A true man­date for mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions

Western Mail - - VIEWS OF WALES -

MEM­BERS of Par­lia­ment have ev­ery right to voice un­ease about the lack of a par­lia­men­tary green light for the UK’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the mil­i­tary strikes against the Syr­ian regime in re­sponse to the al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons.

There is a strong and com­pelling ar­gu­ment that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should come down with over­whelm­ing force on any gov­ern­ment or group that uses chem­i­cal weapons. The world will be a much more fright­en­ing place if the use of these odi­ous ar­se­nals is nor­malised.

It is deeply con­cern­ing that the ev­i­dence sug­gests the regime of Bashar al-As­sad has cal­cu­lated that the tac­ti­cal ad­van­tage of us­ing these weapons is greater than any set­back in­curred by re­tal­i­a­tion. It is all too easy to imag­ine ter­ror­ist groups and despots scrambling to build toxic ar­se­nals if de­ploy­ing such weapons will not au­to­mat­i­cally re­sult in their own down­fall.

How­ever, this is an ar­gu­ment that a Prime Min­is­ter could make in the House of Com­mons. Theresa May may want to avoid the hu­mil­i­a­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by David Cameron in 2013 when MPs de­clined to give their back­ing to mil­i­tary ac­tion in Syria; that blow may have played a sim­i­lar role in dis­suad­ing Pres­i­dent Obama from push­ing for US strikes.

Gen­er­ally, the prefer­able way to deal with chal­lenges in the Com­mons is not to try to dodge the fight for a demo­cratic man­date but to come to the cham­ber with the best pos­si­ble ar­gu­ments. Even if it is not pos­si­ble to share in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion in a pub­lic fo­rum, it should be pos­si­ble to present rel­e­vant find­ings to party lead­ers and mem­bers of the Privy Coun­cil.

There will be also be dis­quiet that the strikes could not be de­layed for just a cou­ple of days so that Par­lia­ment could de­bate whether to make the UK a par­tic­i­pant in this con­tro­ver­sial ac­tion. Given our re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, there is lit­tle doubt that the world would be a safer place if lead­ers had spent greater time think­ing about the next steps af­ter an in­ter­ven­tion.

We should have learned that the de­ci­sion to launch mil­i­tary ac­tion must not be di­vorced from diplo­matic and hu­man­i­tar­ian plan­ning. We need a strat­egy for tack­ling both the se­cu­rity threat that Syria poses to our na­tional in­ter­est and the hu­man catas­tro­phe that has un­folded in this trou­bled coun­try.

Our fail­ure to stop the slaugh­ter re­veals the lim­its of our power and the need for true de­bate about how to se­cure peace and jus­tice.

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