William Hague came to the Commons earlier this week to update the House on the deteriorating state of the dreadful Syrian civil war. MPs are united in condemning the brutality of the current regime in Syria. Many of us are also doubtful that the UK could actually do anything.
Many MPs argue that their favourite spending cut has been the decision to remove our troops from front line duties in Afghanistan and to get most of them home altogether. The withdrawal from Afghanistan is proceeding as the Afghan army and police take over the role of the running of their own country, and full credit to those involved in making that withdrawal happen.
I have repeatedly urged caution over Syria.
I receive little postbag urging us to action, and just one person - interestingly a devout Christian - has demanded we intervene to stop the bloodshed. The PM has been to see things for himself and diplomatically we are pressurising the Russians who have taken a bizarre approach. All of us are doing what we can for the refugees. But before acting we need to address a number of key questions:
- Just who are the opposition forces we wish to help?
- How can we distinguish between those opposition forces who believe in liberty and democracy, and those who wish to replace one tyranny with another?
- How could we ensure any arms supply went just to the people we can be sure have the right intentions?
- How do you stop the regime taking the weapons on or after delivery?
- How do you distinguish between the different opponents of the regime?
- How do you ensure that an apparently well intentioned opponent does not come less well intentioned should he receive arms from us?
- How do you get the arms into the country against the wishes of the Syrian government?
The local countries around Syria are trying to resolve this very Middle Eastern of problems but I am clear that I cannot see a reason for British troops to get involved. As always the most important thing is not to make matters worse by getting involved without a plan and the answers to the above questions.