We've got enough problems at home without charging into yet May 28, 2013 6:20:23 GMT
Post by Focus on May 28, 2013 6:20:23 GMT
What infuses British governments with a mania for thrusting their sticky hands into other people’s messes that are absolutely no responsibility of ours?
Foreign Secretary William Hague spent the Bank Holiday at an EU meeting in Brussels, striving to persuade his European colleagues not to renew their arms embargo against Syria, and instead ship weapons to the anti-Assad rebels.
Hague, like the Prime Minister, is panting to do a good deed in a wicked world. Enthusiastically backed by the Old Etonian boy scout troop that passes for Downing Street policy advisers, they are eager to follow their 2011 ‘success’ in Libya by helping to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
William Hague spent the Bank Holiday at an EU meeting in Brussels, striving to persuade his European colleagues not to renew their arms embargo against Syria, and instead ship weapons to the anti-Assad rebels
One of the most senior of David Cameron’s staffers speaks messianically of a ‘moral imperative’ to tilt the balance in Syria. The Prime Minister himself spent much of his recent visit to Washington urging President Barack Obama to overcome his gut reluctance to intervene.
Why, why, why? It seems extraordinary that a British national leader striving to preserve his premiership from the threat of abject failure, amid grave difficulties with the economy and Europe, should be eager to involve Britain in a huge gamble abroad.
The only other EU nation which shares Mr Cameron’s enthusiasm for arming the Syrians is France, where President Francois Hollande is in even deeper trouble than himself, and eager for foreign adventures to distract attention from his follies at home.
David Cameron might say: ‘But don’t you watch TV? Every day, commentators report new carnage in Syria and castigate Western politicians for failing to act. The Economist, The Financial Times and The Times are all demanding aid for the rebels. Surely we have a duty not to stand idly by.’
Yet one of the media’s chronic vices is to describe horrors in faraway places, sounding that baleful cry ‘Something Must Be Done’, without having the smallest credible idea about what this should be.
Again and again, Western involvements, even in famine relief, have proved lamentably ill-judged, creating the very opposite impact to that which they intended.
I was among those who opposed the Cameron-led operation in Libya two years ago, which the Government now considers a triumph. But that story is by no means over.
I have promised to apologise in print to the Prime Minister if, a few years hence, the new Libya which he sponsored proves democratic, unified and friendly towards the West.
Students of the Libyan story say I am in little early peril of having to dine off my hat.
Distraction : The only other EU nation which shares David Cameron's enthusiasm for arming the Syrians is France, where President Francois Hollande is in even deeper trouble than himself
The Syrian civil war has created almost unprecedented unanimity among professional military, intelligence and diplomatic opinion, that Western intervention would be madness.
One planner told me earlier this month: ‘We can work out 20 scenarios for getting stuck into Syria. But we can’t see one for getting out again afterwards.’
President Assad is a loathsome tyrant, backed by some of the nastiest governments in the world — Chinese, Russian and Iranian.
Beijing and Moscow have repeatedly vetoed UN action against the Syrian government. This is partly because they see diplomacy as a zero-sum game: they oppose whatever the West wants.
Assad is a long-standing client of the Russians and provides them with a strategically important Mediterranean naval base.
But rebel forces are dominated by Islamists. They are divided among themselves into scores of factions and are widely acknowledged to be responsible for atrocities almost as loathsome as those being committed by government forces.
It is still uncertain whether they have contrived to manufacture evidence of alleged chemical-weapon use by the regime for their own propaganda purposes. Their principal foreign supporters are Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the least democratic states in the Middle East.
General Colin Powell used an immortal phrase to warn President George W. Bush against going into Iraq in 2003. ‘It’ll be pottery barn rules,’ said the former U.S. Secretary of State. ‘You break it, you own it.’
This proved horribly true in Iraq, and would be equally so in Syria.
Assad is backed by some of the nastiest governments in the world - Chinese, Russian and Iranian. Also, Beijing and Moscow have repeatedly vetoed UN action against the Syrian government
The moment the West arms rebel factions, it assumes implicit responsibility for the future of the country and institutionalises the civil war.
The Syrian government’s forces are nowhere near as weak and vulnerable as were those of President Gaddafi two years ago. And, unlike the Libyan insurgents, those operating in Syria control no big tract of territory.
The Hezbollah militias now fighting actively on the side of Assad are formidable warriors: their involvement threatens to extend the struggle into Lebanon, where they are based.
If Syria breaks up, as many experts fear, its collapse will have implications for the stability of Turkey, Iran and Iraq, as well as Jordan.
This is why the Americans are so reluctant to take a hand. They recognise — as our government will not — that the consequences of intervention are many and various, and completely unpredictable.
William Hague says if Britain gets its way and the rebels receive guns from us, these will be supplied under ‘carefully controlled conditions’.
That is a notably silly statement from an intelligent man. We would have no means of monitoring the ultimate fate of arms shipments to the region unless we put troops on the ground, which even Hague and Cameron do not propose.
Nonetheless, it is impossible simply to offload crates of anti-aircraft and anti-armour weapons at the Syrian border and invite rebels to read the instructions carefully. Somebody would have to train the users, which, of course, means British personnel.
Reluctant to take a hand : The Americans recognise - as our government will not - that the consequences of intervention in Syria are many and various, and completely unpredictable
And what happens if, having armed the rebels, the Assad government keeps winning and murdering anyway?
It is almost impossible to do a little bit of intervention. Once one undertakes sponsorship of one side or the other, one is stuck with the client.
Western aircraft could impose a no-fly zone on government forces, but as the very smart ex-CIA officer and White House adviser Bruce Riedel says: ‘Once you set up a military no-fly zone or safe zone, you’re on a slippery slope, mission creep, and before you know it, you have boots on the ground.’
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said he still cannot see a U.S. armed initiative which promises ‘an understandable outcome. There’s a lot of analysis to be done before reaching any major decisions that would push U.S. policy in the direction of military options’.
Opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic show overwhelming majorities opposing Western military intervention.
The Prime Minister will earn the gratitude of the British people by sorting out the unholy mess at home, rather than by starting yet another foreign adventure in a cause that can profit us nothing
I doubt that David Cameron will gain a single vote at the next general election by leading a charge into Syria; and if such a mission goes sour, he could lose plenty.
There is scope for Britain and the rest of the EU to step up humanitarian aid to the region, especially through Jordan.
There are slender hopes that the proposed peace conference in Geneva will force the Syrian warring parties to negotiate seriously.
But even if diplomatic efforts fail and the bloody struggle goes on in Syria, I can think of absolutely no reason for Britain to lead a crusade to save the country, apart from the ill-judged idealism of a few space cadets that are around the Prime Minister.
Surely to heaven we have learnt enough from our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan to display a morsel of humility about trying more of the same.
The Prime Minister will earn the gratitude of the British people by sorting out the unholy mess at home, rather than by starting yet another foreign adventure in a cause that can profit us nothing.
['What infuses British governments with a mania for thrusting their sticky hands into other people’s messes that are absolutely no responsibility of ours?'] -- Bloody good question!! - Cameron and his cronies need to take a lot more notice of what's happening in their 'own back yard' and a lot less notice of what's happening in other 'foreign' countries!!! - Fx