Saturday, November 28, 2015

The 9:15 To Raqqa

Our impending Syria war is all over the papers again today, and there's an interesting trend developing.

Type "Syria war" into Google News and you'll quickly get the impression that there's a lively debate over the usefulness of wars in the Middle East.  To read some sources, this debate only even exists at all because of the wildly unpopular and berserk radicalism of the leader of the opposition, but the overwhelming majority of writers and politicians seem to agree: this war will almost certainly end in at least a partial success.

I have no idea quite why this should be the case, since our experience in the last fifteen years has demonstrated quite neatly that our humanitarian wars almost never work, and are in fact greatly more likely to leave the people that we're trying to assist hugely worse off, or dead.

So you'd think that this would be the end of the debate about the usefulness of wars, or at least of humanitarian wars in the Middle East.  It's not like we've only seen this play out once, or anything - we're long past the point where it was controversial, and we can now observe trends and draw hard conclusions.

We can happily concede that of course, it's possible that any particular new war will work - in much the same way that it's possible that I might score a World Cup goal for Scotland - but we can say with a very high degree of confidence that it probably won't work*.  I foolishly expect this to be universally accepted fact, myself. 

I'd also suggest that this should affect our thinking about any new proposal for war.  After all, if trains operated at the same failure rate as our wars, nobody would ever set foot on one.  If politicians and pundits near-unanimously responded to train crashes by announcing faster and more rickety trains, then we'd all assume that those people were dangerously unhinged and unreliable, and we'd never listen to their advice about anything.

The basic conclusion that we can draw is this, though: Our new war will probably be a failure too, and possibly a terrible one.

Now, with this in mind, try that Google search again and see if anything it returns reflects this reality.

There ain't much, is there?

What there is, is plenty of hysterical denunciation for people who point out our dreadful failure rate.  I've picked  McTernan's gloriously deranged Telegraph article as an example, because it's the wackiest, but with most of today's coverage, it's mainly a difference of tone rather than content.

Now, why do we think it is, that the most glaringly obvious fact about our recent military adventures is almost entirely invisible in our discussion of our involvement in this war?  And, can we draw any conclusions about the people who seem to have overlooked it?


*This one is probably the best, although I've never heard of the author, who openly admits that the war probably won't work and backs it anyway.

38 comments:

ejh said...

since our experience in the last fifteen years has demonstrated quite neatly that our humanitarian wars almost never work

Well one way of looking at this would be - what do we mean by work? Or put another way - if one were to get the impression that a large part of agitating for war seemed to be connected, not with the likely course of the war itself, but with identifying, isolating and condemning the war's opponents, would one actually be wrong?

Micheal Lunny said...


Exhibit A: Patrick Wintour, in the Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/28/labours-power-struggle-threatens-to-sideline-this-matter-of-utmost-importance-syria

"Four points seemed at issue in this discussion. The identity, loyalty and location of any ground troops to take over land occupied by Islamic State; the prospects of the wider peace process including an exit strategy; the real value of UK airstrikes in disrupting Isis; and finally, but less prominently, the legal authority for airstrikes.
....
But the majority of the shadow cabinet, influenced by briefings on intelligence, believe British airstrikes can be effective in disrupting the command and communications of Isis headquarters in Raqqa, and so bolster UK security. As for the risk of terrorist reprisals, the shadow cabinet has been told by the government that Britain is already a first tier target."

The piece is appallingly partial and barking mad, the PLP discussing the minutiae of military action as if Iraq never happened.

Worst of all Wintour has the gall to say:

"The irony is that, behind this bitter power struggle, the highest echelons of the party have been trying to conduct a serious debate on Syria that transcends slogans or the resettling of scores from the Iraq war."

Yeah, it sure is ironic that the debate on joining this war (and it would be war) in the middle east is decoupled from analysis of the last disastrous attempt to do the same thing.

What a disingenuous shit Wintour is.

gastro george said...

Maybe I live in a parallel world, but I thought that Cameron has a parliamentary majority, and in addition can rely on the DUP. But it seems that he can't guarantee a successful vote because of the number of Tory rebels. Yet somehow the story is about the Labour Party.

septicisle said...

There have been a few exception, and Peter Beaumont's piece in the Graun on the uncertainty of intervention is one of the better ones.

