The Syrian civil war is an immensely complex conflict; I don’t pretend to be anything like an expert on the subject, and I am immediately suspicious of anyone who claims to be. This, combined with the horrific loss of life that has already occurred, makes me very reluctant to discuss it─ it’s a complicated, horrible affair that has affected hundreds upon thousands of people, and it does not have any obvious solutions.
And so, when it was announced that there would be a fresh wave of airstrikes against the Syrian government, I was immediately suspicious. It sounded like we were merely throwing petrol on an already burning inferno, and somehow expecting the flames to miraculously subside. I am also immediately inclined to be against anything that The Donald and the Theresa Maybot™ are in favour of.
But we need to consider what’s actually happened before descending into hysteria. At the time of writing, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom have collaborated in airstrikes against three sites controlled by the Syrian government that have been linked to the production and storage of chemical weapons. This airstrike happened in response to the use of chemical weapons in the city of Douma, which has left at least seventy civilians dead.
The sites in question were a chemical weapons production facility in Damascus, and two chemical weapons storage facilities near Homs. No one was killed in these strikes, and we have every reason to believe that they have seriously undermined the ability of the Assad regime to produce, store, and use chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
In this context, I personally find it hard to not approve of the most recent round of airstrikes. They were not great acts of imperial aggression, and nor were they the actions of scheming warmongers; they were used to uphold international law, prevent war crimes, and deprive the Assad regime of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
This is not to say that I like Assad; I don’t. This is not to say that the airstrikes will end the Syrian civil war; they won’t. They will do exactly what their explicit aim was─ they will punish the Syrian government for breaking international law and needlessly buterching their own citizens. Countries like the UK have a certain responsibility in international affairs. We are a free, stable and, most importantly, powerful country that has the ability to project its power beyond its borders and prevent humanitarian catastrophes. If we have the ability to prevent war crimes, I strongly believe that we also have a responsibility to prevent war crimes.
There does seem to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the airstrikes, as well. The USAAF, the RAF, and the French Air Force have not indiscriminately carpet bombed Syrian cities in the vague hope that some of the bombs will take out chemical weapons facilities at the cost of hefty collateral damage. The RAF, for example, used no more than four Tornado GR4s that fired Storm Shadow missiles at predetermined sites that were chosen because they would maximise damage to Assad’s arsenal of WMDs whilst being far away from known concentrations of civilian populations. We have every reason to believe that our efforts have been successful in eliminating the chemical weapons facilities, which will protect Syrian civilians and ultimately leave us more secure in the West.
I would also be wary of anyone who compares our recent intervention with the Iraq war. So many people urge that we need to “learn the lesson” of the Iraq war, which is of course reasonable. But that lesson was not to never intervene in the Middle East ever again, especially when we are faced with a despot with a proclivity to gas his own citizens. Assad needs to know that using chemical weapons will not go unpunished by the international community, and these strikes have sent a powerful message to him and his forces.
In supporting in the airstrikes, neither I nor the government is claiming to have a silver bullet solution to the Syrian civil war. (I would also add that supporting these airstrikes doesn’t automatically entail endorsing further action, either.) The airstrikes were measured, effective, and managed to punish Assad whilst simultaneously protecting Syrian civilians from being the victims of future war crimes. I wholeheartedly support them, and, in the interest of upholding international law, I would urge others to support them too.
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The views expressed in Viewpoint are not the views of The Saint, but are the individual opinion of the author.