The UK press is unanimous that Jeremy Corbyn’s recent comments on the proposal for the UK to engage in the bombing of Syria is a further example of how out of touch he is. But when you actually read what he said you have to question who is out of touch.
The BBC has been leaked a copy of the letter. In it Corbyn said this:
We’ve all been horrified by the despicable attacks in Paris and are determined to see the defeat of ISIS.
Our first priority must be the security of Britain and the safety of the British people. The issue now is whether what the PM is proposing strengthens, or undermines, our national security.
I do not believe that the PM today made a convincing case that extending UK bombing to Syria would meet that crucial test. Nor did it satisfactorily answer the questions raised by us and the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In particular, the PM did not set out a coherent strategy, coordinated through the UN for the defeat of ISIS. Nor has he been able to explain what credible and acceptable ground forces could retake and hold territory freed from ISIS control by an intensified air campaign.
In my view, the PM has been unable to explain the contribution of additional UK bombing to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, or its likely impact on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.
For these, and other reasons, I do not believe the PM’s current proposal for air strikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it.”
Unnamed MPs within his party are predictably outraged at what he said. Remember this was a letter sent to Labour MPs. Again from the BBC:
A leading shadow cabinet member said his intervention – which puts him at odds with half of his front bench – would lead to resignations.
“There will be resignations among senior members of the shadow cabinet over this,” the shadow cabinet member told BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith.
He said Mr Corbyn’s letter had led to a breakdown of trust within the shadow cabinet, which had not been consulted before it was sent.
And without a shred of irony this MP also criticised Corbyn for playing politics with the issue.
A British serviceman would be “insulted” by Mr Corbyn’s “ridiculous party games” he said, adding: “We are becoming a complete joke.”
Leaks to the Telegraph suggest that a majority of the shadow cabinet support air strikes. I would be careful about the ability of the leakers to count. It is not unknown for anonymous leakers to overstate the strength of their support.
And how wrong would it be to bomb Syria? The bombing of Paris was totally inhumane and unforgivable and the death of 129 people a scarring tragedy. The United Nations estimated that by January of this year 220,000 people had been killed in the Syrian war. The comment has been made again and again and again that the continued destabilising of the Middle East has created the conditions under which ISIS and Al Qaeda have thrived. Further bombing will only increase the misery.
Of course the issue is not easy and under the white hot blast of public opinion many politicians would waiver. Even Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that the SNP is prepared to consider the issue rather than rule it out of hand. But the proposal is hopelessly inadequate and will inevitably fail the same way that repeated military interventions in the area have.