Two things that bother me: first that rather than admit as a very first step to winning back trust that they got it wrong two years ago when they tried to get the authority to bomb the other side, hardly anyone so much as asks them to do so, and when they do they get a response like the one George Osborne gave Andrew Marr, saying the vote against was one of the worst decisions parliament has ever made.

Second, that while there is uncertainty, recent history is at the least a decent guide to what might happen when there is no realistic plan. Cameron's plan, leaving aside the risible idea there are 70,000 moderate rebels waiting to do our bidding, relies on there being a ceasefire between said rebels and Assad. Unless there is something really substantial about to happen at these Vienna talks, something we haven't been told about, presumably involving much pressure being put on the Saudis and other supporters/funders of said rebels, the idea they're going to put down their arms against the Syrian army within weeks is a complete joke. If the Kurdish forces and their allies were substantially backed up they might, might be able to take Raqqa at some point, but it would involve levelling the place like we did Sinjar and casualties that would make the bitter fighting over Kobani look like a preliminary skirmish where no one was really playing for keeps.

And this is taking on trust that the motives behind the campaign and the arguments justifying it are noble ones, when we know they are not and no one seriously expects our involvement to make any real difference. It's the same old bullshit we've lived through before, and yet normally quite sensible people nod their heads and say how "compelling" the case is. Everything changes, everything remains exactly as it has been.

Ken Eadie, the prince of strikers said...

I don’t remember much discussion this week of the large 1,759,541 km2 North African bomb induced hellhole in the room, which of course both Britain and France had a whale of a time lighting up.

Even the Tory press admitted that far from succeeding, the intervention only created Mad Max beyooooooonnnnnnd the Thunderdome where the only winners were Islamists, people traffickers and Toyota Hilux dealers. Britain spent 13 times the amount on bombing Libya as investing in its reconstruction, so with Cameron "pledging" £1 billion pound in reconstructing Syria and the disputed areas, prepare for a fireworks party you can see from Jupiter.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/11357927/The-dire-consequences-of-meddling-in-Libya.html

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13499912.UK_government_spent_13_times_more_bombing_Libya_than_on_rebuilding_post_war/

chris y said...

Quite a lot of experience seems to tell us that air strikes as such, rather than air support operations supporting competent ground forces (read Kurds) are not just ineffective but counter-productive. But even were this not so, there are so many other things that seem to be more important. Exempli gratia, apparently other anti-Assad militias who are actually fighting Daesh/ISIS have to buy oil from them at the same time. Make this up you could not. Surely to god it should be a priority to see that one's supposed allies have access to fuel without trading with the enemy. Shall we try that first?

Also, countries which are facilitating funds flowing to the bastards, whether by oil sales or back handed donations need a good diplomatic kicking. As hard as necessary. Yes, it would be more uncomfortable for Cameron and his gang than sending a few pilots off to go through the motions, who nobody but their friends and family really care about, but if there is one clear lesson from this it's that we're not fighting the last war, we're running with the wrong gang. Until we stop doing so, we can't influence anything in Syria and Iraq for better or for worse.

SimonB said...

Peter Hitchens in the Mail has done some thinking. It's an unusual event amongst our great punditry but the results can be remarkable. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3337618/PETER-HITCHENS-isn-t-just-war-s-recreational-bombing-Churchill-wannabe.html

ejh said...

Peter Hitchens is an arse. Also has a strange habit of oscillating between the barking and the lucid.

I don't know if other people are detecting this, but I'm sure I spot a certain amount of people saying "yes, we admit Iraq was wrong and a disaster"....only they've never said so before and are mysteriously saying so now, just to explain how bombing Syria is not like that.

Anonymous said...

ISIS has been able to take and hold territory by exploiting the conflicts between multiple actors in the region, and because Iraq and Syria (and Libya) were turned into failed states. Dealing with ISIS means dealing with these issues. Here is Juan Cole on the politics of retaking a town in Iraq.

http://www.juancole.com/2015/11/internal-divisions-unenthusiastic.html

It is fascinating to watch how most coverage swerves away from the issue of failed states and the culpability of our governments in creating them. It swerves away from the nature of the side-conflicts or deals with them in a one-sided way. It fails to examine whether diplomacy and conflict-resolution is really happening and whether the USA/UK/France are trying to resolve these side-conflicts or are part of them.


Guano

Anonymous said...

EJH - "I don't know if other people are detecting this, but I'm sure I spot a certain amount of people saying "yes, we admit Iraq was wrong and a disaster"....only they've never said so before and are mysteriously saying so now, just to explain how bombing Syria is not like that."

