Delingpole on Friday: Moral Imperative? Pass the Sickbag

So finally I know how it feels to be a smug, self-righteous, peacemongering wanker.

   Great, I’m sorry to say.

   I’m not even going through any of that painful “soul-searching” George Osborne warned us to expect after the Government’s failure to push through its attack plans on Syria. Why would you if you knew all along that military intervention was a bad idea and are now just bloody relieved that an idiot, ill-thought through scheme has been very sensibly kicked into touch?

 Is Osborne suggesting that we’re now supposed to feel guilty, like we’ve ducked our moral duty or something? I rather suspect he is but this, for me, was always the least persuasive aspect of the Syria debate: the idea, to quote one of the pro-war faction, Lord Howard that Britain’s job is to act as “the conscience of the world.”

  No it isn’t. If that idea didn’t die with our abject humiliation in Basra, it has certainly been dealt a mortal blow by our agonisingly protracted war in Afghanistan. We’re not an imperial power. It’s not our job to strut about the international stage, moulding the world in our image like we did in the good old days when half the map was coloured pink. We don’t have the resources, we don’t have the will, we don’t have the nous.

  If we did have the nous we’d certainly never bandy about phrases like “moral imperative” as an excuse for costly, dangerous interventions like the one proposed in Syria. Sure people may have talked about the “White Man’s Burden” in Kipling’s day. But when it came down to it, our foreign policy was based on self-interest rather than bleeding-heart sentiment.

  And so a nation’s foreign policy should be for at least two good reasons. The first is that if you are a democratically elected government, spending the large sums of money that you have confiscated from the populace in the form of taxes (or borrowing or money-printing) on expensive foreign ventures, your duty is to the voters who gave you that money not to the strangers whose interests may be inimical to those of the people you represent.

  The second is that sentiment – or the “moral imperative” if you prefer to dignify it thus – is no basis for policy. Emotion clouds the judgement, so I can’t say I was terribly reassured when Cameron urged members of the House that before reaching their decision they should “force” themselves to watch harrowing videos of children suffering after the chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week.

  How would that have helped, exactly? Would it have given MPs a clearer insight into which of the various unsavoury factions fighting for control in Syria would most likely fill the vacuum were Assad to be deposed? Would it have helped them better to understand how Russia and the Syrian government might respond to any perceived escalation of the conflict by outside forces? Might it have enhanced their cost benefit analysis of the gains the British people would enjoy in return for expending treasure – and possibly blood – on a complicated war in a country to which they have no historical ties?

  What Cameron was asking MPs to do in this instance was not dissimilar to what extremist Imams do in order to work young Jihadists up into the proper fit of righteous zeal. Expose them to enough atrocity porn of Muslim victimhood, point them towards the nearest target, and let their moral outrage take care of the rest.

  Well I’m sorry, but I really would expect better from a British Prime Minister. If you’re going to lead your country into a war, the very least you owe your people is a sound justification and a clear set of objectives. Having seen some videos which made you really disgusted and angry just doesn’t qualify, I’m afraid.

  Much of the post-debate analysis today seems to concern how badly Cameron’s reputation has been damaged by the affair and what this alleged act of appeasement will do to Britain’s “image” abroad. For me, both of these are symptoms of the trivialism which afflicts almost every aspect of our political analysis these days and which helps explain why we are so poorly governed. We spend far too much time thinking about what is politically expedient or what will strikethe  right tone; far too little about what makes the most sense based on the best available evidence.

  Yesterday, parliament was offered another opportunity to waste large sums of public money on a spectacularly pointless project and, after much consideration, decided to turn it down. If only it could learn to make a habit of it.

