1. Air strikes achieve nothing without sufficient ground support
Everyone agrees Isis must be destroyed and driven out of their strongholds. But air strikes in isolation will never achieve this. Military experts are certain that coordinated ground support is needed to recapture cities like Raqqa. Cameron knows this; which is why his strategy before parliament contained the spurious figure of 70,000 Syrian moderates willing to fight our cause. First, this mystery army is not united. It’s made up of 100-120 different groups, largely preoccupied with fighting Assad’s regime and our Turkish allies. Second, the figure itself has been widely derided. Some doubt if there are even 7,000 moderates there to be mobilised. And third, to label them ‘moderates’ is simply misleading when many groups share the murderous value of al-Qaeda.
2. Our bombs will kill many innocent people (and that is what Isis want)
Isis have a mantra: never be a target. Civilians are used as human shields, scattering among them in busy apartment blocks, and seeking refugee in the safety of mosques. Even digging underground tunnels to hide away from drone strikes. In propaganda videos they’re seen driving together in conveys. But, in reality, cars are used as decoys, with civilians always at the wheel. Raqqa, our primary target, is home to 200,000 civilians – now banned from fleeing under the punishment of death. Compare this to the 20,000 Isis fighters in the city; a figure that has dropped to only a few thousand as they flee to Mosul and Deir ez-Zor. Regardless of the precision of our weapons, many civilians will die, and that is what Isis want. Just listen to Syrians fortunate enough to have fled, pleading for no more bombs.
3. It will only heighten the danger to the British people
David Cameron failed to address concerns that bombing Isis strongholds will make us safer here in Britain; for surely our safety is the prime minister’s first priority. Evidence suggests it will only increase the threat on home soil. Patrick Coburn, the Independent journalist, and surest voice on the subject, believes the limited efficacy of our strikes does not mean their response will be proportionate. Isis are unpredictable and could launch a severe retaliatory attack; most likely on British tourists. They see Paris as a ‘great success’ and will surely set out to reek havoc on our streets. If bombing alone is unlikely to reclaim territory, a show of force – under pressure from our allies – can never justify heightening the threat at home.
4. Seeking peace through violence only fertilises insurgency (at home and in the middle east)
In trying to seek peace through violence, our bombs – reigning down on innocent people – will only radicalise more Syrians into the arms of Isis. Before we invaded Iraq there were only a few hundred terrorists. Now, there are 100,000 insurgents committed to varying evil causes. Isis rely on the civilian we perish for propaganda purposes, spreading images of dead children to turn opinion against the west.
It plays into their wider agenda; to spread fear throughout nations like ours, turning communities against their muslim population. And deep-seated anxieties so easily come to the fore; just look at the recent disgraceful Sun poll, so strident in it’s ambition to ratchet up hatred. If jihadism grows abroad, imagine what Isis can achieve outside the Middle East?
Cameron has failed to explain how extending air strikes to Syria will bring about a political settlement to the civil war. Instead of trying to accelerate international peace talks in Vienna, widely seen as the only method of eradicating Isis, he’s opted for a knee-jerk response. One made on an emotional register after Paris, that will only fertilise a greater, more impassioned insurgency throughout Syria.
5. Without a plan for reconstruction, bombing is likely to replace a nightmare with a nightmare
Have the aftermath of our actions in Iraq and Libya taught us nothing? Even if, against all odds, we drive Isis out of Raqqa and other stronghold cities, no reconstruction plan has been put in place to achieve peace in the region. Bombing Isis out will leave a vacuum of power, likely to descend into anarchy, before being filled by an equally brutal regime. Cameron, and allied leaders, have provided no such stabilisation plan, and until they agree on Assad’s future, military strikes alone are an irresponsible disservice to the people of Syria living within this nightmare.
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