Yes indeed. William Hague had something in the Daily Telegraph about a week ago saying more or less that.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12014935/We-were-wrong-about-Iraq.-But-were-not-wrong-on-Syria.html

When discussing Libya 2011 he said

"Yet in Libya in 2011, where I believe we saved many thousands of lives, the new leaders we relied on either left the scene or turned on each other, continuing their country’s crisis to this day."

And that's it on Libya. No lessons learnt it would seem, though in Syria the strategy relies on 57 varieties of "moderate rebels" who haven't yet come on the scene and who already have history of fighting each other. What could go wrong?

Guano

Anonymous said...

Here is another pundit belatedly learning lessons from the invasion of Iraq so as to say that this time it is different.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/syria-iraq-labour-cameron-blair#comment-64225471

What is now clear is that they are still in favour of regime change and haven't admitted that the problems of reconstruction are not going to be solved with a budget of 1 billion pounds. Reconstruction is mainly about rebuilding the institutions of the state, an area about which most of our politicians and pundits have no clue.

Guano

gastro george said...

From D'Ancona: "But they hate us pretty comprehensively already."

This is pretty much a council of despair. They hate us already, so bombing them a bit more won't make any difference.

Note also the use of "they". I wonder who "they" are. Far to many of the warmongers take a blanket view of "the Muslims".

"Yes, of course Iraq added a new excuse, a new pretext, to a list of Islamist grievances ..."

He complete ignores the fact that domestic terrorism is especially driven by these actions. And Iraq not only "added a new excuse", it added a new failed state, as has Libya and Syria.

organic cheeseboard said...

D'Ancona usually does a reasonable job of presenting his argument but that piece is all over the place, and coming as it does with the implicit approval of Downing Street, that's pretty depressing.

>>>It is understandable that MPs should, for instance, seek reassurances about the 70,000 Syrian opposition forces said by the British government to be ready for ground battle against Isis. But there is a deeper reticence in the Commons that exceeds the rational.
>>>

First off - remember how awful everyone thought that arguments using the word 'but' were about a year ago? But anyway. I'm not at all sure about the above. It is entirely rational to look to Iraq and Libya as examples of wars which were used as a pretext for things that were never in the original briefings, and which also caused far more harm than good.

>>>the prime minister urged MPs to suspend all these inclinations. “Let us not look back to Iraq and 2003,” he said. “We have to separate in our minds, our actions and our votes the case in front of us now from what people feel they were told back in 2003.”
>>>

This is clearly the Tory party line, designed to annoy Labour, but surely - surely - MPs should have far closer in their minds the votes on Libya and the previous Syria one. Syria is not Iraq, but it sure as fuck looks like a much more nasty version of Libya. And look how well that's going - such a glaring success that ISIS are considering upping sticks over there.

>>>What has to be absorbed is how conspicuously unalike Cameron’s request is from Blair’s.

This preceding such a total ignoring of the actual similarities, that it's actively embarrassing. Blair sold Iraq not on the basis of Bush-style pre-emption, as D'Ancona pretends, because if he'd done so he wouldn't have needed to mention WMDs. Instead he sold it on the basis of Saddam already having WMDs and being able and willing to use them. Of course that was bullshit, which is why everyone believes that the real reason Blair wanted to go in was because the USA had already decided to, and had asked us to. and that's exactly how Cameron sold this one.

am I the only one who also think this is a terrible ending?

>>>Iraq is only a recent chapter in a very long book of history; they are now immersed in writing the next. The question facing MPs in this vote is whether Britain wants to pick up its pen too.
>>>

For a start, we're already bombing them in Iraq, and it's done little good, according to - well - Cameron and D'Ancona. The USA et al are bombing them in Syria and again, it's not done much good - and all they're asking this time is that we lob a few missiles over the border so they don't have to. And with that, surely, according to standard Decent narratives etc, by 'not bombing' (even though we are bombing) we are also 'writing a chapter in history'?

This - along with Cameron's speech - is a terrible justification for bombing ISIS in Syria. It ignores everything that matters - the actual plan for victory, the situation on the ground - in favour of 'Jihadists are bad'.

Deja vu all over again.

gastro george said...

