Hilary Benn’s speech was great. His call to arms in defence of our values was moving. I am also an internationalist, and I believe in the international rule of law and our collective responsibility to protect. But here’s the thing.
Firstly, Tony Blair’s decision to back the neocon war in Iraq dealt a body-blow to the credibility of the United Nations and the entire system of international law, from which it is still reeling (see Crimea); and it was a knock-out blow to the responsibility to protect (see Gaza, Syria, Yemen, etc, etc). The Labour Party has to take responsibility for this before we can take it seriously as an advocate of military intervention. Hilary Benn’s speech was moving but it really is hard to suspend scepticism when you think that not all that long ago his party colleagues were giving speeches about the dodgy dossier in that very chamber, sowing the seed from which DAESH would flourish.
Secondly, if Benn is serious about fighting fascists, that comes at a cost. The International Brigades lost up to 25,000 fighters in their fight against Franco; millions died to defeat Hitler and Mussolini. Is Benn advocating sending in our troops against DAESH? Because if this really is a war to defeat fascism, then we have to do what it takes. Sending in bombers for a sanitised arms-length crack at the blackshirts feels like a politically-acceptable half measure taken mostly for show.