This is an outstanding, must-read article from the Guardian. With a background of last week David Cameron urging MPs to back an air campaign against Islamic State, the Guardian invites five commentators to debate the rights and wrongs.
However, the other four commentators were equally valid and their views should be respected too.
Let me try to distil my own thoughts after reading this series of articles.
The American alliance is struggling to find valid military targets in Syria against ISIS which minimize risk to civilians. The British have pinpoint bombing accuracy capability that could make a difference at the margin. On the ground, ISIS has adjusted to the bombing, both going underground and increasingly hiding behind human shields. Meanwhile, the US-led bombing campaign has effectively weakened ISIS and stopped it growing and conquering more territory. Critically, the battle against ISIS cannot be won by air-power alone – ground forces are needed. So far, the really effective ground force against ISIS seems to be the Kurds – but they have been undermined by Turkey for domestic political reasons. One commentator with expert knowledge felt that the UK could energize the rebels effectively as a fighting force against ISIS. Most importantly, the Vienna discussions need to find a political solution for the future of Syria.
For me, the bottom-line is that there is a political and military contribution that the UK can make towards recreating Syria and defeating ISIS. The British contribution is about much more than bombing ISIS targets in Syria. The backdrop is that existing US policy and Obama’s leadership has been ineffective – given the political and military constraints in the US ahead of the presidential election, there is an important place for the UK to join other regional and global players harnessing an international coalition.
David Davies is spot-on, with two critical exploratory questions, namely:
1.What is the political end game and
2. What is the military plan to achieve it?