by Ellie Williams-Brown and Mugdha Godbole
Syria has been an unstable region since the Arab Spring and this is the first time British military action is being taken against militants in Syria. The House of Commons has voted for airstrikes and so will be dropping bombs on parts they deemed to be controlled by Daesh. They will be doing this as most people do not want to see a repeat of Iraq, but that is also part of the reasons that a few MPs are not voting against airstrikes - as they do not want to be made fools of. There is some fear towards these bombings due to the horrors and atrocities that we have seen in the past few years; this may have coloured some views.
The Syrian bombings have created controversy and some of the best speeches Parliament has seen for a long time, even though choosing a side is almost as complicated as the situation in Syria. But it is quite clear that, despite some controversy, bombing Syria will cause far more harm than good, to Syria and to Britain.
Syria is an unstable region, and by dropping bombs there the country’s already fragile infrastructure will be broken far more than it already has been. The British Government says that it will only be targeting places which fill Daesh’s (also known as ISIS/IS/ISIL) coffers, not people, but having already hit two oilfields, it is not clear how doctors, civilians and workers there suddenly are not classed as people.
The people who are not hit by the bombs will also have their lives damaged by the bombings; their offices and cities will be hit and so they will try to escape Syria. These bombings are going to create more refugees who will try to seek sanctuary in Europe; and, if they do not leave Syria, they (or their families) may be killed.
If the potential numbers of civilians likely to be killed does not concern the British Government maybe the amount they will spend on it will. For a Tornado plane to go for a six hour sortie will cost £210,000, for a Paveway (a laser-guided bomb) it is £22,000 each and the Brimstone missiles (another type of bomb being dropped) it is £105,000 each. With the recent public spending cuts in Britain that money could go towards funding: 20 paramedics or 20 police officers or 20 teachers or 19 nurses or 18 firefighters or 18 junior doctors. With the cuts here why bomb civilians when that money should be spent on keeping the British public safe?
Bombing Syria is playing into the hands of Daesh. It may even be what Daesh wants. It is apparent they are not quaking in their boots at the very thought of us dropping bombs on Syria. No. Britain dropping bombs on Syria, like the US and France, will just fuel Daesh propaganda, allowing extremism to infiltrate a peaceful religion. It could encourage young Muslims, who are being disassociated from their community because of negative stereotypes that Daesh is causing, to turn against Western values. This is likely to help perpetuate Daesh’s views on how awful the West is and show Daesh as a place of refuge. Whereas in reality they are a terrorist group with ideologies so medieval that al-Qaeda rejected their views as they were too awful even for the terrorist group that masterminded the 9/11 atrocities.
It is likely that this propaganda will fuel the hatred of the West and result in more volunteers leaving their homes to go and blow themselves up in a wave of copycat Paris attacks. The Jihadists will try to justify this as rational, arguing Britain is dropping multiple bombs on Syria, so why shouldn’t an Daesh member not blow up a train station in the UK or the US? This is not just an idle assumption as Daesh militants have already warned that the Paris attack was, “Only the beginning of the storm.” Opponents of the bombing have pointed out that by sanctioning bombing raids, Britain is giving Daesh more ammunition. Labour MP Paul Flynn commented: “This is a war of hearts and minds that cannot be won by bombs and bullets.”
So what are the alternatives? Supporters of the bombing argue that we cannot just look on as Daesh expand and take over the entirety of the Middle East. They claim the people in Britain are too detached from Syria to make a judgement. But the British government choose to bomb Syria, and they are just as isolated from the conflict as most British people. Instead of sending British jets on bombing raids that could kill civilians why did they not consider more targeted missions such as killing the Caliph, the self appointed leader of Daesh? Perhaps that would be more effective by throwing the terrorist organisation into a momentary crisis where then military action could be taken against them with ground troops. This could be effective in taking back territory from Daesh and restoring freedom. This would arguably be a more effective strategy to counter Daesh propaganda, as the West would not be seen to be targeting civilians and, therefore, would be empowered to claim the moral high ground and at the same time restore some faith in the West. At the same time it would help reduce misguided prejudice against the wider Muslim community. Another part of the strategy should involve strengthening local governments in war-torn Syria, which would not only help defeat Daesh, but also start to help mend relationships between the Shia and Sunnis (the two main branches of Islam in Syria) as if the governing bodies were all from different faiths and working together, with one main cause, it would start the basis of forming a more stable government overall.
While these ideas are all based in Syria, British people can attempt to stop radicalisation at home because many young impressionable Muslims will be radicalised far more easily if they are pushed out of their communities, which is what is happening to many because of the underlying fear of a terrorist threat, and ignorance of what being a Muslim truly means.
As veteran Labour politician Tony Benn wisely said many years ago, “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”