So Corbyn allows a free vote, but asserts that party policy is against. The "internal opposition" is going to run around screaming that this is another lever towards de-selection. The Corbynites are going to think that they've given them enough rope to hang themselves, on the reasonable basis that if the vote goes in favour, then it's going to end up in a disaster of one form or another and, conscience or not, they will have to take the repercussions.

A master stroke? [at least internally] How it plays in the country will be interesting.

Anonymous said...

d'Ancona - "But there is a deeper reticence in the Commons that exceeds the rational."

How does he know this? Has he interviewed anyone? Has he asked for an interview with Corbyn or any other MP who is wondering aloud about the sudden appearance of 70,000 moderate Syrian fighters?

I doubt it. He's trying to claim that the doubters are motivated by something else and would express doubts even if these 70,000 moderate Syrian fighters weren't a figment of someone's imagination. Which is all on a level with Martin Kettle accusing people of being anti-American or John Rentoul accusing people of being motivated by an irrational hatred of Tony Blair.

Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

The 'irrational' thing is presumably a nudge outwards the Decent Telepathy about Corbyn that he actually loves terrorism because he irrationally hates the West or whatever conspiracy theory it is this week to avoid acknowledging that being against our various interventions was a) correct, in hindsight and b) a fairly popular view with Labour members, voters, and the public at large, especially UKIP types (UKIP's Syria policy is to support Assad, for instance).

Despite my enduring sense of Corbyn and McDonnell as basically not all that competent (especially McDonnell, who I was actually hoping for decent things from), Corbyn isn't stupid in terms of political tactics; not everything he does is a mistake. Just like his ongoing pretence of EU scepticism, which is obviously specifically designed to unnerve the Tories and is working pretty well, this wheeze does seem pretty clever, which is presumably why the 'Labour moderates', who have got what they theoretically wanted i.e. the ability to vote for airstrikes, are now complaining about precisely that, on the basis of Corbyn 'not leading'. Thing is, if Corbyn is essentially inept (and he is - he keep on digging holes for himself for no good reason), then I'm not sure what that makes them - other than a bunch of petty wankers whose actions demonstrate that they'd oppose anything he suggested and who failed to beat him in elections specifically because they have absolutely no idea what their membership wants, or believes in. These are, after lal, the imbeciles who thought that supporting a Tory budget which even the Tory Chancellor has disowned would demonstrate genuine opposition, something they're now complaining Corbyn isn't providing by his decision to, er, oppose the Government.

also - on this 'outrage' about him 'writing to members of the party after failing to convince the shadow cabinet', or whatever - I'm sure that Blairites were completely fine with Labour MPs centrally deciding all policy, including education policy that Labour members hated and which only passed with Tory support, without a thought to the members. Funny how a leader pandering to their main power base is only ok sometimes eh.

gastro george said...

My impression is that they're dashing around insisting that Labour Party policy is not to oppose air strikes, or should not be, is that it provides some political cover for them when it goes tits up.

The leakiness of the discussions is not at all impressive either. They can't wait to get out of the room to feed their media friends.

Igor Belanov said...

The bulk of the PLP are certainly making a unique bid for the moral garbage heap.

It's debatable whether Cameron, Hollande, Putin and the rest really want or expect to get rid of ISIL, but it's certain that these Labour MPs want to drop bombs and kill people in order to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.

flyingrodent said...

Really, really remarkable stuff today. Almost everything I've read in the last week has been about how Corbyn better not instruct MPs to vote against this war. And as soon as it became apparent that he wouldn't, most politicians and hacks are declaring that Corbyn is a giant fraud and a big jessie for allowing a free vote.

There doesn't appear to have been much preparatory work done for this big switcheroo, either - just a straight flip over to We Have Always Been At War With Eastasia.

There's no need to go in-depth into the comical insanity of this war or the manner in which debate about it is being reported again, and I'm not naive enough to imagine that anyone will be embarrassed into behaving any better.

I will say this, though: It's telling that Cameron's inability to whip his own party is near-invisible, and that Labour MPs who are demanding a war that they're struggling badly to justify, are being described as "moderates".

And this: As noted, I'm not a Labour member and probably never will be, but I'd love to know - when almost every major paper is currently disinterested in Tory failings and is instead playing a big game of Let's You And Him Fight with Corbyn, do Labour MPs seriously believe that the press have their interests at heart?

Because this running-to-the-hacks-to-squeal thing suggests that quite a lot of them are completely unaware that they're sawing frantically at the branch they're all sitting on.

flyingrodent said...

