The UK Parliament has voted in favor of airstrikes in Syria. Their decision is at best mistaken and at worst may be seen as an ignominious act to bomb a country which has suffered so much in recent years as a result of, inter alia, UK actions taken to destabilize the Assad regime.
There is no sound justification for military aggression against Syria: it will not (and cannot) stop ISIS; it will further exacerbate the fraught and complex situation within Syria; it will cause the deaths of large numbers of innocent people in Syria; and it will make an attack on the UK by Islamist extremists much more likely. Certainly a number of ISIS fighters will be killed by bombing - and we may be sure the government and media will make much of these - but those who will suffer most in terms of deaths, of injury and in terms of material loss will be the civilian population of Syria. The greatest proportion of these will be women and children because that is the dynamic of war - and we may be equally sure that the government and media will do their utmost to ensure that coverage of these deaths will be minimized.
The vote to undertake further bloodletting in the region is a devastating development for prospects of peace in Syria and is in defiance of the advice of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the matter. It should shock us that yet another military adventure is being undertaken while the catastrophe of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are still fresh in our collective memory: it demonstrates very clearly that the UK government has learned nothing from its past blunders and cares less about the further mayhem that is about to be unleashed in Syria.
Indeed, the Chilcott Report on the fiasco of Iraq has still not been published more than a decade after British Prime Minister Tony Blair notoriously declared to the UK Parliament and people that Saddam possessed "weapons of Mass Destruction that could be launched against the UK within 45 minutes". In spite of this, the institutional memory is at least as short as that of the Public: since then we have seen a similar stream of falsehoods and half-truths emanate from successive UK governments concerning Libya, Syria and now ISIS... Indeed the debate in the House of Commons today was very much in the vein we have come to expect suggesting government has not felt the need to alter the tried and tested formula: repeatedly the argument was made that the bombing campaign was intended to "keep Britain safe", that the UK government had a duty to "defend its people against terrorists".
The truth is, as it was for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and a host of other countries who have been subjected to Western military aggression in recent years, the act of attacking Syria will be counter-productive in the extreme; not only will large numbers of people become "collateral damage" - to use that phrase so shockingly and casually applied to the killing and maiming of innocent people - but the refugee crisis facing Syria and Europe is about to ramp up significantly. Yet in spite of the much vaunted (and entirely mendacious) moral claims that bombing ISIS is "the right thing to do", the same politicians who claim such moral high ground will be those who press hardest to keep the influx of refugees out of the UK.
There are few military analysts who argue that ISIS can be defeated from the air, or that the act of bombing them will make the UK safer, but of course that is the argument that politicians have used today to try to sway the vote in Parliament and equally importantly, to persuade the UK people that bombing is moral and effective. It is neither. The determination of Parliament is short-sighted, morally redundant and counter-productive: not only is the strategy a very bad one, its real twofold purpose is rather more ignoble: 1) it is an act of revenge for ISIS' attack on Paris and 2) far more importantly, it is an attempt to assert the UK's claims in the region now that France and the US are heavily engaged.
The UK establishment still struggles with something of a post-imperialist world power identity crisis and this dominates much of its foreign policy decision-making. There is a genuine anxiety in UK government and administration that the UK will become marginalized and lose status if it fails to join the major powers in this struggle: it does not wish to be perceived in Washington, Berlin or Paris (or Moscow) as a mere bystander.
The real argument for UK involvement in Syria stems from a profound inferiority complex resulting from this loss of status - the same anxiety is behind the UK's insistence that it retain its nuclear weapons, even though it is apparent to most Britons and to the rest of the world, that it cannot afford them. This anxiety at the heart of UK government (of any political persuasion) is that the UK's international position would be significantly diminished if it relinquished its nuclear capability and did not follow the US into its military adventures. That policy is increasingly a bankrupt one, devoid of moral reason and rational basis - indeed, it serves to highlight the glaring fact that the UK is a nation whose days as a world military power are over. That is something the UK should accept - even rejoice in - and seek to persuade and lead others by moral example, rather than regarding its capacity to bully other nations as a display of national virility.