Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Labour Reverts to Blairite Foreign Policy Stance

After the fairly brief hiatus during Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour party, where Prime Minister Cameron’s first attempt to bomb Syria was thwarted by the former Labour leader, his party has resumed the ill fated policy of military ‘liberal intervention’ in foreign lands, particularly the middle east.

‘Deciding to intervene militarily in another country is one of the most serious decisions parliament can make, but equally nobody should be in any doubt that inaction is also a decision that will have consequences in Syria’.

Of course this was prefaced by ‘humanitarian’ arguments about ‘safe havens’ etc and the need to pursue United Nations (UN) agreement for air raids on Syria, but at the end of the day, it appears, Britain will bomb the country with or without authorisation of from the UN. It sounds all rather familiar to the justifications claimed by Tony Blair for military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and David Cameron’s spin for the bombing of Libya.

All of which turned out well didn’t it? Hundreds of thousands of people dead and maimed, and a deteriorating situation for those left alive.

I should say that I don’t blame the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for this return to the failed aggressive foreign policy of recent years. Clearly, Corbyn’s instincts are to not get involved in this kind military misadventure, but as we have seen in other policy areas, Trident and the approach the nation’s public finances are the other two examples displayed recently, Corbyn is not in charge of Labour party policy.

The situation in Syria, is of course, an example of geopolitics and the proxy war, between the US and its western allies with its regional allies, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states against Russia and its Shia Muslim regional allies, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. The region is strategically important, and it has an abundance of oil.

This is never really mentioned in the western media reports except in terms of Russian ambitions for the region and instead is sold as a war on Sunni Islamic State (IS) who control large parts of Syria (and Iraq). There is no doubt that IS is a blood thirsty death cult and they pose a danger in the region and beyond, but if Cameron had had his way in 2013 and got approval for bombing Assad’s forces, IS would probably control the whole of Syria by now. Look at what happened in Libya, for example, when western bombing overthrew Gaddafi. Jihadi extremists now control parts of Libya, when before they controlled none of the country.

We refuse to learn lessons from the recent past that demonstrate that every time we intervene militarily in the region, we make matters even worse. Before we invaded Iraq there was no IS in Iraq, now they control about a third of the country, removing Assad in Syria would be making the same mistake again.

Assad is just as brutal a dictator as Saddam was, or Gaddafi for that matter, but is the situation for your average person living in these countries now better or worse since their removal from power? For Europe too, we have to now cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees from these countries, who sensibly want to flee to safety. How can any of this be deemed a success? And yet the intention is to pursue the same failed strategy in Syria.

Russia wants to prop up the Assad regime which at least looks to be a more sensible approach to ridding Syria of IS. It is complete hypocrisy for the western powers to argue a moral line against this, when we have propped up numerous dictators around the world when it suits our neo-imperialist agenda, including our old friend Saddam in the 1980s when he was gassing Iranians and Kurds, with gas we sold to him.

So when Benn says that ‘inaction has consequences’ he is correct, but history teaches us that military action has far worse ones.

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