19 comments on “Delingpole on Friday: Moral Imperative? Pass the Sickbag

  1. dr
    August 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I think that there are a couple of things that could / should come out of this situation.
    The first is that I don’t believe that Cameron’s reputation has been damaged by his defeat in the HoC vote. I think that his reputation was damaged by his enthusiasm for war prior to the vote and the loss has merely informed him of his predicament. With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that if Cameron wanted to attack, he should have not held a vote in the HoC, then he could have kept his word to the International community. Alternatively, he should have stated his desire for war in more broad terms so that he could include the condition that he wanted approval from the HoC.
    The second thing that I hope comes out of this situation, is a reappraisal of what our position in the world should be. Currently, with respect to Europe we seem to have a “do whatever Brussels tells us attitude” and with respect to the rest of the world, we like to play Robin to a US Batman. Frankly, I think that this foreign policy makes us look stupid and damages our sovereignty and society. We should be able to accept that we don’t run the world any more. We should be comfortable with as much say in international affairs as other countries our size. Our “punching above our weight” does not seem to me to bring us extra prosperity or improve the quality of life of our citizens.
    With respect to Syria itself, it looks to me, that the best worst option, would be for Assad to defeat the opposition, many of whom are Al Qaeda operatives or sypathisers. This would leave a dictator in place, who, while he treats his own people badly, does not appear to cause much trouble internationally.
    If Assad’s forces are degraded, then it looks like the civil war will last longer and more people will die. The outcome would remain uncertain.
    If Assad was replaced through regime change, then it looks to me unlikely, that the West would be able to keep Al Qaeda out of government in some capacity. One Al Qaeda are in government in Syria, they can either plan to invade Iraq, or to support Al Qaeda in Iraq to try to gain control of both countries. This would then facilitate the construction of a state pioneering terrorism around the world.
    The idea that a few cruise missiles could be thrown at Syria to give them a smacked wrist for using chemical weapons is laughable, because in the event of Syrian retaliation we would then be forced into continuing hostilities.

    • Ballomar
      August 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

      Horrid though the thought is, it appears that the best outcome is that a degraded and weakened Assad is victorious. That is an Assad that is able to keep order in Syria, but no longer interferes with Lebanon, or supports Hezbollah.

      A US intervention may achieve that by degrading the Syrian army and knocking the stuffing out of Hezbollah.

      BTW, the US has not yet avenged the 241 servicemen killed in the 1983 Beirut bombing. This might be their chance.

    • A M Hunt
      September 1, 2013 at 8:51 am #

      When innocents are being gassed or incinerated it seems rather self-indulgent to ponder our own self-image. It seems tragic to subscribe to an organisation that is always found wanting when called upon to act. In the school yard, did we not always stand way off and watch in anger or sympathy when the poor diminutive or quiet child was abused by the yard bully who, once confronted, would melt away? This particular bully has his henchmen around him or he would never have perpetrated this atrocity so blatantly. There should be a global authority to which we are all answerable, then such actions could be unequivocally and universally condemned and suitable redress sanctioned.

  2. Simon Roberts
    August 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    James, what you have articulated here is the huge chasm between a logical evaluation of the situation and the nonsense that Cameron et al have been spouting.

    Some of us have tried to express this, but as well as you of course.

    I believe that the best example of this was when Cameron said that our attacking the Syrian govt would not constitute an escalation nor mean that we were choosing sides in the conflict.

    So much nonsense has been spouted about this – and so little evidence provided – that I think we have to start questioning now what the real agenda is.

    As you say, our govt only felt the need to get involved now that the “rebels” are losing the war. Why?
    What is so important about toppling Assad?
    Is this connected to the overthrow of other muslim regimes in the area?
    Why is the British govt so determined to undermine so many muslim govts in the middle east?

    There’s cleary something at the bottom of all this which isn’t being reported. Does it not make your journalistic antennae twitch?

    There’s one obvious beneficiary in the middle east but I’m sure that if our govt were doing all this for Israel’s benefit they would come out and say that they were defending an ally. So what can the real reason be?

    • dr
      August 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      I had a theory this morning, I haven’t thought about it for long enough to scrutinize it. It goes like this. Al Qaeda are providing some of the opposition in Syria. Al Qaeda are providing some opposition in Iraq. If it looks like the rebels in Syria are going to lose – rather than fight to the death – they may withdraw to Iraq, massively boosting the strength of the Iraqi Al Qaeda opposition. This increases the chances of them gaining power in Iraq. In that scenario, the US would have to invade Iraq again. They would have no choice.
      If the rebels get the upper hand in Syria, then presumably the Russians and Iranians will increase their assistance to Assad, thereby evening up the civil war and enabling Assad to recover his losses.
      It therefore follows that the scenario that keeps Al Qaeda busiest and with the least power, is one that prolongs the Syrian civil war as long as possible. This is a scenario where both sides have approximately equal firepower. To achieve this scenario today, some small degradation of Assad’s forces is necessary because he currently has the upper hand.
      Just sayin’

      • dr
        August 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        However, if this scenario is true, then a huge amount of lying has been going on, and will need to be done in future to enable this strategy.

