My statement on Syria

As you may be aware the Prime Minister has set out his case for UK forces to engage in a bombing campaign of ISIL/Daesh in Syria.

I believe the government has not made an effective case for military intervention in Syria.

There’s no reason to think that more bombing will work.  The US and other forces have been bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria for more than a year, but in that time although ISIS has lost some territory, it has gained ground elsewhere. 

Adding British bombs to existing US and other bombing campaigns will not make the difference in beating ISIL – and we believe it is being pressed solely for reasons of political expediency.

The logic of intervention is that without ground forces, air attacks cannot defeat or evict ISIS from the territory it currently controls in Syria.  But David Cameron has no credible proposal for the use of ground forces, as his comments in Prime Minister’s Questions this week demonstrated, and the deployment of ground forces risks dragging us back into the experience of Iraq.  All of this means there is a serious danger of mission-creep and therefore pressure for Western boots on the ground.

I know that if I vote to allow air-strikes in Syria it is almost inevitable that innocent women and children, alive now as I write this message, maybe dead within days of that decision. Even with the UK’s ‘precision bombing’ capabilities, this is inevitable. 

Many have said the ‘first duty’ of a government is to protect and defend its own citizens. I agree with this entirely. However, I believe this must be balanced by two other considerations.

The long-term implications of any action that may ultimately undermine this ‘first duty’. 

The moral necessity to value all life, irrelevant of nationality.

For the record, I am not a pacifist. I respect deeply those that are, but can not say it is a philosophy I can adhere to.

Having served in Afghanistan I have seen and experienced warfare, first-hand. I understand there are occasions when military force is necessary. Therefore, I will not rule out supporting the use of military force against ISIL. However, the use of such force must not be an end in itself.

If there is one thing the ‘war on terror’ has shown, it is that military force alone is rarely the answer. We’ve been engaged in this ‘war’ for 15 years with with no end in sight. It has cost millions of lives, trillions of dollars, destabilised an entire region and arguably spawned a series of global, jihadist terror networks.

It was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". After 15 years of ‘war’ perhaps now is the time to rethink our strategy.

As such, I greatly valued the five ‘areas of risk’, as set out by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, that provided a well rounded, rational, pre-requisite set conditions for extending the bombing of ISIL to Syria. I also appreciate the Prime Minister’s attempt this week to answer those conditions before the House.

It is my opinion, after careful consideration of his case and taking into account the other personal considerations mentioned above, that the Prime Minister has failed to answer those conditions.

For this reason I will vote against the Government's motion on Wednesday. 

The world has failed the Syrian people. We must not compound that failure by deepening the conflict and prolonging the war. Only a political solution will de-escalate this situation, end the civil war, allow for the defeat of ISIL and begin the process of tackling the wider causes of jihadist terrorism. 

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commented 2015-12-02 13:15:47 +0000
.Great piece and valid voice in Westminster,
commented 2015-12-02 12:34:17 +0000
Good man Clive. This is just wrong – it’s nuts – and as an ex-soldier you know that. Well said.
Clive Lewis posted about My response on Syria on Clive Lewis' Facebook page 2015-12-02 11:04:22 +0000
My statement on Syria
@labourlewis tweeted this page. 2015-12-02 11:04:18 +0000

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