Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Benn has got it completely wrong


"Watch Hilary Benn's extraordinary speech on Syria which moved MPs to tears and applause" demands the Mirror. As if this display of mass sycophancy was not nauseating enough on its own, Benn has got it wrong on several counts.

Firstly, he's lumping a lot of disparate attacks around the world as ISIS attacks. That's dishonest for starters. They all have to be viewed in their unique context. He can't make the case that those attacks would not happen we ISIS not operating in Syria. Making ISIS the new Al Qaeda is not helpful.

Secondly, his assertions about air power are wrong. Air power alone was not responsible for driving ISIS back from Iraq. It's multifaceted. It had a lot to do with kicking Maliki out of the Iraqi government to create a more inclusive government, along with an amnesty for defecting army officers. Iraq used close air support and we used it to support local tribes who volunteered to fight ISIS when they were sure there was a chance of winning. That was more politics than air power.

Also, Iraqi towns were not occupied by a large number of ISIS fighters and chasing them out was not done without Iranian militias and weapons. And Iranian Su25's if I recall. That's what it took after American sponsored efforts failed. We never got a full reason why there was a media blackout for the first attempt at liberating Tikrit and the Americans most certainly are lying about it.

In protecting the Kurds that was done by force of deterrence and bluff which is effective up to a point when there is a territorial defence objective - but I don't see how this "get em where they live" approach without any ground coordination and without political exertion is going to do a damn thing.

We don't know who the supposed allies are on the ground or if they will fight when we want them to. Moreover, the air power we used last time was close air support. Something we don't even have. We had Harrier in Afghanistan and that was useless and in this case a stray bomb in the wrong camp might well turn a whole tribe to forge a temporary alliance with ISIS.

I'm no specialist in Syrian internal tribal dynamics but I'll bet the local support for ISIS is largely born of expediency and convenience and we don't actually know whose plans are being disrupted by killing them. A pretty big gamble for the sake of Western vanity.

This is chalk and cheese we are talking about. I'm not going to call Benn a liar or a deceiver. I will just say he is irresponsibly ignorant with no excuses. Empty virtue signalling, stringing a bunch of lofty sentiments together should not be the province of back benchers. Back benchers have a responsibility to know the difference and not be militarily and historically illiterate on matters this serious. He also shows us that he wasn't paying any real attention to events as they were unfolding when ISIS first became a concern.

The hackosphere have been saying that he sounds like a leader. The fact is, that's the sort of waffle that leaders on the international stage get to say. Not politicians who are supposed to scrutinise policy, hold government to account and ask tough questions. If this was a leadership bid it's a pretty cynical opportunity he has chosen to upstage Corbyn, whether you like Corbyn or not.

Benn is being lazy in not bothering to consult historians and military analysts before drawing some pretty spurious parallels. The only thing "extraordinary" on display was the cynicism, the opportunism and the extraordinary ignorance. That is why MPs cannot be allowed to make decisions of this magnitude. They are not morally equipped to do the job and the herd dynamics and bullying of Westminster make it impossible for the house to come to an adult conclusion. Decisions of this nature can only be legitimate via referendums. Our politics is too broken to let politicians take us to war.

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