And, on this 70,000 fighters thing - well, let's just grant that there are 70,000 Syrian militiamen who have no Jihadist/Islamist leanings, who are basically competent to take on Islamic State. Let's also grant that they're capable of evicting ISIS from Raqqa, if they choose to.

Even if we make such major allowances, we're still stuck with this - these 70,000 men would have no intention of leaving their homes undefended to go and fight ISIS, or even to fight Assad, for that matter.

Why do we know this? Because if they did want to leave home to fight ISIS or Assad, they would've done it already. They didn't do it before the Russians started bombing their homes, so why would they do it now?

And that's if we grant a whole lot of extremely dubious claims. If we take these claims on their own merits, we have to acknowledge that

- If there really were 70,000 non-Jihadist militiamen on hand to take on ISIS, we'd most certainly have heard about them before last week, and that

- There are very few reasons to believe that even the most committed army of available is capable of evicting tens of thousands of raging, heavily-armed, Islam-crazed zombie lunatics from a city that they're determined to defend to the death.

As I've said before, the worst war plans all seem to contain the vital ingredient - "And then the people will rise up to support us".

The people usually don't, which is one of the major reasons why there aren't many Jacobites around singing songs about Bonnie Prince Charlie these days.

gastro george said...

Parts of the PLP seem to be combining the insanity of Louis XV (apres moi le deluge) and the insouciance of the Anybody-But-Corbyn candidates (you mean we should say things the LP electorate agree with?).

For example, this article is notable, if only for:

"The next time you hear someone complaining about entryism or the influx of new members, ask them how many they have signed up recently or whether they have yet registered a supporter? I’ve tried. The answer is usually 'none'."

The sense of entitlement is overwhelming and, at the moment, it looks like they're in the kind of mood to go down to the pub, any pub, just to pick a fight.

gastro george said...

Interesting to see Cameron now shafting the "moderates" by only allowing a one day debate, not allowing them the Seriousness of two days debate before deciding to bomb.

Anonymous said...

"UKIP's Syria policy is to support Assad, for instance"

This is the debate that Parliament should be having, not a debate about bombing ISIS in Syria. The debate that is needed is: how can the Syrian civil war be brought to an end?

(There is also a debate needed about how to strengthen the Iraqi state, and the answer isn't "more training for the army" because it is the political divisions in Iraq that have to be tackled, and 10 years of training of the Iraqi army has left it as weak as ever.)

The debate about the Syrian civil war is surrounded by a smokescreen of spin but there are basically three options:-

1 Support the opposition to overthrow Assad and then get the opposition to turn their guns around and fight ISIS

2 Support Assad to defeat the opposition and then carry on eastwards to the front with ISIS

3 Put a great deal of effort into a resolution of the conflict so that they take on ISIS together.

Strategy 1 has, in practice, been the policy of he UK government and some Labour "moderates" since 2012. (Note that these are Labour "moderates" who support revolutions, though not in their own country. These are Labour "moderates" who get upset about Leninists but still believe in revolutions.) Strategy 1 has failed and has led to disaster. It rested on the assumption that Assad was just about to fall, that the opposition was unproblematic and that the regime change process would be unproblematic. We know that regime change processes are very, very problematic. The institutions of the state are very likely to collapse before you can slot in a new regime. The other two assumptions turned out to be wrong, as many people pointed out in early 2013).

Belatedly it seems that the UK government has moved to strategy 3, despite the assumptions behind strategy 1 collapsing 3 years ago. It is difficult to be sure, of course, because Cameron is not going to admit that he was following strategy 1 and has now changed. There is a lot of squealing going on from supporters of strategy 1, who are basically saying that their strategy failed because not enough effort was put into it.

Strategy 3 is not without its difficulties, of course. There are still too many spoilers in the game. My own view is that it's the least unrealistic strategy and a great deal more effort needs to be put into it; a great deal of knocking of heads together will be required. There will be a lot of covert opposition to it here, because it means talking to the Iranians and facing down the Saudis and there are various lobbies who won't want that. There will still be various parties trying to leverage the crisis to their won advantage.

So to some extent a vote about bombing is a smokescreen to avoid having a debate about how to end the Syrian civil war. Cameron is having a vote about bombing to obscure the fact that he has switched strategies (or that he is trying to switch strategies). A few weeks ago Cameron was saying that ISIS and the Syrian conflict were separate matters; now he is admitting that they are linked but is trying to keep the focus off that issue.)

Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

Parts of the PLP seem to be combining the insanity of Louis XV (apres moi le deluge) and the insouciance of the Anybody-But-Corbyn candidates (you mean we should say things the LP electorate agree with?).

A lot of the time, from what I can tell on Twitter, the 'big issue' for the 'moderates' is that the Labour party membership does not = the electorate at large.

Which is a reasonable point, but it only really works if you limit it to 140 characters and don't ask any questions. Such as - what would you propose that Corbyn hasn't? (Fine to suggest that they'd go about things differently, as would most of us, but then again, so, surely, would a lot of Tories dissent from Cameron's pissweak 'leadership' which involves letting scandals drag on for weeks out of misplaced 'personal loyalty').

As it stands, it seems that the main things they'd do differently are:

1) Vote enthusiastically for all and any military interventions, seemingly because of a 'conscience' which inspired them to vote for war in Iraq but also because they're popular currently with a small majority of the population (though, it would seem, possibly not the 'white working classes' which are supposedly so important), and presumably because it 'looks tough'

2) Sign up for lunatic spending plans that even the Tories don't believe in, and which have been designed specifically to fool Labour moderates, because this again supposedly gets the support of the 'white working classes' even though it very clearly doesn't, hence the tax credits u-turn

3) 'Talk tough' on immigration (the actual substance of this tough-talking to be decided at a later date), because this appeals to the 'white working classes', even though this kind of talk goes directly against not only actual economics but also the 'conscience' which is so important elsewhere

4) Be very loyal to the party yet also leak incredibly damaging stuff to journalists literally all the fucking time, often during the meetings they're meant to be taking seriously

5) Don't be Jeremy Corbyn

And that seems to be it.

Onto the other topic:

If there really were 70,000 non-Jihadist militiamen on hand to take on ISIS, we'd most certainly have heard about them before last week

I'd be willing to bet that around 10,000 if not more of these people are in fact Kurds. People who are currently being bombed by a member of NATO. That's where the entire case for war dissolves. We're relying for victory on people who our allies, and our enemies (i.e. Russia bombing anti-Assad forces), are simultaneously at war with.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of the time, from what I can tell on Twitter, the 'big issue' for the 'moderates' is that the Labour party membership does not = the electorate at large."

In which case, they need to make their mind up. Do they support the bombing because of the consciences (ie they have studied the issue carefully and this is their conclusion) or because they are reflecting the views of the public? Their unstated assumption here is that 95% of members of their own party are lunatics, which begs the question "How did that happen?"

I have written to my own ultra-Blairite MP about Syria making it plain that I a member of the public who has thought a lot about this issue and who won't let the matter rest. I'm waiting to see whether he accuses me of being a nasty troll.

Anonymous said...

To add to what I said at 09.11 -

Some of the comments from the punditry treat the August 2011 debate about bombing Assad as a debate about "what do we do about the Syrian civil war?" It was a debate on a very narrow issue and MPs rejected the bombing because they had grave concerns about the consequences (about which the government appeared to have given little thought).

Somewhere in among the spin is the insinuation that it was the public that stopped the government from bringing the Syrian civil war to an end (or it was Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn or StWC). In reality the only proposition that was put forward was something that would have had no clearly stated consequences and could well have led to even greater chaos more quickly.

Guano

gastro george said...

"Their unstated assumption here is that 95% of members of their own party are lunatics, which begs the question 'How did that happen?'"

The Blairite project was always designed to remove any accountability of the party hierarchy to its membership, indeed to make the membership irrelevant.

The reaction was for the membership to leave in droves. What remained was largely a supine rump, and it seems that most MPs paid no attention to forming a membership of any significant size that reflected their world view. Which left the party open to any campaign that could generate a groundswell of new members. Of which Corbyn is the beneficiary, although it needn't have been so.

organic cheeseboard said...

I find it incredible that the people who designed the 'registered supporter' thing thought that it would end up being populated by hundreds of thousands of centrist Blair admiring types. I mean we're talking here about people who are not interested in politics in general, whose political beliefs, such as they exist, are largely centre-right, and who are impressed by show over substance. More or less the least likely people in the country to register as a supporter of a political party.

In which case, they need to make their mind up. Do they support the bombing because of the consciences (ie they have studied the issue carefully and this is their conclusion) or because they are reflecting the views of the public? Their unstated assumption here is that 95% of members of their own party are lunatics, which begs the question "How did that happen?"

