Friday, 13 April 2018

How does bombing help?

I can understand why Tory MPs keen for the UK to further ramp up the pending conflict with Russia are ready to misrepresent the facts, but there is really no excuse for the media to be doing the same thing.  Suggesting that the OPCW have ‘backed the UK’ over the Salisbury poisoning is at best going beyond the available facts, and at worst a deliberate misrepresentation.  All the OPCW have actually done is to confirm that the UK had correctly identified the chemical formula of the substance used, as Craig Murray has succinctly pointed out.  And unless one chooses to believe the wilder conspiracy theories suggesting that there never was an attack, it was always close to certain that the chemical analysis would be confirmed. 
That tells us nothing, though, about who actually made it or deployed it, and it was never going to answer those questions.  The answers to those questions depend on the continuing investigations by the police and other agencies, and the government issuing both verdict and sentence in advance doesn’t change that.  Personally, I tend to the view that the most obvious explanation is likely to be the correct one; I just don’t think that ‘likeliest’ is good enough to start punishing the supposed perpetrator.  Having motive, method, and opportunity (as the Foreign Secretary has put it) isn’t the same as proving guilt - especially if you can’t demonstrate that no-one else had all three.
I have a similar position on the chemical attack in Syria, in that I suspect that the likeliest explanation is the most obvious one, but again, I don’t think that ‘likeliest’ is good enough to start dishing out the punishment, particularly when the individuals likely to be executed in the process are neither those who used the weapons nor those who ordered their use, merely those who happen to be in the vicinity of the chosen targets.  Killing a random group of military personal and/or civilians is a very odd definition of ‘holding Assad to account’.
I understand the frustration of those who feel powerless in the face of the tragedy of Syria, and I agree with those who argue that non-intervention has a price as well as intervention.  And of course it’s true that allowing people to get away with the use of chemical weapons once will encourage them to do it again.  But the argument which takes us from those statements to ‘we must bomb Syrian military forces or facilities’ is lacking in logic or reason, and simply attacking anyone who questions that as being unpatriotic and a supporter of Russia is a puerile and unworthy debating tactic.  
What those people calling for military action against Assad need to demonstrate is how such action would make the situation better not worse for the people of Syria and how it would shorten rather than prolong the war.  To date, they have not only failed to do so, they don’t even seem to be trying.

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