Seriously though, don’t bomb Syria

As I write the debate in the House of Commons on the Syrian question is drawing to a close, and it looks like limited military action is going to be approved, though with a substantial bloc of opposition. To be fair, this outcome probably does represent the mood of the country; polls have shown a modest majority in support of bombing.

What’s interesting is that the doubters aren’t confined to usual left-leaning peaceniks; there are plenty of conservative voices questioning the wisdom of wading even further into a complex foreign conflict, with goals that are unclear and outcomes that are far from certain. Even on the left the opposition doesn’t stem entirely, or even mainly, from a pacifist outlook – pretty much everyone wants to see the back of ISIS – but rather from a conviction that the strategy proposed will only make things worse.

It would seem logical to wait until a better plan has been formulated, or at least to give less destructive options like diplomacy a bit more time to succeed. Unfortunately inaction isn’t an option our politicians feel comfortable embracing, which only reflects the anxiety prevalent in society at large; our inability to tolerate uncertainty and risk. Faced with a bad situation we want Something To Be Done, even if history tells us that it might be better to step back and let the belligerent parties sort things out themselves.

We in the West seem to think we have some special insight into conflict resolution, that we can engineer a solution that is beyond our erstwhile colonial subjects, but the evidence suggests that they would get along a lot better without our assistance, and the peace we bring is only the peace of the grave.

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