Spring is over

September 2, 2013

At the time of writing, the opposing factions in Syria are working hard to destroy each other, but the West has not yet joined in to speed up the process. Obama’s finger is twitching nervously close to the trigger, while Cameron’s interventionist hand has been stayed by an uncharacteristic outburst of wisdom from parliament.

By the time you read this, things may be different and we could all be marching towards World War 3. If Syria gets more out of control than it already is, with more parties involved, God knows what may happen.

Amazingly, the MPs and peers who supported Cameron used language like “Britain punching above her weight” and “our standing in the world” as if it was Britain’s prestige which was at stake, not the deaths of hundreds of innocent people in the Middle East. Don’t they realise that it’s their lives not our pride which matters? But, miraculously, enough of our MPs had learnt the tragic lesson of Iraq to hold Cameron back from accelerating the bloodshed.

The outrage at the use of chemical weapons is utterly understandable, but I’m not convinced that one brutal method of killing innocent people is worse than another. Aren’t they all vile?

But the biggest risk in the unfolding tragedy of Syria is not one particularly unpleasant category of weaponry: it is the law of unintended consequences. The West may take actions its leaders consider morally or legally justifiable, but they can’t know what will follow from those actions. The idea that you can stop a war by intensifying it seems ludicrous to me. It’s a sinister truth that ‘escalate’ is a verb which seems to have no opposite.

It is impossible to look forward with any sense of certainty or even with any sense of hope. The only thing we can be sure of is that the Arab spring is over. We must prepare to face the Arab winter: and pray that we are not all gripped in its chill embrace.

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