  3. dr
    August 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Interesting fact about the UK’s potential intervention in Syria:
    Both James Delingpole and Owen Jones believed that we should not intervene.
    (They agree on something….!)

    • Carrie Spurgeon
      August 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      Crumbs I hadn’t thought of that, now that is shocking!

  4. David Cockerham
    August 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    I too was in your camp on this but the one argument that gives me pause for thought is that ultimately we all depend on pax americana for the preservation of the kind of world in which we can all prosper and sleep easy in our beds; that this requires potential little Hitlers to be given good reason to fear the USA, and that if we undermine America’s will to do that by failing to back them when they set out to give them such reason, we put at risk the future security of our children and grandchildren.

  5. James Eadon
    August 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan are – do not interfere just because the Americans want us to. We cannot afford another war, especially one being enthusiastically pushed by the Warmongering hypocrite Obama, a war that can blow up to WW3. WW3 will be MAD.

  6. Brian the Rhetaur
    August 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Yes, it would appear that one who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize on the strength of a few days in office is planning to lob bits of high explosive in there. What does this tell us?

  7. silverminer
    August 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    This clip tells us all we need to know about what’s going on in Syria:-

    The uprising is a set up, Western backed from the beginning, to oust Assad. Same Al CIAda fighters they used against Gaddafi and who eventually will find their way to Iran. All pro Russian and Chinese Arab Nationalist regimes in the Middle East to be destroyed. Russian encircled and the oil fields dominated by US forces with China kept out. The Petro-Dollar survives for a while longer. The Great Game 21st Century style.

    Want to know who perpetrated the chemical attack in Syria? Ask the age old question “Cui bono?” Assad, who gets 500 cruise missiles fired at his military assets, or the terrorists who get to co-opt Nato airforces to turn the tide in the civil war?

    The MPs did the right thing this time round but let’s hear some of them speak out on the fraud that is the “War on Terror”.

    • Julieann Carter (@MisGrace)
      August 31, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      I’ve just watched that clip, thank you for posting it.
      According to the clip, Iran is the ultimate goal for military intervention.
      In my view then, the “War on Terror” is not a fraud.
      It makes sense that preceding any direct action against Iran, surrounding Muslim ‘friends’ in the area with any real military capability, would first need to be neutralised.
      Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria…are now weakened militarily. The ground has been/is being, prepared. That’s what the ‘Arab Spring’ was all about.

      Sudan and Somalia continue to be killing fields, brutalised during the process of tribal Islamic expansion.
      That is where the most pressing humanitarian cause lies, imo.
      But wherever there are Muslim interests, other Muslim countries would become inflamed at any Western intervention.
      Potentially Iraq, Libya, Eqypt, Syria…Iran.

      And then there’s Israel. ‘A poisonous entity on Muslim soil’ airlifting black Jews out of Ethiopia to a place of safety in Israel. Then being vilified and cast as ‘racist’ for offering/advising birth control to Ethiopian women during their transfer and resettlement period.
      Fighting for it’s survival every day, being attacked even by children whose own mothers strap bombs to them and push them forth to die horribly.

      Christians being slaughtered, Western tourists and aid workers snatched off the streets and beheaded, ‘for Allah’.

      I don’t believe “it’s all about oil”. I believe the War on Terror is exactly that, and in the best interests of future mankind.
      So many protest it’s also “all about Israel”. They need to look around the world.

      The Muslim world is irredeemable. Democracy cannot work without Human Rights and Freedom. Neither are compatible with Islam.
      We should support all countries who are fighting against it’s brutal incursion into their own.
      That means first neutralising it’s military power, (Arab Spring) and any nuclear capability (Iran).

      Or we can sacrifice Israel, ‘not look’ while by the sword they continue their expansion into African countries. Further on, albeit reluctantly, we might even agree that maybe Islam should have it’s jewel, ‘Al Andalous’…the Spanish Paradise.

      • silverminer
        August 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        I doubt I’ll convince you, Julieann, but I do believe the “War on Terror” is a total fraud. It’s straight out 1984, war without end against a phantom enemy you can never defeat because terror is just a tactic and you can’t ever beat a tactic. The Western military industrial complex needed a new enemy after the USSR fell and radical Islam was cultivated to fill the gap.

