Document:Absolute folly for Britain to get involved in Syria
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Absolute folly for Britain to get involved in Syria
When the British Empire was at its zenith in 1922 the Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George itched to go to war against Turkey in defence of Greece. But the opposition leader Andrew Bonar Law warned against such precipitate action. “We cannot act alone as the policeman of the world,” he declared.
Those wise words silenced the drumbeat for military intervention.
Yet today, despite the loss of our empire and the vast reduction in our Armed Forces, too many of our rulers still retain a misguided belief that Britain should become embroiled in conflict overseas.
The latest focus for this martial posturing is Syria, which has long been gripped by a bitter war between an alliance of Islamist insurgents and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia.
The struggle has now reached a new level of intensity in the region of Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital Damascus, where enclaves of rebels have come under heavy bombardment by Assad and Russian forces.
The savagery of the battle has been the predictable cue for another bout of breast-beating from the armchair interventionists.
Even Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who usually has a sense of perspective fed by his love of history, appears to have been infected by the virus of moral grandstanding.
Having referred to unverified reports that chlorine gas may have been discharged in a rebel-held stronghold at the weekend, Johnson proclaimed that anyone responsible for such an attack “must be held accountable”.
But Johnson's quasi-imperial righteousness paled beside the emotional blackmail of other MPs.
Descending into near hysteria, Labour’s John Woodcock argued that the bodies of dead children from Eastern Ghouta should be “lain at the feet of governments of every single nation which continues to shrug in the face of this horror”.
Tory MP Johnny Mercer, a former soldier, has been just as strident.
This is self-indulgent sentimentality.
It might feed the vanity of the sabre rattlers but it would do nothing for humanity.
On the contrary our involvement would put British lives at risk and widen the scope of the war.
But that kind of moral inversion has been at the heart of Britain's disastrous Syrian policy since the civil war began.
The most misguided decision of the coalition government was that made by David Cameron and his foreign secretary William Hague to back the rebels in an inane attempt to bring about the downfall of President Assad – a move that backfired spectacularly.
The Government's idea that the anti-Assad rebels were “moderates” was self-delusion.
To justify this dangerous nonsense the coalition colluded with all the one-sided propaganda about the Syrian conflict.
Much of the British media did the same job, ignoring the actions of the Islamists while blaming Assad or the Russians for every atrocity.
In this manipulative narrative of anguish it often sounds like Syria has the most lavishly resourced healthcare system in the world, given how many hospitals and clinics seemed to be hit by President Assad’s forces.
A classic example of the deceitful, pro-Islamist propaganda occurred in 2016 over the siege of Aleppo, where, just like in Eastern Ghouta today, an anti-Assad rebel enclave was holding the civilian population hostage.
There were nightly, highly charged reports on television of the impending humanitarian catastrophe.
The Eiffel Tower dimmed its lights “in support” of the people of Aleppo.
Boris Johnson called for protests in London outside the Russian embassy, while the French ambassador to the UN predicted “one of the biggest massacres of a civilian population” since the Second World War.
Yet once the Islamists were kicked out there was no mass slaughter.
Civilians celebrated their liberation.
For the first time in five years Christians held Mass in the old city’s St Elias Cathedral.
According to the UN Human Rights Commission 500,000 Syrians returned to their homes.
We have no national interests there.
The “something-must-be-done” brigade should be ignored.