Saturday, 28 November 2015

Bombing Daesh in Syria

Members of Parliament here in the UK are currently being asked/cajoled as to how they might vote on a motion that would extend the participation of British aircraft in attacks on Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq.

At the time of an earlier vote on British involvement in air strikes in Syria, Pope Francis called a vigil of prayer in St Peter's Square, to offer intercession in favour of peace. It occurs to me that we have for some months now been facing a threat to peace at least as significant as on that occasion, and in all probability more so.  I took advantage of the Liturgical option of the Saturday memorial of Our Lady today (last possibility for a little while .... though I might well exercise a certain discretion in this regard during Advent!) to pray a votive office of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

In examining the moral question with regard to the bombing campaign currently being waged against Daesh, it seems to me that there are two questions. That Daesh are an evil that should be resisted is beyond question; and that that resistance requires the force of arms appears equally beyond question. However, to be proportionate (in the sense in which that word is used in Catholic teaching on the just use of arms) that use of arms must be directed to resist the threat as it is actually presented, and not only to the people of the developed nations remote from Syria and Iraq, but also as it is actually presented to the peoples of Iraq and Syria, and indeed the near neighbours of those countries. An aerial campaign to "degrade and destroy" Daesh, to use the language of the Western backed campaign, is not doing this and does not have that as its aim. [Some air strikes in particular tactical situations may be doing this - but that is clearly not the stated aim of the air campaign as a whole.] It leaves the ordinary people of Syria and Iraq the potential victims of collateral damage and fails to resist the threat at the point that the threat exists.

If to attack Daesh from the air alone is not proportionate (in the sense in which that word is used in Catholic teaching), then there is a clear requirement for "boots on the ground" (to use the current phrase). This would meet the threat at its direct point of being a threat. The current political conversation in the UK recognises this - but by insisting on relying on the forces already fighting in Iraq and, in Syria, on the various forces of the opposition groups engaged in the civil war there. But, in effect, by arming and supporting short of actual direct military engagement those forces in the civil war in Syria perceived as being "moderate" (while Middle Eastern nations do likewise for the forces that they consider to be for the good of the causes they espouse, perhaps those of the politics of the Shia/Sunni divide in Islam and Russia does so in favour of the regime of President Assad), are we not engaging in precisely the trade in weapons and warfare that Pope Francis (and his predecessors in the See of St Peter) has  condemned and which can never be at the service of peace or justice?

You might be gathering that the course of action being proposed by the Conservative government is not one that I would support.....

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