The ISIS Problem: We must tread carefully

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RAF Tornado GR4 (ZA597) displaying at Kemble Air Show in 2008

David Cameron, in light of the recent attacks in Paris, for which the self-named Islamic State group have claimed responsibility, is planning British airstrikes in Syria. He favours military intervention in the region, but is waiting until he is confident such a proposal will pass through parliament before putting his plans before the House of Commons.

But serious thought is needed before we plunge ourselves into another conflict. When suffering from trauma or emotional circumstances our reasoning skills falter, hasty decisions are rarely our friends. We forget our values after tragedy.

When Britain and America went marauding into Iraq and Afghanistan there was an abundant lack of a political endgame. When Britain dropped bombs on Libya, the same was apparent – the 2011 bombing campaign left huge swathes of the country unstable and ungovernable.

David Cameron does not have a plan of how to proceed once the smoke from the explosives has settled, which should worry the people of this nation. His decision is likely driven by the notion that to not intervene would be an unpopular move: to be seen as doing nothing to combat terrorism. Act now, think later – unwise.

His argument may also be that inaction has negative implications on the image of, and respect for our nation – but long gone are the days of the British Empire, and Britain being a major player on the world stage. If he really wants acclaim and respect for us as a nation, he should seek peace and be the catalyst for change that we so desperately need.

We must seek to understand the reasons behind the emergence and rise of ISIS. When Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq by US and British forces, a power vacuum was left behind – it is from this vacuum that ISIS was born. They then spread to Syria, utilising the civil war for their own gains.

No matter how precise the government alleges our targeted bombs and missiles are, civilians will yet again perish: that is the nature of the beast. From this breeds the hatred that drives the recruitment and radicalisation of ISIS, and other extremist groups.

For too long have we meddled, rather unsuccessfully, in the Middle East, leaving massive holes behind us as we go. Now is the time for peace, and peace cannot be forged out of further violence, destruction and death.

Britain will not be safer if it drops bombs in Syria, you cannot destroy an ideology with weapons and explosives. Bombing Syria would not have stopped the attacks in Paris, and it would not stop similar attacks here: perhaps military action increases the chances of a retaliation act on British soil. Best case scenario, we may pin back ISIS in Syria – but they will emerge in another location, or similar groups will grow from the seed we have planted. Conflict causes further radicalisation, and we risk giving ISIS exactly what they desire.

ISIS has enormous financial reserves. We must first hold constructive talks with our “allies” in the region, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. We must ensure they are not, as is feared, arming terrorists or purchasing their oil supplies. The Prime Minister seems to be turning a blind eye to this, strange for a man who claims to be so desperate to defeat ISIS.

If military force must be used, it cannot come from western nations, it has to come from nations in the region – else we risk sleepwalking into the same mistakes we have made in the past and feeding the ISIS narrative. Internationally we must seek to bring an end to the civil war in Syria and bring stability to the region.

Tony Benn often said: “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”. If we proceed, civilian casualties are inevitable. The humanitarian situation is getting worse, and the death toll is rising already. Now is the time to break the cycle of violence, and give the people of Syria, and the surrounding areas, the safety that they so deserve.

We all wish to see an end to the war in Syria and end to terrorist attacks, but dropping British bombs in Syria will not achieve this – we must tread carefully, or history is certain to repeat itself.