Whether Britain acts against ISIL in Syria isn’t about provoking them or if they pose a threat, but whether our actions will be effective and justified. Whatever we decide, we will get attacked by ISIS; it’s their aim and in their interests. The bigger question is whether we should join our international allies against a terror group that has already declared war on us.
If we have to engage with ISIS sooner or later, then we have to evaluate whether this is the right time and we have the right plan. I said earlier that Cameron hadn’t properly made the case, and want to continue evaluating that.
The people who made up their mind ages ago – whether for or against – are the ones I tend to ignore. It’s clear they aren’t interested in the details and are driven more by ideological than operational reasons.
Yesterday, Cameron set out his case for air-strikes against ISIL (over 36 pages) and then Jeremy Corbyn responded with seven questions. Some of those questions are quite important and I find it odd that some in the shadow cabinet have already made up their mind without see Cameron’s response.
When Islamic State came to notoriety last year, many commentators including myself made assumptions about its plans.
I wrote for Al-Jazeera that it “poses a far greater threat to Muslims than it does to the west” – and this has remained true. I also said its impact on community relations in Europe and the US “could be devastating” – an obvious prediction that is also turning out to be true, sadly.
But I said something else which now doesn’t apply: “Its leaders believe fighting ‘apostates’ is more important than fighting non-Muslims for now. They want to unite the Middle East under their banner before truly turning their sights on the US and Europe.” I wasn’t alone in this assumption: Obama and his team have not engaged ISIS more forcefully also because of the belief that ISIS did not pose an immediate threat to US interests (see this and this).
But following the attack in Paris it’s clear that despite Islamic State’s initial focus on local sectarian wars, its priorities have now changed. The execution of journalist James Foley and aid worker Alan Henning showed it that it gained a lot (attention, supporters and perhaps donations) for going after western targets.
This goes to the heart of why I’ve been arguing with Al-Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan over this issue. Mehdi wrote that Russian bombs provoked the ISIS attack, and so do western bombs. The implication is that if we stop bombing ISIS, maybe they’ll stop retaliating. That’s two separate arguments there, one about provocation and other about our response.
Keep this in mind: I agree with Mehdi on foreign policy issues far more than I disagree with him. This isn’t a debate about whether western foreign policy is counter-productive or not (it can be, frequently). I should also add that I don’t think he is excusing or justifying ISIS, as some claim.
My problem is that just as the Right try and divert debate about ISIS to immigration and refugees, many on the Left try and divert it to foreign policy. I think Mehdi et al only see world events through the lens of western foreign policy. All this obscures more important issues that we need to debate about tackling ISIS. (I spend 90% of my time criticising the right for their diversion, so I’m allowed to criticise fellow lefties too). And it assumes the world revolves around what we think / do.
As is common these days, I get abused on Twitter by some lefties outraged that I’ve not fallen in line with popular opinion on the left.
In my latest column for LabourList I show why the assumption that Jeremy Corbyn will appeal to non-voters or UKIPers with his ‘clear principles’ or economic populism seem wildly optimistic. Britons who don’t vote or opt for UKIP are largely culturally conservative Britons who prefer the Daily Mail and Express over the Mirror, and value policies that the left would not want to sign up to (patriotism, low immigration, cutting welfare). Their biggest gripes are about immigration and welfare benefits, and in favour of reducing them not increasing them.
When you know Corbyn is a bit radical, why the shock when someone points out he may only appeal to other radicals?
Anyway, my point is this: yes, I’ve changed my opinions views the election.
I haven’t changed what I believe in. I still believe in economic and social equality, I believe in an economy that doesn’t unfairly reward the already rich and privileged, I believe in the free provision of education and other public goods like health. I believe the railways should be nationalised and that large parts of the banking sector have become a parasite on our economy. I still believe that climate change, sustainability, clean energy and ending waste are among the biggest challenges of our time.
But the British left is broken.
Hindu charity that broke Charity Commission rules by supporting Tories before election does it again
A few weeks before the General Election in May, I found that the National Council of Hindu Temples – a registered charity – posted a message calling on British Hindus to vote Conservative. It was clearly in violation of the Charity Commission rules, which state that charities cannot be politically aligned, and I complained. The […]
“The revolution doesn’t start a thousand miles away, it starts with you.”
It could be a statement put out by ISIS, the group that has encouraged its sympathisers all over the world to take action in defense of the Caliphate. But actually that’s the strapline on the front page of National Action, a neo-Nazi group in the UK that is committed to “fighting to recapture our country in an increasingly hostile and foreign environment”.
Yesterday, Zack Davies was sentenced for the attempted murder of Dr Sarandar Bhambra, a man who was assaulted because he “looked Asian” according to Davies.
So why weren’t the actions of Zack Davies seen as an act of terrorism, when a similar attack by a Muslim man would have been?
Seamus Milne says:
I know some people will not want to hear this but this is a ridiculous argument.
This came to my inbox last night, and I think the findings are worth sharing in full. Important to note, this was commissioned by a centre-right group, not a leftwing group.
Survation, on behalf of Bright Blue the independent think tank & pressure group for liberal conservatism, conducted an in-depth study of ethnic minority voter’s attitudes to immigration to inform their new report: A balanced centre-right agenda on immigration: Understanding how ethnic minorities think about immigration.
The report has six main findings:
This week I was kindly invited by the Cambridge Universities Labour Club for a talk on where Labour goes from here.
A lot of people made mistakes in predicting outcomes in the 2015 General Election, mostly because the polling was so out of sync with the eventual result. I made predictions based on polling too, and it was embarrassing enough when they turned out to be very wrong.
But I made other assumptions in the last election cycle and its only right to own up to them. Partly, I feel its important for my readers, but partly I think its worth articulating them so I can learn from my mistakes.
Despite losing his seat in Westminster, Jim Murphy is trying to hang on as leader of Scottish Labour. I find this astonishing. Late last year, when he became leader, he said they could hang on to most seats in Scotland. He said he was “astonished” at how “easy it’s been to outwit the SNP“. Yup, […]
Liberal Conspiracy is no longer a group blog. Read this post
douglas clark: Steve, ouch! The people well away from a war zone have absolute expertise ...
Steve: Indeed, Hilary: we can make the bits of civilian human shield bounce just as hig...
Hilary: You wrote: 'For this reason, Iraq is already in a stalemate. As the Guardian’s...
douglas clark: Sunny, You say: Put it another way. For Labour MPs, there is more upsid...
steveb: I'm not sure that the majority of voters want airstrikes and the debate is more ...
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