        This all started with 911 and I don’t believe the official explanation of that event for a minute. It was a false flag/stand down operation to give cover for the quasi police state that we now live under in the West and to kick of the “class of civilisations” with the Muslim world. Anyone who believe some men with beards in a cave in Afghanistan pulled that one off on their own needs a reality check.

        Iran just wants a little respect, they are no threat to us or to Israel. Al Qaeda is a CIA construct going back to the 80s when Bin Laden was fighting for the US in Afghanistan against the Soviets. They are meant to be our enemy but they fight for us in Libya and Syria and we back them with air power. A bunch of blood thirsty, deluded zealots being shunted round the Middle East by their CIA controllers. War is Peace is “Kinetic Military Action”. We’re being duped.

  8. gerrydorrian66
    August 31, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    If Delingpole thinks he has a right to tell anybody what their moral imperative is, he needs to reread his Kant.

    • James Delingpole
      August 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Can anyone help Gerry find the bit in the piece where I tell people what they moral imperative is? It could be like a game of Where’s Wally. But much, much longer.

  9. therealguyfaux
    August 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Never conflate the moral RIGHT to take action in Syria, with the moral DUTY to do so.

    It may stick in the craw of some people that there are times when you may sit on your moral rights and bide your time for a better opportunity to exercise them. This isn’t a court of chancery here, folks– you won’t be denied the relief you seek because you waited till things favoured you and hampered your opponent to a greater degree with the passage of time.

    This also is not a “court of the streets,” where you would certainly be well within your moral (and legal) right to intervene when someone is being coshed mercilessly without any justification on the part of the assailant. You must, however, weigh the possible result of that intervention against the good to be accomplished– do I want to stand up for the “rights of man,” or do I want to be able to better provide for my wife and children by remaining out of hospital/the morgue should my intervention prove futile?

    Writ large, this is the question the 1930’s posed– could we, by intervening, have prevented bloodshed that need not have happened, and the answer is a resounding “Yes!” The next question is, At what cost to ourselves? It would certainly have been morally right to fight Japan in China or the Italians in Ethiopia. More problematic in the case of Spain, which is akin to Syria in that there are no “good guys,” but undoubtedly a robust intervention on behalf of either side in that conflict certainly would have stopped somebody from killing more people. But what doth it prosper to “gain the world” and degenerate into some version of what you are fighting against, on however much of a smaller scale perhaps, should your intervention go all horribly wrong? He that troubles his own house inherits the wind, I’ve always been taught.

    Assume you are successful– how many times and in which circumstances will you be further expected to repeat process? Could “being right” prove Pyrrhic? And what happens should results be inconclusive, as they far more often than not are– a reasonable person might inquire, “What was the point in taking action?”

    None of these considerations are to be shunted aside, and you should never allow yourself to be buffaloed into doing something, merely because someone pushes your “Something must be done!” moral button. Do NOT sign a moral blank cheque that you may not have enough on hand to honour upon demand– that’s what the conflation of moral right with moral duty can lead to.

  10. David
    August 31, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    While It is difficult to oppose the argument that WE ALONE are no longer strong enough to poilice the world anymore, looking at it from a global perspective is there never an imperative to do something about any out of hand fighting – ignoring self interest?

    In reality the U.N. should be the answer – I have no objection to the idea of an offical ‘world police’ – but this too – if called upon when ‘ lines have been crossed’ would ultimately only be motivated by a moral imperative.

    Is it only our involvement that turns your stomach?

    Of course a civil war is a tricky matter when the only borders crossed are arbirtary – i.e chemicals are worse than hot metal.

    As for some of the conspiracy nonsense posted here – none of that is needed – for decades now middle eastern political motives have been hidden ‘in plain sight’ – by all sides – they are just continuations of stresses on fault lines caused primarily by two fictional tomes written to justify – well – anything. Its just taking a little longer for one half of the globe to shake that crap off. Until then it may take one last bust up.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Syria: enough moral grandstanding, already – Telegraph Blogs - August 30, 2013

    […] For me these are symptoms of the trivialism which afflicts almost every aspect of our political analysis these days. As I argue elsewhere this represents a serious flaw in our culture: […]

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