Wednesday, 2 December 2015

On Bombing Syria

‘If only he could stop these damned little wars’, Morris wrote of Prime Minister Gladstone on 10 February 1881.  It’s a colourful condemnatory phrase, though not having quite become a socialist at that point, Morris clearly  had not yet grasped the systematic and necessary nature of such wars to British Imperialism, of which he would later become such a courageous critic.

For a good part of my adult life this country has been engaged in a series of damned little wars: among others, Margaret Thatcher’s escapade in the Falklands/Malvinas, Tony Blair’s Iraq and Afghanistan wars, David Cameron’s bombing of Libya and now his proposed bombing of Islamic State in Syria.  Never mind how these have turned out in practice (reducing both Iraq and Libya, for example, to the very chaos and rubble in which ISIS thrives in the first place).  If you have one of the biggest arms export industries in the world, as we do, you have to regularly show your customers the weapons at work.  And there’s that minor matter of Middle Eastern oil supplies too.

The wars may be little, but the lies that attempt to justify them to the British public are often very big indeed.  Tony Blair’s lie to us – those weapons of mass destruction at Saddam Hussein’s disposal that could hit this country in 40 minutes – was the grossest of them all; there were no such WMDs, and Blair must have known that all along.  And David Cameron is at this very moment in the process of telling us a similar whopper: those 70,000 moderate Syrian rebels whom he has suddenly conjured up out of thin air. 
Until we manage to stop this machismo cycle of ‘damned little wars’, British governments and British forces will just continue making the world out there a more chaotic and dangerous place, and putting us at home ever more at risk of terrorist reprisal.


Anonymous said...

I agree with some of what you say Tony. But I think that the west is responding to an already chaotic and heinous world. think of Libya where Gadafi was going to murder thousands. Yes it’s chaos now but it was a heinous murderous chaos before, albeit self contained. One problem with the hard left is the tendency to see everything in terms of ‘imperialism’ but when one thinks of Bosnia the dominant narrative .even from people of the left who i’ve met is that ‘the West failed to so anything’. In a way it’s damned either way . Isis will continue to grow if they aren’t dealt with and that includes physical action- regional players don’t seem to want to get involved so the US responds as the world’s policeman. I think there’s humanity in that.
Think of the French intervention in Mali-which drove the Islamists out. I think that the hard |left doesn’t care so much about the horrendous oppression under which people are forced to live- that this is as bad as or worse than ‘imperialism’. At least in some parts of Afganistan some girls are now going to school- it was hardly a nice place before the West intervened. Nobody realises how heinous such oppression is unless you actually experience it ; it doesn’t involve guns but quiet desperation & suffering.

Tony Pinkney said...

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful comment. I'd like to say: well, let's allow the course of events over the next months or years to prove which of us is right and which wrong. But actually, I don't think it works like that. I suspect that the initial interpretive-political stance one takes defines what subsequently counts as 'the events'. Fredric Jameson talks about the French and Russian Revolutions in such terms at the start of his 1990 Adorno book: 'the decision about continuity or discontinuity is not an empirical one ... it is taken in advance, as a kind of absolute presupposition, which then determines your subsequent reading and interpretation of the materials (sometimes called "the facts")' (p.3).

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