"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke (disputed)
There is a rare neurological disorder called The Capgras Delusion, whereby the patient thinks that their friends, family and close acquaintances have been replaced by impostors. My Capgrasian Delusion has come in the form of patrial distrust: has the noble United Kingdom been replaced by oil-hungry doppelgangers puppeteered by thick strings from across the pond? Who in this case is the liar - the West or Syria?
As the UK prepares to debate over martial interference in the Syrian crisis, many have fully realised the huge, perhaps final, effect this decision will have on our perception of the West and the Western agenda. Much of our generation was too young to to feel the reverberating consequences of Iraq, but Syria is now, it is today. We won't look at this as a mistake of our progenitors or as a mistake of the previous government; this possible invasion will define us and the years ahead. Before, we could wring our hands and tut or applaud - though mostly in ignorance - as we debated historic events. Now, it is all too real.
Consider the rather moving letter sent by the Syrian parliament to the House of Commons, beseeching the UK not to be "reckless". The situation is so blurred that it is difficult to see any truth, let alone agree on a course of action. An early, suspicious military strike will split the West into two bickering halves and will bring back the horrors the world had to sit through a decade ago. Of course, it is admittedly foolish to entirely compare this affair to Iraq: the situation is different in many respects, the world has changed much since 2003 and the mistakes have, hopefully, been learned from. But here is a short list of hazards the UK faces in this military endeavour:
1. They will have to choose between a lesser of two evils - Assad's regime must indeed be condemned, but in wrenching away power from him they are effectively handing it over to rebel opposition, as there is no oraganised civilian movement, just guerillas.
2. There is no clear goal set by the government. Is it to defend civilians? To topple the regime?
3. Should Assad fall, this will most certainly result in a power vacuum.
4. The war has become far more sectarian, echoing the gruesome Sunni versus Shia annihilation war in Iraq.
5. No final hard proof of Assad's responsibility for the chemical attack.
6. No consensus from UN Security Council.
7. High costs and a possible match in martial prowess from the formidable air force of Syria (and possibly - though hopefully not - Russia), as ex-Chief of Defence Staff Sir David Richards has already pointed out.
Edmund Burke's words are a very romantic, idyllic version of world politics. At the moment the UK appears not to be the much needed good men - because for the men to be good one by default requires clarity of context and of goals - but reckless politicians playing at Cops and Robbers.
One can only hope that the Western course of action won't swiftly drag Syria through through the gates of Hell, leaving the US, UK and France to shrug apologetically and admit that 'mistakes were made'.