Bombing Syria: Did Parliament make the right decision?

This week's For and Against looks at whether the UK Parliament's decision to extend airstrikes to Syria is the right decision.

Yes: Saxon Norgard

United Nations Security Council resolution 2249 (2015) was unanimously passed on November 20th – unequivocally condemning ISIS and acknowledging the ‘unprecedented’ threat that the organisation poses to global security. This rare example of complete agreement between the five permanent members of the Council reinforces, perhaps only symbolically after the recent attacks on Paris, the urgency with which this vile group must be eradicated. There can be no negotiating with ISIS, no peace agreement or political solution: only by force can we rid the world of this evil.

The UK along with the US and other allied nations has been bombing ISIS in Iraq for well over a year now, supporting Iraqi and Kurdish security forces on the ground in retaking territory and generally degrading the group’s capabilities.

But whilst there have been successes, there have also been failures. The city of Ramadi for example, just 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, fell to ISIS militants in May 2015. More important however, is the fact that we have seen a significant increase in extremist activity affecting us at home. In the past year alone UK intelligence agencies have foiled seven terror plots on home soil, and as recently as June British tourists were the main targets for an ISIS-inspired attack in Tunisia. It is clear that we are simply not doing enough.

One might justifiably ask how airstrikes in Syria will help our predicament. First and foremost is the fact that Syria is and always has been ISIS’s headquarters. Its de facto capital ar-Raqqa is situated just above the border, and it was only by consolidating its forces in Syria that the group was able to subsequently take territory in Iraq. We must take out the “head of the snake” as David Cameron put it, and the UK undoubtedly has the military capability to make a significant contribution to doing this.

Moreover, it is clear that by limiting our attacks to Iraqi territory we are positively enabling ISIS, which of course does not respect the border and has been able to take a certain degree of refuge within Syria. Allowing this ‘safe haven’ to persist is not only damaging efforts to rectify the situation in Iraq, but is allowing ISIS to maintain the utopian narrative that it uses to recruit. Thus by destroying its capabilities in Syria, we reduce the likelihood of ISIS-inspired attacks at home by individuals lured into the group’s ideology by its slick propaganda.

Beyond our own self interest lies a moral prerogative as well. The UK alongside the US was the main instigator of the Iraq War, the conflict that lit the sectarian fires which gave birth to ISIS. We have perhaps the greatest ethical duty of any coalition state (except the US) to eliminate ISIS and cannot, particularly in light of resolution 2249, abscond this duty and allow others to take action in Syria on our behalf.

More fundamentally, we have an obligation to those innocent civilians affected by this humanitarian crisis to restore the peace that was destroyed partially as a result of our actions.

No: George Caulton

David Cameron made a statement last week urging his MPs to not “walk through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn”, naming protestors of the decision to bomb Syria a “bunch of terrorist sympathisers”. Now that the decision to bomb Syria has been approved, the UK will effectively be retelling the brutal nature of history.

Whilst Cameron states that protestors of the bombing are “terrorist sympathisers”, has he considered the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of innocent civilians will lose their lives?

Think back to Iraq, the casualties of that specific war and where both the severely injured and killed amounted to a devastating number of lives lost, a number that is said to be between 112,000-133,000 people. Think back to Libya, another 72 innocent people were killed. History has spoken and lessons have evidently not been learned; yet Cameron still inexplicitly endorses the view that an act of terrorism will ultimately conquer terrorism.

Innocent Syrian citizens live in ultimate fear and destitution every single day. An account from a Syrian man printed in The Independent exemplifies the destructive nature of ISIS and how civilians already live in a land turned from peace and tranquillity to devastation and obliteration.

“If you want to know why so many Syrians are seeking a new life in Europe, just come to Aleppo. Large parts of our city have been laid to waste. Bombs and rockets fall every day, and we never know when or where they will hit. We do not feel safe in our homes, in our schools, in the streets, in our churches or in our mosques. It is exhausting to live with this fear hour after hour, day after day…”

Both France and the US have already initiated and operated upon the action of bombing Syria, obliterating approximately one third of the ISIS stronghold, yet ISIS still have the ability to cause episodes of terror across both the west and Syria itself. Therefore, an additional airstrike from the UK will ultimately create a situation where more civilians will be killed, alongside the potential impact of causing more tension, backlash and revenge on IS towards Britain. With this in mind, would the UK bombing have much of an impact in the overall destruction of ISIS? Or just be another number to add to the casualties of Syria.

A concern of the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is that of the UK’s security if the bombing proceeds. Within 2015 alone, there have been ten significant attacks outside of Syria threatening and heightening the need for protection and further amounts of security within the borders of Britain. The Paris attacks, the Yemen mosque bombings, the Tunisia beach attack and the Beirut bombings to name just a few, all suggest that bombing Syria is not an effective way of managing the security of potential terrorised countries. This was explicitly commented on by Corbyn, as the chaos caused by bombing would anticipate a gradual backlash of the UK’s security.

Terrorism is not ameliorated by terrorism, bombing Syria will potentially kill thousands of innocent civilians who already live in turmoil and ultimately threaten the UK’s security.

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