With the Middle East peace envoy, Tony Blair, calling for an escalation of the Syrian civil war, by arming the Sunni rebels there with “heavy weapons”, it would appear that he learnt only one thing from Iraq II, the war which cost him his premiership but made him a transatlantic celebrity and multimillionaire: that, provided one’s own skin is not at risk, war can be an exceedingly profitable business.
I wonder how much of his ill-gotten fortune is invested in US based multinational companies, which stand to profit enormously from yet another foreign military adventure by the Arsenal of Democracy, the United States and its “junior partner”, Britain.
The late Jim Callaghan is reported to have said plaintively about his time as prime minister, from 1976 to 1979, “I wish I’d had a war”.
Our people (and patriots and nationalists especially), should continually be on their guard against the tendency of politicians, who in a democracy should be our humble servants, to wish to aggrandize themselves by cutting a figure on the international stage. And how better to do that than by being a ‘war leader’? This, after all, is historically how kingship came about, at least among the German tribes.
War, then, it should be clearly understood, is the enemy of democracy, not its friend. War very often entails an erosion of the liberty of the individual. The first casualty of war is the truth, the second is personal freedom, the last is democracy itself.
The real problem with the Middle East is the people who live there. If a population exchange could be arranged, such that the entire population of Western Europe and the entire population of the Middle East exchanged habitat with each other, would one find that the conflicts that now rage in the Middle East instead raged in Western Europe and that the Middle East became relatively peaceful? I think it very likely. One very important reason permitting immigration from the Third World is such a pernicious policy.
Every people, as a people, gets the government it deserves. And every government is an expression of its people and of its people’s collective will. Arguably, even the most repressive government is a lesser evil than a state of anarchy.
The Middle East is a veritable witches’ brew of ethnic, religious and sectarian rivalries and hatreds, that few Western politicians properly understand.
One thing is certain, though: that the Syrian rebels (prominent among whom are al-Qaeda linked, foreign jihadist elements) are not fighting for democracy but for power for themselves, for their sect of Islam, their ethnic group and/or their tribe. They are less likely, should they win, to introduce a genuine parliamentary democracy which respects the rule of law and human rights, than President al-Assad.
Should they receive heavy weapons the rebels are very likely to fall out amongst themselves, over their division of the spoils of war and to turn those US and British made weapons on one another and on the citizens of the countries that supplied them, or on Israel.
Britain should stay out of any foreign war in which no British interests are threatened. No British interests are at stake in Syria and so it follows that Britain should not become involved in seeking ‘regime change’ (one of those slippery, ambiguous phrases so beloved of slippery, ambiguous politicians like Mr Blair) in that country.
If Mr al-Assad were to invade the Falkland Islands, seize Gibraltar, or threaten a British base on Cyprus, then that would be a horse of a different colour. But in recent years there has been no sign of his government having an expansionist tendency in any direction.
If Syria is not a beacon of democracy in the region, like Israel, what of it?
The Syrians’ form of government is a matter for them and for them alone. It is surely a cynical parody of the very concepts of democracy, self-determination and human rights, for any foreign power, in the name of such abstractions, to seek to dictate constitutional reform to the Syrian people through the barrel of a gun. And moreover, a gun carried by an antidemocratic, jihadist, international brigade of unlawful combatants.
It is through such violence to its nature that a concept takes leave of itself.