Bombing Syria and fighting fascists

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.

2 thoughts on “Bombing Syria and fighting fascists

  1. Jacqui

    Completely agree with the analysis. Also would add that a better way to defend internationalism and liberal values would be for us to take in more refugees. Bombing is an imperfect mean to the end of winning hearts and minds (and is in fact guaranteed to create foot soldiers for the enemy when bombs fall on innocent people), but solidarity will have a much greater effect. It strikes me that for every few hundred Europeans we lose to join the (often upper) ranks of the neo-colonial enterprise that is ISIS, several thousands are running the other way, seeking refuge in Europe.

    Working on this issue I feel a sense of shame at how this generation’s war refugees are being discriminated against and criminalised. The hearts and minds is not just about winner the war but also the peace. And so it is not just a moral imperative but also in Europe’s interest to take them in.


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