By 10 o’clock pm GMT, UK MPs are to vote on whether British armed forces should launch air strikes against so-called Islamic State (IS) militant targets in Syria.
This is a massive topic that is both controversial and political, but one that I believe people shouldn’t shy away from discussing. Debate and conversation should be encouraged, what is problematic is the act of enforcing a countdown upon a final conclusion without great clarity of the consequences.
If my degree in history has taught me anything, its that no one event has a single cause. Wars especially are the result of numerous factors, some that have been culminating for generations. Therefore it is difficult to talk about the question of Syria without taking into consideration economic factors, power balances within the Middle East, Western interferences, racist elements, media bias, ideology and Capitalist influence. Historical context is everything. And I struggle to believe there are many with sufficient knowledge across all these areas to qualify them to come to a conclusion. Let alone after a single day of debate.
“If you’re not confused then you don’t understand”
However the beauty of living in a democracy is that we have developed the freedom to discuss and debate regardless of our class or position, which is exactly what millions of people have been doing. Whether it’s tweeters cramming as much information into 140 characters as possible, or people sharing articles on facebook, social media has provided a platform for everyone to have a say, whether you have a background in politics or not. Whilst some claim this can pollute the situation with poorly-informed opinions and encourages ignorance, there has arguably never been an age where the politicization of the masses, young and old, has been so prevalent, and debate and discussion is exactly what should be encouraged in order to increase understanding and limit oppression or bias. Public opinion is not just important; it is essential.
And the British public is making sure their voice is heard. Thousands of anti-war protesters descended on central London last night to campaign against military intervention in Syria. This all comes ahead of the all-important vote taking place today, as it seems that by 10 o’clock tonight, following a 10 hour discussion, MPs will have come to a conclusion about action to be taken. There is a live feed on the BBC website as the public is invited to watch the debate.
It must be remembered by everyone however that nothing about this whole situation is simple. Every person is going to have a different opinion according to their own political orientation, upbringing, education, or indeed lack thereof. As aforementioned, no event has a single cause, and with the hundreds of factors contributing to the culmination of the current conflict, and unless you devote years researching and studying the historical context, and political history, even without being influenced by media and your personal ideological affinity, it is unlikely that we ever really see let alone understand the full picture. We must be aware of what we don’t know rather than spouting what we think we do. However this certainly means that there is no quick fix means of action, and arguably no “correct” action whatsoever.
It is seems that many believe there is a formula that can be applied, such as SYRIA + ISIS = TERRORISM = BAD therefore BOMBING = SYRIA – ISIS (- MIGRATION) = VICTORY = GOOD. Needless to say this is not only problematic, it is damaging. It is dangerous. Especially more so when the consequences are not fully understood.
How then can we measure how to come to a conclusion at all? Paul woodhead’s article eloquently discusses the effects of war on people, why we need to recognize refugees as humans rather than figures on a spreadsheet, and the difficulty of drawing conclusions in an ocean of data, opinions, bias reports and context.
My answer is simple; morality, humanity, empathy. You don’t need to have a religion, a political degree, or even an understanding of this war to understand the horror of loss of life. Another destructive bombing campaign is no solution whatsoever. It will make moves toward a political solution harder. It risks intensifying and widening what is already a catastrophic war. Piers Morgan’s claim that “we are not bombing Syria, we are bombing people inside of Syria” is nonsensical and weak justification. I wonder if the innocent lives that will be lost will ponder for very long over the nuances of language? This is where the dangers of deciding final action within a ten hour debate arise.
Bombing a place to get rid of an ideology is like bombing a bakery to get rid of a recipi.
I suppose this isn’t an article about whether or not we should bomb Syria, it isn’t an article about what I think we should do, or even which personalities fronting parties should support. It is a reminder to everyone that there is no simple answer, to keep an open mind, be aware of your ignorance and potential bias, and perhaps then we’ll realise that a room of people coming to a final conclusion about the future of millions amidst such a complex situation in a measly 10 hours is exactly like trying to fit this entire article into a 140 character tweet. (-4905)