UK

Jeremy Corbyn Is Singled Out For Not Backing Syria Bombing, But Top Pundits Agree Campaign Won't Work

27/11/2015 13:56 GMT | Updated 27/11/2015 14:59 GMT
Hussein Malla/AP
In this Sept. 15, 2014, photo, Kurdish citizens who live in Lebanon shout slogans and hold a photograph during a demonstration against militants who refer to themselves as the Islamic State, in front of the UN building, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida dispersed, yet the horrors keep coming. Journalists beheaded on camera. School girls abducted by gunmen in the night. Families fleeing their homes in fear they might be executed because of their religion. The news from much of the Middle East and Africa is relentlessly brutal. The Islamic State groups rampage through Iraq and Syria has shocked the United States into launching expanded air strikes at a time when Americans were expecting to pull back from the Middle East after more than a decade of war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Debate has raged this week about Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to back a British bombing campaign against Isis in Syria.

The Labour leader's admission he remained unconvinced Britain could both defeat Isis and protect itself by joining the coalition committing airstrikes in the region has prompted a barrage of criticism.

His own MPs - and even the majority of shadow cabinet ministers - have rounded on Corbyn to decry opposition to military action, but the ex-Stop The War coalition Chair is unwavering in his decision.

A significant number of comment pieces appeared in the media on Friday, though, setting out opposition to Cameron's Bill with varied reasoning.

There still remains substantial skepticism about joining the allied forces in a bombing campaign. After all, the public still think it was the 'right decision' not to begin a bombing campaign in 2013 when MPs first voted on the issue.

While public support has shifted significantly in the two years since that famous Government defeat - 59% of people now back RAF air strikes - top pundits still echo much of Corbyn's sentiment.

Their frustration, best put by the Financial Times' managing editor, Robert Shrimsley, is that there are sensible arguments for not intervening in Syria which are not being made properly.

Many top pundits share his view, or sit somewhere on the spectrum of opposition to the government's sole use of air strikes as a means to stem the growth of Isis.

Read their compelling arguments:

france air strike

A German and a French soldier simulate military exercises of ground-guided strikes at the Nancy Air Base in Thuilley-aux-Groseilles

Patrick Coburn

Writing in the Independent on Friday, Patrick Coburn accused the Prime Minister of offering up a false representation of the current state of Syria and its neighbouring countries.

He called for a better briefing on how British air strikes would help ease the politically-fragmented nation before any action was committed to.

"David Cameron's plan for joining the war in Syria is a worrying document, full of wishful thinking about the political and military situation on the ground," Coburn said.

"It is a recipe for repeating past failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, misjudging the strength of potential enemies and allies alike...

"Britain may only be contributing minimal forces to the war against Isis, but it should not be fighting such a dangerous antagonist without a better knowledge of the battlefield."

russia air strike

Demonstrators protest against the Russian air strikes in Syria, in the Suvorov square, Moscow

Max Hastings

Photo from the Russian Defense Ministry showing a target hit during an air raid in the Idlib province

Even a Daily Mail columnist has said he was not convinced by Cameron's address to the Commons on Thursday laying out new proposals on military intervention.

"Skepticism seems justified about the likely achievements of us bombing targets in Syria," Max Hastings wrote.

"Over the past 17 months, the US Air Force has flown 58,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria, carrying out 8,300 strikes in the course of its Operation Inherent Resolve.

"It seems fanciful to suppose that Britain's tiny Tornado element of a handful of planes, which has so far flown 1,600 sorties and conducted 360 strikes can add much...

"Until we have further evidence, it is hard to accept the Prime Minister's assurance that a credible plan for Syria is in place."

syria air strike

Injured Syrians evacuate a field hospital after a second air strike in the town of Azaz

Major-General Patrick Cordingley

A former Brigade Commander penned a letter to the Times on Friday recalling his fears that successive interventions in Iraq would needlessly kill civilians, fuelling the anti-West sentiment peddled by Isis.

"Coalition air forces, however careful when bombing Syria, are killing civilians," he wrote.

"We are not alone in mourning those who died through acts of violence. The killing only increases radicalisation and hatred of the West ...

"How much better it would be if we could persuade all the involved parties fighting Isis to work as one, stop providing arms and money to any side and help overcome the economic, political and social problems in the region.

"Terrorism will be defeated by idea, not bombs."

russia air strike

Jürgen Todenhöfer

One German author and politician who spent 10 days with Isis fighters last year has also criticised the proposed Bill Corbyn has said he will vote against when MPs are balloted.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, regarded as one of those with the greatest insight into the Islamist militants, has claimed that for every child murdered in air strike blunders new legions of terrorists will rise.

"A bombing strategy employed by France - which, potentially, will now be joined by Britain - will above all hit Syria's population. This will fill Isis fighters with joy," he wrote in Friday's Guardian.

"Hollande could only make them happier if he were to send in ground troops as well: western boots on the ground in Syria is the ultimate Isis dream.

"Instead of mainly killing Muslims, they are desperate to live out their imaginary apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, which they can at last fight against theUS, the UK and France - on the ground.

"They would have a good chance of winning battles there too," Todenhöfer added, commenting: "These fanatical fighters have excellent military training and love death. Western soldiers love life. The west cannot beat Isis with military means."

syria air strike

Syrians on motorcycles look at the damage of a destroyed house after it was hit by an air strike killing six civilians in the town of Tal Rifat

Melanie Phillips

Despite backing intervention, columnist Melanie Phillips has succinctly explained why air strikes alone won't defeat Isis and are likely instead to lead to failure.

She derided the "one hand behind our back" response to Syria - bombing but not putting troops on the ground for fears MPs will veto the latter suggestion and kill off any action at all - as a "futile military adventure" in the Times.

"British ground troops are essential to ensure that Isis really will be destroyed," she opined in her weekly article on Friday. "But as Cameron knows, there is no way he could get the Commons to agree.

"This is largely because the mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan has convinced the British public that any western intervention in the Middle East is bound to make things even worse.

"So it is not prepared to lose any more British soldiers in another futile military adventure.

"But a half-hearted war is bound to fail. If a country takes military action, it has a duty to do it properly. And the tragic irony is that much of the Afghan and Iraqi mess is due to the West's refusal to do just that by committing itself to the long-haul."

david cameron

The PM makes his statement to the House on Thursday, setting out proposals to intervene in Syria

Cameron has not yet made clear when he will call MPs to vote on whether to join the US, France and Russia in deploying airstrikes in Syria.

He is fearful of losing the ballot just as he did in 2013 and suffering a huge humiliation, so will take time to make sure enough MPs are on side to win, despite some rebels on his own benches already having said they will not support the Bill.

READ MORE: