Tomorrow is the beginning of the 9th month since our Parliament, led by David Cameron and Michael Fallon (Secretary of State for Defence) debated and then voted for the RAF to be allowed to drop British bombs in Syria. At the time (2nd December 2015) these two men along with many other members of the Government spoke of the urgency to agree this permission. Others, thankfully spoke out and as well as opposing the action altogether, some argued that if we were to go to war over yet another nation, that we must at least have a strategy for this action. I have reproduced some of the comments below. However after 8 eventful months here and in Syria, our bombs continue to drop on their nation and we still have no strategy which is deeply disturbing. Two recent headlines from the Telegraph are:
from Friday “Maternity hospital in Syria bombed, leaving five dead” which is not as a result of British bombs, but is nevertheless something that has happened in a nation we are involved in waging war
and on the 19th July “US air strike in Syria kills nearly 60 civilians ‘mistaken for Isil fighters'” although the article in fact refers to 85 people murdered.
Some of the comments from December:
John Baron Conservative MP (Basildon & Billericay) – Does [the Prime Minister] understand that at a time when too many aircraft are already chasing too few targets, many of us are concerned about the lack of a comprehensive strategy, both military and non-military, including an exit strategy?
David Cameron – Where my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) and I disagree is on this: I believe that there is a strategy, of which military action is only one part.
David Cameron – What the hon. Gentleman says is right. Of course Daesh has changed its tactics from the early days when airstrikes were even more effective, but that is not an argument for doing nothing. It is an argument for using airstrikes where we can, but having a longer-term strategy to deliver the necessary ground troops through the transition. The argument before the House is simple: do we wait for perfection, which is a transitional Government in Syria, or do we start the work now of degrading and destroying that organisation at the request of our allies, at the request of the Gulf states, in the knowledge from our security experts that it will make a difference?
David Cameron – Thirdly, the real plan is that as we get a transitional Government in Syria that can represent all the Syrian people, there will be more ground troops for us to work with to defeat Daesh and the caliphate, which will keep our country safe. I know that will take a long time and that it will be complex, but that is the strategy, and we need to start with the first step, which is going after these terrorists today.
Sir Edward Garnier Conservative MP (Harborough) – I know from my time in government how long, how hard and how anxiously the Prime Minister thinks about these questions, but will he ensure that we complete the military aspect of this campaign, if at all possible, so that we can then get on to the really important, but perhaps the most difficult aspect of the questions that he has posed—namely, the post-conflict stabilisation and the reconstruction of Syria, because without this early stage there will not be a Syria left to reconstruct?
It was clear in the days after the debate that certain elements promoted by the Government were no longer realistic such as the expectation that somehow ground forces would emerge. For that reason we now need a strategy based on reality, not on optimism.