2 December 2015


It's difficult to know where to begin on this, but here goes:

  • The proposal to expand UK airstrikes against Isis from Iraq to Syria is not massively important in military terms. The RAF is already running anti-Isis strikes on targets in Iraq and it's clear that targets in Syria have already actually been hit. The Cameron government's proposed deployments are minimal.
  • It's important symbolically, however, both internationally and domestically.
  • Internationally, it shows that Britain is lined up with France and the US in solidarity and is, um, trying to work out what to do about Russia, Iran and the Kurds -- and, er, Turkey and the Sunni states of the Arabian peninsula, which are the key local players (apart of course from Iraq and Syria). This is rather less than convincing. It might be that the UK getting on board with France and the US makes it easier for the west to cut a shabby deal with Assad and Putin; but it might not.
  • Domestically, it has given David Cameron a chance to batter Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Corbyn has been principled in a pacifist/anti-imperialist way but lacklustre on the issue, allowed it to be turned into a test of his leadership and then performed poorly in the House of Commons debate.After moaning about Cameron's reported remarks on terrorist sympathisers in Labour's ranks, the PLP in the Commons responded seriously on the intervention motion. It was the first time in several years that the house was must-watch TV -- I think since the 2003 Iraq war debate when Robin Cook announced his resignation. The quality of debate was good, and the proceedings were civilised. Hilary Benn made an effective if hardly profound speech disowning the Corbyn perspective, and nearly 70 Labour MPs voted for the government motion. That's nearly one-third of the PLP. We live in interesting times. 

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