The hawks who want intervention in Syria should be pleased by Ed Miliband’s actions last week

3:43 pm - September 5th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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In the Times today, David Aaronovitch uses Ed Miliband’s Syria vote as a spring-board for criticism (£) about his leadership of the Labour party. “The Syria vote crystallised his failings. He waits for mistakes, then like a scavenger exploits them,” he says.

Put aside the fact that this is the job of opposition politicians, I think those hawks in favour of going into Syria should be pleased by what happened last week.

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard from Chuck Hagel and John Kerry on their position on Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry: Since President Obama’s policy is that Assad must go, it is not insignificant that to deprive him of the capacity to use chemical weapons, or to degrade the capacity to use those chemical weapons, actually deprives him of a lethal weapon in this ongoing civil war, and that has an impact. That can help to stabilize the region, ultimately.

Oh, so they want ‘regime change’… except the White House Press Sec said just last week: “The options that we are considering are not about regime change“.

And then, more confusion…

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: And this is about getting to an end game. That end game is a diplomatic settlement. It is driving this toward what we believe, the president believes is the only way out of this, if for no other reason than what Secretary Kerry has noted: We do not want to see the country of Syria disintegrate, result in ungoverned space, which I think the consequences would be devastating for our partners, for our allies, the entire Middle East. Then we would all have to respond in some way.

So the end game is regime change, or not… but it’s definitely a diplomatic settlement. Though if Assad doesn’t want to negotiate his own removal, then we’re not going to force him, because that would mean the collapse of Syria, which we don’t want.

Well, that clears it up. Basically, the United States govt has no specific idea about what they want from their attack on Syria… or they’re not telling us. See this scathing post by Joshua Foust for more.

All this underscores an important point – even those who want action in Syria aren’t clear what the US govt is planning or wants from their intervention. I bet David Aaronovitch is unable to articulate what was the specific aim of the military action the UK and USA were about to rush into last week.

This is the point Ed Miliband was making. Of course, those who want ‘firm action‘ don’t care for such subtleties – they want a leader to stand strong regardless of whether the details have been worked out. There’s a certain amount of arrogance amongst some military interventionists that they don’t need to explain evidence, make a proper case, have a detailed plan or listen to public opinion. They want strong action and they want it now.

Such foolishness only helps isolationists because they’re right to then say that the US and UK are likely to make the situation worse. If we rushed into Syria without an exit strategy we can quite easily make that proxy war much worse.

Those who want intervention in Syria (like myself) should be pleased that President Obama was halted by what Ed Miliband set in motion, and demand more detail about what the US military intends to do, as Congress is now doing. That would be the best way to help Syrians. The ridiculousness of the criticism is further underscored by commentators such as Deborah Orr (who I have enormous respect for) saying he was right in what he did but should have done it differently. Err, how? It’s not the opposition leader’s job to help the Prime Minister avoid embarrassment because he failed to even convince his own side.

There are some really ridiculous criticisms out there of Ed Miliband’s leadership, but this really takes the biscuit.

UPDATE: This piece in the Atlantic makes a very persuasive case on why, a court would conclude that the case against the Syrian government was “not proven” – see Section 3.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

There is a relevant piece by Anatol Lieven in the NYT which opens (NB his call to talk with Iran)

“The need for an immediate U.S. response in Syria to discourage the further use of chemical weapons does not change the fundamental dilemma of U.S. policy, which is that for very good reasons, the United States does not want either side to win this war. Victory for either side would mean dreadful massacres and ethnic cleansing, as well as an increased threat of international terrorism.”

does david aaronivitch etc want regime change in Saudi Arabia,bahrain, Kuwait,uae etc ? of course not. human rights only matter in countries the west already wants to overthrow. neo cons don’t care about brutal corrupt dictatorships in the middle east which we support.

3. Man on Clapham Omnibus

And it was going so well until

‘Those who want intervention in Syria (like myself)’

So what are you going for ,regime change,chaos or diplomatic solution?

So what are you going for ,regime change,chaos or diplomatic solution?

