are so morally certain are quite frightening. I do wonder how much their bluster and aggressive dismissal of alternative viewpoints is a cover for their own doubts.

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And the sign at the side of the road pointed to Mars

I have taken what should hopefully be a brief absence from Twitter. The alternative would have been to unfollow or mute significant numbers of genuine friends, and I’m not willing to do that. It’s alll got very ugly since Parliament voted on airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The mood reminds me of the days immediately after the death of Princess Diana, and not in a good way. Twitter is not the place for nuance.

Labour MP Jess Phillips sums up how I feel quite accurately.

My husband was once asked which super power he would have if he could pick. He gave the utterly unbombastic answer “the power of hindsight”. While I’m spying on you with the invisibility power that I picked, he will be resting on the laurels of never making a mistake. Mine is more fun in the short term but his eliminates a life of pain and hand-wringing. What a clever man he is.

Without this power I remain uncertain. What I am certain of is that those who are so certain that they are right are certainly not as clever or good as they think they are.

Indeed. As was said on Twitter a while back about a completely unrelated issue, if you really don’t know all the answers, it’s better to be zero than a minus one.

In this time of great uncertainty, we need some proper grown-ups in charge, and the people we do have don’t measure up. David Cameron comes over as little more than an opportunistic spiv with no underlying principles, who wants to go to war in an exercise of nationalist willy-waving. Even if he’s right, he’s probably right for the wrong reasons, and it’s hard to blame anyone for not buying what he’s selling.

But Corbyn is no better, an inflexible ideologue who, even if he’s a decent person at heart, is too weak a leader to be able to control the more thuggish elements amongst his own supporters. The personal abuse I’ve seen on Twitter towards those who supported the Government, especially women, has been quite appalling. And these people claim to be on the side of “peace”.

In terms of weighing up whether action or inaction is the lesser of two evils, among party leaders Tim Farron comes over as the only adult in the room. Even he may be wrong, but I’m more inclined to trust his judgement than that of Cameron or Corbyn.

It’s not as if a tiny number of planes is going to make a great deal of difference anyway. To defeat ISIS, something that does need to be done whatever the “peace” movement might say, will require putting together some sort of anti-ISIS alliance on the ground. That will need a lot of diplomacy and may well require treading on the toes of some of our supposed allies. And even that would be a fruitless game of whack-a-mole unless we also discredit their ideology, something that may take a generation to accomplish.

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