So Britain is at war again. You can see how your MP voted by clicking here. I sincerely hope, but rather doubt, that the results will be better than in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Certainly I never thought I’d see the day when a long extract of a speech by a member of the Benn family – Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary – would be quoted and commended at the top of the front page of The Daily Telegraph. These are indeed strange times.
This military action is largely in response to the shocking shootings in Paris last month in which 130 people were killed. Since then, over three times that number of men and women have been shot dead in the USA, often by people whose motives are at least as obscure, intractable, deranged and inimical to concepts of tolerance and human decency as were those of the Paris assassins. Anyone who owns a gun in the USA – and there are millions of them – is one step away from swelling these numbers still further. I’m trying to imagine what would happen if the US government decided to embark on direct action to cure this particular problem.
The Paris attacks were regarded as an act of war, the US shootings as crimes. Given the numbers of deaths, these should perhaps be the other way round. I know what you’re going to say: the cases aren’t comparable. Maybe not, certainly in geo-political terms, but I doubt any of the victims of either greatly cared why the trigger was being pulled. I also doubt that either solution (which in the case of American gun crime is nothing whatsoever) will change the situation for the better. A good number of the claims about the efficacy of air strikes – the US has already made over 8,000 without seeming to halt IS – and about the willingness of 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters to join forces with the west seem to me to be based on fantasy or, at best, wishful thinking. This isn’t 1945 where one hard, swift punch will destroy a leadership and end a conflict. This doesn’t seem to be that kind of war. The die has now been cast, for better or for worse. On vera, as they say in Paris.