I’m not sure how many times I have to state this. I supported limited intervention on the basis it was about chemical weapons, with the proviso the case was adequately made.

But my ideal scenario is a broader NAto and Arab League force which has an aim of regime change and goes for Assad’s military weaponry, until he agrees to leave and find asylum in Iran (his biggest ally).

The more bellicose minded would do well to read up on Galbraith’s recollection of Jack Kennedy’s reaction to some of the advice he was getting during the Cuban missile crisis.

Had those urging “firm action” got their way, we wouldn’t be here today, because World War 3 would have kicked off in 1963 and wiped out much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Tim F

“World War 3 would have kicked off in 1963”

It would have been all over by then. I remember going to bed in late October 1962 and wondering whether I’d see the morning.

Miliband helped Obama. For Obama military intervention is Hobson’s Choice: all that suff about red lines had got him painted into a corner. He didn’t want to intervene and the decision by our parliament allowed him to pause and let a proper debate develop. The world is a better place for it, as we now have time to gather evidence, stand for the rule of law and look the Russians, Iranians, Chinese and Saudis in the eye and tell them it’s their turn to step up.

8. Paul peter Smith

The Cuban missle crisis is the perfect example of whats going on here in that our perception is being managed. Most people think the sneaky Soviets slipped some nukes onto Cuba because they had the intent to be able to launch sneak attacks from the US’s ‘own back-yard’. Brave and pure JFK stood up to the evil empire, brought us back from the brink and forced the Soviets to back down.
What really happened was the US stationed short/medium range nukes in Turkey (the USSR’s back-yard) provoking the totally predictable tactical response of the Russian’s returning the favour. The US hates it when other people play by the US’s own rules so they almost provoked WWIII with their typically hypocritical, paranoid and self righteous response. Kennedy blinked first and agreed to remove the nukes from Turkey and the USSR took its nukes home too.
Its called directed history and I think we’ve been watching it happen live on tv since at least the first gulf war.

David A has moved somewhat since his University Challenge days,and not for the better.

I have been thinking of JFK after the Bay of Pigs when he put his head in his hands and said “Why have I been so stupid?” JFK had agreed to the CIA’s plan on the clear understanding that there would be no direct US military involvement until there was a liberated area in the mountains of Cuba and a provisional government had been flown in to the mountains. Of course the exile force got stuck on the beach at the Bay of Pigs and the provisional government was still in hotel rooms in Miama with no agreement about their plan for the future of Cuba. So the CIA tried to bounce JFK into sending in the US military to rescue the men on the beach, and JFK refused. It was then that JFK realised that that had been the plan all along: the CIA had never thought that the exile force would get to the mountains and establish a liberated area and JFK realised he had been stupid to believe them.

Obama was told a year ago that Assad’s regime was about to collapse: just a few more arms to the rebels and it will go. Perhaps he now realises that that was never the plan and he is being sucked in to something without a clear game plan.

Of course, there is a case for doing “something” about the use of chemical weapons.

In WW2, Britain took extraordinary defensive measures to detect their use and to mitigate the harm as well as threatening immediate retaliation as a deterrent. With 1000 bomber raids by the RAF starting in 1943, that was a credible threat.

The question is what that “something” might be – and assessing the likely consequences of doing that “something”. As with so many internal conflicts in Middle East sovereign states, there is very seldom a clear choice between “good” and “bad” but between different shades of grey.

As I keep posting about those lunchtime conversations I used to have in the early 1970s with my Indian friend and colleague, he predicted then that Islamic countries would have great difficulty in making transitions to multi-party democracies.

These are as much as international issues as the use of chemical weapons in a civil war in Syria:

Sushmita Banerjee dead: Indian writer who escaped Taliban shot dead in Afghanistan

Militants arrived at author’s home before taking her outside, tying her up and ‘riddling her with bullets’

Malala Yousafzai: Pakistani teen shot by Taliban opens new library in Birmingham
[Independent website 3 September 2013]

Well put case Sunny, thanks.

I’m personally against intervention at present, largely on the ‘we’ll just fuck it up some more’ basis as you discuss.