Like I said up there, the issue of 'Labour moderate conscience' is a funny one. Sometimes they're very clear that they're being guided by these consciences, usually when they're deciding to bomb other countries; at other times they abandon conscience completely in order to e.g. argue for less immigration. But either way, I'm still not convinced that MPs should vote according to conscience anyway. They're not meant to do this surely - they're meant to represent the wishes of their constituents. Always infuriates me when MPs for instance allow their personal religious views to inform a vote.

As for their thinking that 95% of the party membership are lunatics, I'd be willing to wager that most relatively young Tories think the same thing. Corbynmania is the clearest manifestation yet of how out of sync Westminster parties are with their own membership.

I do wish someone would hold the Tories to account on their recently-stated regret at not being able to launch 'limited strikes against Assad'.

gastro george said...

I particularly like the conceit that the "moderates" would like the freedom to exercise a vote according to their conscience, but not the freedom to accept any consequent criticism for the outcome of that vote.

Anonymous said...

Gastro George


"The reaction was for the membership to leave in droves. What remained was largely a supine rump ... "

What remained was a small enough membership to be bought off with the promise of sinecures like being a head school governor or head of PCTs. As my cousin says, when I ask about her sinecure at OFWAT that she got through the Labour Party, "But I've turned down five other posts just like it". It is much more difficult to buy off a mass membership, and clearly many people from the Blair era have forgotten what accountability is like.

Guano

Ken Eadie, the prince of strikers said...

I thought Cameron was pretty clear on where the 70,000 fighters will come from. Dragon's teeth sown into the ground from which will sprout fully armed warriors. It's the most compelling part of the case for action.

Anonymous said...

Organic Cheeseboard "They're not meant to do this surely - they're meant to represent the wishes of their constituents."

I'm unsure about that. They cannot represent the views of everybody and they cannot know public opinion about every issue. My own view is that they are supposed to hold the government accountable on our behalf. That means that they should be able to demonstrate to their constituents why they have taken a certain view on a particular issue.

Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

Yeah, you might be right there. My own MP (Labour safe seat in London) seems to have decided to oppose and has written a decent post on it.

Anonymous said...

Gastro George - "I particularly like the conceit that the "moderates" would like the freedom to exercise a vote according to their conscience, but not the freedom to accept any consequent criticism for the outcome of that vote."

Yes, an MP should make a judgement but be able to defend it to their constituents.

There were some commenters on CiF today who were saying that if Labour deselected MPs who vote for bombing it would mean losing their brightest and best minds. That depends on whether they can make a logical case to anyone who asks them to explain their decision. I am not sure that people who believe in Cameron's 70,000 Foo Fighters are very bright minds.

Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

Also note the fact - and it's a fact - that the supposed 'brightest and best minds' ran various leadership campaigns of such abject uselessness (or, alternatively, ducked out of them because they realised that the chances of being PM in 2020 for ANY Labour leader were pretty slim) that Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of the party with a massive mandate from the membership.

If they were so clever they'd have been able to at least fucking compete in a leadership election which was eventually won by someone they consider totally incompetent. If he was that shit, you could, and should, have beaten him. So now you spend every day briefing against him, to demonstrate your seriousness, and the party loyalty that you hate him for never having shown.

gastro george said...

At the most craven, basest level - they are seeking power without any responsibility. Yet would be among the first to trumpet the wonders of our version of democracy.

Gary Othic said...

One thing currently unconsidered is that if the Syrian 'moderates' are anything like the Labour 'moderates' than that's one hell of a lot of radical fanatics we're going to be dealing with...

flyingrodent said...

A lot of the time, from what I can tell on Twitter, the 'big issue' for the 'moderates' is that the Labour party membership does not = the electorate at large.

I think that quite a lot of the "moderates" have fatally confused "the people they represent" with "the Times editorial staff". No doubt there's plenty of crossover, but it looks to me like the parliamentary party are egging each other on to ever-greater acts of dickishness, of which a primary one is - supporting a very dubious bombing campaign, just to get it up Jeremy Corbyn.

I predict that this probably won't stand them in good stead, the next time that they have bright ideas to put to the party at large.

But then, who knows? Perhaps this new war will be loads more effective than the other ones this century, and it'll be me that's back-tracking. I suppose we'll see soon enough.