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Tuesday, October 13, 2015 

Never seen a tinderbox I didn't want to light.

(This was written yesterday, but I unfortunately arrived home to find my desktop no longer so much as wants to power on.  Updates are likely to be sporadic until it's fixed, as while writing posts on a phone is fine, formatting and adding links in the usual way is an utter chore.)

Let me get this straight.

Israel looks to be in the first stages of the third intifada, the Palestinians having lost hope in either Hamas or Fatah being able to deliver their own state.  The world looks on as the Israelis themselves become ever more hardline, as ever more territory is stolen and as ever more settlements are built.  Resistance now is to throw stones, stab ordinary Israelis.  Both are responded to with bullets.

In Turkey, for the second time, a march by Kurds and socialists is attacked by suicide bombers.  As on the first occasion in Suruc, the Kurdish HDP accuses President Erodgan's AKP party of being involved, either turning a blind eye to Islamic State plotting, or actively collaborating with the jihadists.  For it to happen once can be dismissed.  For it do so again, with the AKP having embarked on a new conflict with the PKK as part of a cynical manoeuvre to try and gain a majority in the second general election in the year, the charge is all the more difficult to dismiss.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Saudi coalition continues under the authorisation of a UN Security Council resolution to bomb whatever it feels like, the aim supposedly being to defeat the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.  Thousands are dead, and there is practically no media coverage as it is all but impossible for reporters to gain access, not to forget the potential danger of being in what may as well be a free fire zone.

And then we have Syria and Iraq, where currently pretty much everyone and their mother is either bombing one or the other, or if not bombing then funding or funnelling arms to one side in what are both civil conflicts, but also proxy wars and grand theatres for leaders to show just how serious and tough they are by chucking high explosives at people who might be bad men but might equally be secular and moderate or civilians.

Somehow, quite incredibly, despite politicians knowing all of this, not least because some of them have been authorising the vapourising of British citizens who otherwise would have been coming right for us, one of the few people saying hang on, perhaps we shouldn't add to this chaos by getting even further involved is the one getting criticised.  According to John Woodcock MP, Diane Abbott is trolling her own party by continuing to argue that what's being proposed currently will not help Syrian civilians one iota.

The very best case currently being made for our own little intervention in Syria was set out jointly by Andrew Mitchell and Jo Cox.  According to them, Syria is our generation's test, our Rwanda, our Bosnia, our Kosovo, our responsibility.  They say we must get back to basics, that primarily Syria and the Syrians themselves are the issue.  Their first two recommendations are that both the humanitarian effort to help refugees and the diplomatic effort to try to reach a political solution must be intensified.  No one could disagree.

Then we have the proposed military component.  The word how is not used once.  It is "not ethical to wish away the barrel bombs", they write, without explaining how they can be stopped.  "We need a military component that protects civilians", they say.  They do not propose how.  Any safe havens will need to be protected by forces on the ground, and a no fly zone, which would also be needed, would have to be enforced.  They do not suggest which or whose ground forces would be used, whether it would be the Kurdish militias (now also being accused of razing villages), "moderate" rebels, Turkish troops or Western forces.  They do not explain how a no fly zone could possibly work when the skies are full of planes and drones from numerous nations, nor how the Russians would react when just this weekend they have been in talks with the Americans on how to avoid any potential misunderstandings or clashes between the two sides.

"Preventing the regime from killing civilians, and signalling intent to Russia, is far more likely to compel the regime to the negotiating table than anything currently being done or mooted," they argue.  This is about as absurd a reading of the conflict as it's possible to imagine.  They seem to imagine that if only the Syrian government was prevented from killing more civilians it would throw in the towel, when the Russian intervention makes it pretty clear it was the gains being made by the non-Islamic State rebels that were causing real concern. The Russian involvement has changed everything, and yet still they seem to think there's room for yet more slinging around of missiles, as the safe zones idea is now even more of a non-starter than it was previously.  

When those making the best possible case still can't answer the most basic questions of how and who, it makes clear just how removed from reality our discourse has become that it's the critics who get the articles written about them.  We simply cannot get used to the idea of not getting off when everyone else has already shot their bolt.  Not even the potential of an incident with the Russians and all that would involve dissuades them.  We see chaos, and the only response is to want to create more.

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