Saturday 27 September 2014

At sixes and sevens

In a recent novel entitled ‘I am Pilgrim’, British-born writer Terry Hayes describes a jihadist plot to smuggle deadly pathogens into the United States.  The plot is narrowly foiled by the modern version of super-hero: a brilliant secret agent, who saves the day – and the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

It’s fiction, of course; but it’s not far-fetched.  In fact, it's very likely that, somewhere in the Middle East, jihadists are busy plotting some version of a chemical or biological attack.  After all, 9/11 has proven that for jihadists mass murder is a worthy deed; and that they are capable of careful planning and executing complex operations.

Well, I guess we should not worry too much.  Bond-like secret agents may be fictional; but Her Majesty’s Government is diligently dealing with the challenge posed by jihadists.  Isn't it?

Six days of political wheeling and dealing; six hours of speech-making; six Tornado warplanes to attack ISIL in Iraq.  The other side of the equation is not known yet: will it be 600 dead civilians?  6,000?  60,000?

In a press statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-affirmed his support for UK’s right to defend itself against incessant rocket attacks coming from Iraq.  However, Mr. Netanyahu also expressed ‘deep concern’ for the large number of Iraqi casualties and called on the British government to do more to protect civilians.  The Israeli Prime Minister asked Britain to act in a proportional way, in strict compliance with International Law.  He called on both sides – UK and ISIL – to show restraint, avoid further escalation and negotiate an immediate ceasefire.  The Israeli leader has also expressed support for the mediation efforts by North Korea.  A British delegation is expected to arrive in Pyongyang, for indirect talks with a joint delegation of ISIL, Al-Nusra and the Mahdi Army.

One can and should joke.  But the only laughable thing is yesterday’s decision itself.

Firstly, because it is so ineffective as to merit the description ‘much ado about nothing’.  What exactly are six warplanes supposed to achieve??  How will they make a difference – ANY difference – against guerrilla fighters spread over a large territory and able to easily ‘hide in plain view’, being indistinguishable from the general population?

Secondly, because of the pathetic efforts to portray the decision as ‘ethical’ and ‘legal’.  Of course, nobody (not even Al-Qaeda!) disputes that ISIL are a bunch of berserk murderers and that the world would be a more habitable place without them.  Yet, to a weak leadership and a political class plagued by moral relativism, that’s not reason enough.

Hence, the pathetic efforts to ‘engineer’ a bit of ‘moral high ground’:

Like the ‘request for assistance’ issued by the ‘Iraqi government’.  Of course, that ‘government’ represents at most one religious and political faction in an artificial (and failed, and in practice non-existent) state.  The ‘government’ of the ‘People’s Republic of Donetsk’ has issued a similar request for Russian assistance against ‘Ukrainian aggression’.

Like the attempt to hide behind a ‘local coalition’ of Arab states which (nominally, at least) oppose ISIL.  Of course, those ‘states’ are in reality disgusting dictatorial regimes, some even more skilled in the ‘art’ of beheading than ISIL itself.  Not to mention that, even assuming those regimes were representative (they aren’t) and Iraq was a real state (it isn’t), it would still remain unclear exactly what right the former have to intervene in the internal affairs of the latter.

Like the ridiculous pretence of operating only in Iraq, not in Syria – ‘for now’.  This, surely, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Iraq (like Libya) has oil, while Syria has not.  Nah, it can’t be that!  It’s only because, you see, the (factional) ‘government’ of the (artificial) ‘state’ of Iraq has ‘requested assistance’; while the (factional) ‘government’ of (the equally artificial, fellow colonial contraption) ‘Syria’ has not.  So, just out of curiosity, I ask: will the six warplanes taking off from bases in former British colony Cyprus make a long detour in order to ‘respect the sovereignty’ of former French colony Syria, before dropping their bombs somewhere in the former British Mandate of Mesopotamia?  Sweet ‘moral high ground’!!!

Thirdly, because of the way this decision has been taken.  What a display of weak leadership when a party in government – one elected by an uncontested majority in a democratic process – seeks to cover its quivering hinds by making a ‘deal’ with the opposition!

But fourthly – and most tragically – because the symbolic ‘gesture’ of six warplanes (or, rather, the larger operation that gesture is meant to ‘support’) is yet another short-term tactic reaction devoid of any long term, proactive strategy.  Throughout six hours of clueless ‘debate’, none of the six hundred and fifty MPs asked the six-million-dollar-question: ‘WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS?’  What’s the strategy?  How do you want ‘Iraq’ – and indeed the entire Middle East – to look like in ten or twenty years?  And how are you going to achieve that vision?  And please don’t bother answering ‘it’s none of our business, it’s for them people to decide’; why is tactical bombing ‘our business’, but political strategizing isn’t??

Her Majesty’s Government (along with the rest of the ‘political class’) has just wasted many thousands of taxpayer-funded men-hours to choreograph a ‘debate’ on sending six warplanes to ‘precision bomb’ (LOL!!) shadows, in the hope of hitting a few of the tens of thousands of operatives belonging to one terrorist organisation in one small corner of the Middle East; can we please have a debate on long-term strategies aimed at tackling that problem-region as a whole?  Can we please do so without much regard to ‘borders’ drawn decades ago by colonial interests?  Can we please aim to achieve not just selfish oil-enabling ‘political stability’, but also a bit of welfare, happiness and freedom to the hapless inhabitants of said problem-region?  And can we please have that debate sooner rather than later, preferably before the problem really rears its ugly head and kicks us in the nuts??  Thank you!

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