But I don’t like chemical weapons either so if someone comes up with a viable evidence based strategy? Until then, no.

14. ultimatetroll

Rather than faffing around with intervention, we should and could be doing the far more effective thing which is to provide food aid to the refugees.

The west needs to be upfront about regime change. If the use of chemical weapons is anathema then the same must apply to those who use them. Any military attack involves loss of human life which can never be justified simply as a shape throwing exercise. There can be no justification for insinuating ourselves into the Syrian civil war unless we intend to influence the outcome.

Interesting that there was a gap of time before David Zionist waded in. Probably waited for what Mossad thought before attacking Ed…

I’m not sure how many times I have to state this. I supported limited intervention on the basis it was about chemical weapons, with the proviso the case was adequately made.

But did you say what form the intervention should take?

This critique would make some sort of sense if Ed Miliband had opposed UK intervention in Syria. But he didn’t (or at least, the amendment that he sponsored didn’t). All the things that Labour are highlighting as the reasons to oppose the Govt (the need for a Security Council debate, the need for the inspectors to report to the UN, the need for a second vote before any action could be authorised etc) were actually in the motion they voted against.

The only thing in the Labour amendment that wasn’t in the Govt motion was the need for ‘compelling evidence’ that Assad used chemical weapons. But even this was responded to by the Govt by publishing the JIC report. On the basis of the actual vote, rather than the rhetoric surrounding it, Labour’s position was ‘we agree with you about what to do about Syria, but we’re going to vote against you anyway.’

`Those who want intervention in Syria (like myself) should be pleased that President Obama was halted by what Ed Miliband set in motion.’

Well not if Congress votes against action and the Pres does a Cameron. In which case Ed takes the rap for the next chemical atrocity whilst Cameron and Obama parade around like a couple of Pontius Pilates and the Syrian people continue to be crucified.

I have no confidence in imperialism doing the right thing at any time over anything. Assad is the most immediate danger to the Syrian people though of course imperialism remains the main danger for everybody. There would after all be no semi-colonial tyrants without the crushing economic pressures put on them by Western imperialism. Having said that I certainly won’t protest a strike aimed at degrading Assad’s offensive capability should it happen (increasingly doubtful) but will continue to support an independent policy for the Syrian Revolution based on physical and political support from other Arab nations and the international labour movement and a demand that the EU/US arms embargo preventing Syrians from defending themselves whilst the crypto-fascist Russian oligarchy arms Assad and the Gulf states help out the Jihadis be lifted forthwith.

20. Tight Anneka

@George King #19

whilst the crypto-fascist Russian oligarchy arms Assad

That can’t be the same Assad who paid a State visit to Britain in 2002 and dined with the Queen can it? Or the same Assad that Blair once regarded as an ally who may be worthy of an honorary knighthood?
Russia’s arms manufacturers will be at next week’s UK arms fair and it should be bumper business time if the EU/US embargo is lifted.

21. Man on Clapham Omnibus

14. ultimatetroll

Some sense at last.
Much of the conversation so far is the usual woolly ‘we have to do something’ but no-one has said why or seriously spelt out the ramifications. Personally, I think we should follow the likes of Dannat, a man of substance and one of the only sensible voices around. This is a decision involving skill, something lacking amongst those who spend their time fraternising and looking down the bell end of a Blanc de Noir 97.
Sunny’s view is perhaps a typical western response that sadly is very selective, arrogant and ultimately racist.
Those that think this isn’t a selective response should consider the world’s inaction over the genocide in Zimbabwe, itself a product of British Colonialism. There are others too including the west’s own intervention killing millions in Iraq and Afghanistan together with the ongoing complicity in the structural genocide of the Palestinians. The road to hell is indeed paved with UN resolutions.
Arrogant, in that it underlies the notion that the ‘civilized’ world can in some way, indeed should, has ‘a responsibility’ even, to tame the excesses of dictators they don’t like. Gassing …er… no not humane but boiling people alive in the pro west oil state of Uzbekistan, yeah why the hell not. These people we can do business with! (and do thanks very much)
Thus, even a cursory examination of the credentials of the so-called civilized world fail at the first hurdle. It is hardly surprising then, that the populations of those countries most keen to indiscriminately bomb and maim in the name of humanity are so entirely unconvinced. 77% at the last count.
Finally, I come to racism and the fundamental world order based on it. The colonisation of the Middle East and indeed the rest of the British Empire was in concert with the expansion of Capitalism. The need for raw materials etc. required the subjugation of the native population in terms of ownership of land, culture and economic system. Key to this process was the ideological diminution of the (usually black) incumbents. This was the ideological and political backdrop when the middle east was being carved up, via the Sykes-Picot agreement , between the big (white) boys of Russia, France and the UK . It hardly needs comment in respect of the methods employed to retain economic control over these ‘black folks’ and the subsequent disaster of Israel.
Iran distrusts Britain precisely for this reason. With the help of an extra peep from Big Ben inserted into a BBC world service transmission, the British instigated Iranian coup of 1953 commenced and in doing so quashed Iran first democratic government. The motive – BP’s control of the oil!
More details here

