Well, well - we do live in interesting times. Some thoughts on the ongoing fallout of the Syria debacle in the UK, in no particular order:
- It's difficult to understate how badly the government had sex with the hound in making its case for bombing.
To pick a couple of previous PR campaigns, we've had a case full of scaremongering, slightly-true bollocks and magical fulminations on the wonders of democracy (Iraq) and a case that amounted to a series of bald lies about our objectives (Libya). Both were packed with nonsense, but it did feel like they were at least making a bit of an effort.
For Syria, the government tried the novel tactic of not making a case for war at all. Perhaps it was complacency that reduced the entire campaign to some horrible TV footage and a vague plan to like, bung some missiles at Syria so that the regime would, like, totally know we meant business and shit.
So you can't really blame folk for not buying it. This kind of behaviour looks pretty deranged when it's a bunch of Palestinian yahoos spunking rockets at their neighbours for no particular reason, and it doesn't sound more reasonable just because the guy proposing it went to public school.
- If your plan is so flimsy that it can't even stand up to one guy saying, "Can you explain this in a bit more detail", then it was probably a shit plan in the first place. This part of war-planning is usually the most insulting phase, as everyone pretends there's an actual debate to be had, beyond how badly we intend to fuck up some foreigners.
After all, it's not like Ed Miliband asked for a detailed twelve-step programme for the elimination of death itself. Labour's quibble basically offered 100% backing for yet another whizzbang firework show, provided Cameron handed over something - anything, any excuse, however feeble - by way of justification.
Frankly, I thought Cameron could've published a war prospectus that consisted of a map of Syria with BOMB HERE written on it and a clip of Tulisa honking on another cock, and he would've been buried under a towering pile of backbenchers' frilly knickers, like Tom Jones. A mere fig leaf to drape over Britain's vast, throbbing war-boner would've been sufficient.
Instead, we were treated to one of the least edifying hissyfits in Parliamentary history, as Number Ten chewed desks, rent garments, spoke in tongues, called down the judgement of heaven etc. and so on. Michael Gove and William Hague looked like they were engaged in a contest to see who could best convey the abstract concept of bollock-torture, through the medium of facial expressions.
Well, it'll probably come to war anyway, but let's just notice for now that all it took to derail these hijinks was for one major politician to say "Hold on, let's have a bit of a think about this first". Perhaps there, we see where we've been going wrong all these years.
- The most psychotically aggressive human beings in this country aren't soldiers or football hooligans, but Times journalists. For the past fortnight, their opinion columns and editorials all read like they were written by a pissed-up Scrappy Doo.
- And it really is very lucky for our mental foreign policy wonks that all these disasters keep happening in places that they've always wanted to bomb to smithereens in the first place.
- I suspect that most of our war-loving pundits have been in such a state of boiling, omni-directional seethe since that vote, not just because they love those Syrians that we weren't planning to kill so very fucking much, but because
a) Britain chose not to join in with the Americans and the sky has not yet fallen, which teaches the public all kinds of highly inconvenient lessons, and
b) These aren't people who are used to being denied whatever they want. War pundits have been spoilt rotten these last fifteen years, so it's no surprise that they're stamping their little feet and bawling when Mummy tells them that we have to play nice and keep the toys in the box for once.
- Elsewhere, Paddy Ashdown has been telling everyone who will listen that not bombing fuck out of countries whenever we feel like it is some terrifying form of hateful extremism.
Call me nuts, but his wailing about "isolationism" strikes me as hilariously premature. Parliament narrowly declining one war in every ten or so doesn't sound much like a Fortress Britain mentality to me, yo.
Still, let's note that while Ashdown's Fuck 'Em And Feed 'Em Frag Grenades attitude to military adventurism is wildly unpopular with the actual electorate, it places him squarely in the centre of the most mundane mainstream of UK politics.
- Also, somebody needs to send some British journalists a link to the Wiki page for "War", because almost none of them appear to be aware that bombing fuck out of another country is a little bit war-ish.
I mean, sure, these days we only make war on countries that can't meaningfully fight back so the definition is stretched, but the formula is still Attacking a country = War, no matter how many nice press releases you issue while you're doing it.
- And that line we kept hearing, about how "Syria is not like Iraq". I'm assuming that it means "Not like Iraq in 2003", because it sure as hell looks a bit like Iraq in 2007 to my untrained eye.
- It's fairly incredible to me that the press seem to be able to find endless numbers of Syrians who want us to bomb their countrymen on their behalf, but almost none who actually want to be bombed themselves.
You'd think there would be quite a lot of Syrians who'd state publicly that they'd rather not be fragged into space dust by the force of our humanitarianism, but I guess they must be too busy to give interviews.
- Who doesn't love being told that "We can't let Russia or China dictate our foreign policy" by wonks and hacks who are entirely in favour of outsourcing our foreign policy to Pennsylvania Avenue? It's just precious.
- If everyone on Twitter giving it hee-haw about how anti-war types should protest the Russian embassy had actually protested outside the Russian embassy themselves, there would've been a massive protest outside the Russian embassy.
It would've achieved squarely nothing, but it would at least have backed up their tiresome patter with a bit of action.
And finally, whenever the Americans do start bombing Damascus, my money is on "Operation Lightning Justice". You heard it here first, folks - enjoy the display.