Not really gotten around to pass on my observations this week on Syria, but regardless of what your views are its proving to be a bit of a red line issue.
Firstly the UK parliament voted against taking any action, with the result that within hours the Americans were referring to the French as Americas Oldest Ally with apparently the special relationship (i.e. Britains right to be Americas poodle) at an end. Paddy Ashdown (ex-SAS and the only member of the House of Lords who can kill a man with just his shoe laces |-|) was turned into a manic depressive by the news. On last Mondays Radio 4 Today programme he even when so far as to question what was the point of the UK army after this vote. Putin was also goading the UK, calling Britain just one little Island (Very insulting! I thought being a small nation of drunks was Ireland’s claim to fame!).
Across the pond in America, weve seen the core of the Democratic Party, trying to circle the wagons around the President, with the support of certain military veterans in the Republican party (notably John Mc Cain). Oddly enough the gun totting Tea Party types seem to be against military action, adopting an isolationist posture unseen among Republicans since the attack on Pearl Harbour.
And again, I think what many on the left who oppose military action dont seem to understand are the long term consequences of failing to take action in Syria.
For example, take the Trident missile system. Something which, for the record, I consider to be a waste of public money for a weapon of questionable military value. However, I can all but you guarantee now, regardless of who wins the next election, Trident will be renewed. Why? Because Syria (the military will argue) has proven that there are regimes who are willing to use WMDs and its clear international law can no longer be relied upon to restrain them.
Similarly, I suspect once America gets its next election out of the way, missile defence will reappear (while theyve backed off on deployment since Obama, they are still working on the technology and have been conducting field tests in Israel). And again I can all but guarantee it will be installed in Europe (why? Syria!) over the objections of the Russians (despite the fact it increases European vulnerability to attack in certain scenarios) and against the views of many across the continent.
That PRISM computer system everyone is getting upset about (as in Big Brother is really watching you! hi guys :wave:). Well now the NSA has the perfect excuse to maintain it. Given the Syrians claim that the gas was released by Al-Qaeda, no doubt the spooks will now argue they need to monitor everyones e-mail to stop such weapons being smuggled into the West! :no:
What worries the likes of Paddy Ashdown and John Mc Cain is that letting Assad get away with using chemical weapons, is that it risks undoing nearly a century of legislation aimed at eliminating and restricting the use of chemical weapons from combat (and certainly outlawing their use against civilians). While you could argue Syria is a war of choice, their fear is that one day the West will find itself in a war of necessity against a future enemy whom weve just given the green light to use chemical weapons again not only our armed forces but also civilians.
The Fourth Protocol
And to the apologists for Assad who cast doubt on whether or not he actually used chemical weapons, they would say it doesnt matter. Even if that were the case the West should still act. Since the start of the cold war there has been an unoffical rule that if youre going to maintain an arsenal of WMDs then that state is responsible for there security and it cannot hand them over to third parties. i.e. if the Israelis used a nuclear weapon given to them by the Americans against Iran, the international community would consider that in exactly the same light as they would a nuclear missile strike by the US against Iran…which would almost certainly provoke a retaliatory attack from Iran (or potentially her allies Russia and China) against the US.
And it is important that this principle existed as it ruled out the risk of all sorts of mischief. e.g. next time things kick off in Georgia or Chechnya the Russians could solve it by simply losing a chemical weapon or two only for them to go off in a rebel strong hold, upon which Putin goes opps, sorry about that!. Or next time the Argentina has a go at the Falklands the British lose a nuke only for Buenos Aires to end up glowing in the dark. In short the aw shucks defense does not apply when dealing with WMDs.
And obviously enough it is imperative so long as nations have WMDs (and again, personally Id rather we didnt) that they remain under guard. If indeed these weapons were stolen by the opposition, as the Russians and Syrians claim, then Syria has just admitted to losing control of its stockpile and should thus be required to surrender all such weapons to a neutral third party (Iran? Russia? China?) forthwith.
One of the reasons why many ex-soviet states were very quick to give up the nuclear weapons held on their territory after the cold war was because it was pointed out to them that if any of those weapons went missing, they would be held responsible by the international community. Even in a situation where said weapons were stolen by terrorists. Thus, concluding that they lacked the means (nor the political will or democratic mandate) to safely guard such weapons, they handed them over to NATO (for destruction) or returned them to Russia (despite considerable animosity between many of these states and the Kremlin).
The Good ol boys who cried wolf
Of course the problem for the Mc Cains, John Kerrys and Ashdowns of this world, is they do sound a little bit like the boy who cried wolf. We all remember what was said about Iraq and how they could launch a strike with 45 minutes against the UK. Of course it turned out they had no WMDs and when the Americans got to Baghdad they send a large force of troops to guard the oil wells and the oil ministry while looters tore the rest of the city apart…including the very sites they claimed WMDs were at!
This to me is the real legacy of the Iraq war. The chickens are indeed coming home to roost. For by Bush and Blair starting that war they effectively destroyed the credibility of the West and its intelligence services and they spend what political capital the West had left post-cold war, on a pointless war so that Bush could allow the good olboys network to loot Iraqs oil wealth.
Consequently if the west ever wants to be taken seriously again there needs to be restitution. And that means acknowledging the wrongs of the past. In short the US congress should retrospectively impeach G. W. Bush for lying to them and the American public (amongst many other misdeeds that make what Nixon or Clinton got up to seem mild in comparison) and then demand 5 years of back pay off him with interest (and cut off his pension and pull his secret service security). While Tony Blair (who oddly enough is a Middle East peace envoy…which is a bit like putting Nick Griffin in charge of the Notting hill Carnival) should be shipped off the Hague for war crimes.