We have all learnt that Cameron routinely makes up policy on the hoof, but he has really outdone himself by his explanation of his case for bombing Syria. First of all as he states it, his military case is the defeat of ISIS. This is risible since the contribution that he is planning for Britain to make to that end would be marginal to the point of invisibility. It would not only be wholly ineffective, it would also have the perverse effect of making the streets of Britain less safe as ISIS or its affiliates sought to take revenge. But most important of all, it is easy to enter a war by some vainglorious posturing as Cameron is intending, but very difficult to exit a war as Iraq and Afghanistan make all too clear. There is the other inconvenient problem for Cameron that if Jeremy Corbyn wins on Saturday, his chances of winning a Commons vote are far from certain.
Cameron’s second declared goal is the political objective of strengthening the Iraqi government. This is equally fanciful thinking. UK participation in a few bombing raids in Syria will not have the slightest impact in achieving a more secure government in Iraq. It is a cliche’ that everyone understands that no war can be won or country saved from defeat by bombing from the air, only by boots on the ground. The protection of Baghdad is entirely a matter of the resolution and discipline of the Iraqi army, reinforced as it already is by heavy weaponry supplied by the West. The truth is that adding a few UK bombing sorties in Syria is far more likely to spur extra recruitment for ISIS/al-Qaeda than consolidate the government in Iraq.
Cameron’s third goal is to help to lead a new diplomatic initiative in Syria which with the support of Russia and China would install a government of national unity in Damascus. This again is a preposterously bloated ambition. The idea that Russia or China will take any notice of Britain’s minuscule participation in Syria in modifying or reversing their deeply held positions on the Middle East is again absurd. The proposal also rather arrogantly dismisses the far more important role of the US, EU and UN which are bound to be the key players in any wider initiative alongside not only Russia and China, but also the regional powers of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Who does Cameron think he is?