These activities underline a basic value system which is predicated on the notion that the white west can (nay should) control the black east, as and when it sees fit and by whatever means necessary in order to serve its global economic goals. It is quintessential racism.
This is why we should limit our interventions to only aid. As it is the hypocrisy of the west is more deafening than any military action could ever be.

#20 `That can’t be the same Assad who paid a State visit to Britain in 2002 and dined with the Queen can it? Or the same Assad that Blair once regarded as an ally who may be worthy of an honorary knighthood?

The very same.

`Russia’s arms manufacturers will be at next week’s UK arms fair and it should be bumper business time if the EU/US embargo is lifted.’

I think Russia’s arms manufacturers are doing alright out of Assad thanks very much.


I agree with that, but of course the argument cuts both ways. There was no substantial reason for the government not to accept the amendment, which would have been the smart option.

And surprise, surprise, right on cue, Nick Cohen is laying into Ed M too with tons of “I’m not really Jewish y’know, I was brought up a Marxist” qualification). Aaronovitch and Cohen, two Zionist, CIA-rodgered up the backsided peas in a pod…

Hi Sunny

Great post as always but I do need to correct a small error.

You say the UK was about to “rush into” military action last week but in fact the motion the Government proposed stated that there should be no military action until

i) The United Nations investigating team in Syria completed their initial mission
ii) The UN Security Council considers their findings and then has the chance to consider a resolution
iii) A further vote of the House of Commons is held

This is the motion that was defeated in the Commons after Labour and Tory rebels (mainly the loony eurosceptic right) united to vote it down.

You can read it for yourself here

Hope that helps.

Assad’s a Jew, claims Egypt TV guest
Dictator’s family descends from Iranian Jewish origin, so-called expert asserts, in interview on station that also first broadcast Arabic-dubbed clip of anti-Islam film
In fact, the Assad family, members of the minority Alwaite sect, hails from Qardaha in northwest Syria. It is said to descend from one Ali Suleyman, who changed the family name to Assad — lion — in the 1920s.

Critics of Bashar Assad over the years, the Israeli TV report noted, have also claimed he had a Jewish lover and that one of his daughters was married to a Jew.
(Just look at his ears!)

So Kerry(not his real name which has been cloaked/westernised ‘West-World’) a Yank zionist Jew warmonger starts a war with a cloaked Jew.
Wonder how many Christians-Muslims they intend to snuff out in this one?

For his part, Bashar told the visiting Pope John Paul II in 2001 that Jews “tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.”

SAR = Hebrew word ‘leader’
Sars, (they wipe out our old and young each winter releasing it)
Sark channel Island (Barclays ‘gothic’ White Fortress)
Sarkel(GAZA-ria/Khazaria literally means “White House”
White Tower of London
The White House
Sarkel is also spelt ‘Sharkel’
– why the zionist/satanist run(Moishe ‘Green’ = Wupert Murdoch etc) papers constantly run “Great White Shark” stories
(flagging the old motherland ‘White Fortress’)
A jew joke (jus jus) at ignorant GOY expense!

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