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The case for war: Reasons for and against bombing Islamic State in Syria

MPs will vote on airstrikes today.

Updated 2 December, 8am

Source: BBC Newsnight/YouTube

THE SYRIAN CIVIL war has been raging for the best part of five years. Today, the UK will again vote on whether to formally get involved militarily.

Last time out, Prime Minister David Cameron wanted MPs to authorise military action to stop Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Now, the focus is on so-called Islamic State militants and the self-defence argument.

Cameron lost the 2013 vote when Labour and some within his own party voted against air-strikes. Today, it’s likely he’ll have a majority of about 100 votes when an estimated 60 Labour members vote with the government.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is against airstrikes and his front bench is split on the issue. But, after he was forced into allowing a free vote, the government looks home and hosed.

But what are the arguments for and against bombing Isis in Syria? And what happens after British planes join the skies above the war-torn nation?

Source: BBC News/YouTube

The case for air-strikes 

For: The UK is already bombing Isis in Iraq

Through extreme violence and terror, Isis has gained control over swathes of Iraq and Syria. They don’t care about international borders, so why should a line in the sand stop the UK extending its bombing from Iraq to Syria?

Against: Bombs dropped by the UK will no material difference to the effort

The US, France, Canada and a host of Middle-Eastern nations are already bombing Isis targets. Russia also claims to be bombing Isis, but most observers say they’re concentrating on helping Assad. With all those planes dropping bombs, the RAF doing so as well isn’t actually going to actually achieve anything.

Syria conflict Protesters a during a demonstration organised by the Stop the War coalition in London. Source: Hannah McKay

For: The UK has a moral obligation to help its allies

After the attacks in Paris, David Cameron has argued that the UK has a moral obligation to help France bomb Isis. As he argued, “It is wrong for the United Kingdom to sub-contract its security to other countries.”

Against: There is no evidence that bombing Isis in Syria will make the UK safer

The 7/7 bombers, as well as the attackers in Paris, were ’home-grown terrorists’. Money would be better spent on intelligence and police resources than bombs. In the case of Russia, bombing in Syria led to immediate retaliation in the form of the Sharm el-Sheikh plane bomb.

Source: BBC News/YouTube

For: Bombing Isis will stop their expansion 

Persistent attacks on Isis in their de-facto capital of Raqqa will at least disrupt them enough to halt them spreading further across the regions.

Against: There is no point bombing without a plan for ground troops

Bombing from the air might kill some Isis militants, but it will not wrestle them from the areas they control. Only ground troops can achieve this and there are no plans for western troops to be sent in.

David Cameron says that it’s hoped that moderate Syrian troops in the region can take advantage of the bombing, but the plans don’t go much further than a vague wish.

Against: Bombing will kill innocent civilians

The people of Syria are trapped in the brutal war are being killed on all sides. Airstrikes will only cause more inevitable death.

Although the military will claim that bombs can be targeted within centimetres of accuracy, you can never be sure exactly who is inside a building.

The recent bombing of a Afghan hospital by the US military is just one of countless examples of how airstrikes kill indiscriminately.

For: Fear of repeating mistakes in Iraq shouldn’t cloud judgment

Iraq was a very different situation. Whilst there were unfounded fears of a threat from Saddam Hussein in 2003, Isis is a proven threat to the west and should be treated accordingly.

Against: Even if Isis are driven out, who will replace them?

Iraq may have been different, but the problems of creating a vacuum are here too. A plan for a solution to the wider Syrian conflict is needed before more bombs should fall.

Originally published 1pm

Read: “Not in my name” – thousands protest in London against air strikes on Syria >

Read: David Cameron is ready to strike Isis in Syria, but would it make the UK safer? >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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