Prime minister David Cameron’s argument in the Commons for permission to bomb Syria was not based on any new or coherent strategy. As he himself pointed out, it merely follows the logic of a previous vote to bomb Iraq. Even so, like Tony Blair before the Iraq invasion of 2003, he had to rely on abusing his opponents, scaring the public and disseminating dubious intelligence.
Nothing so undermined the prime minister’s plausibility yesterday as his refusal simply and briskly to withdraw the smear that his opponents were “terrorist sympathisers”. It suggested a man so nervous of his case as to be unable to give any quarter. It also opened him to the counter-smear, that his own relentless deployment of the politics of fear makes him terrorism’s “useful idiot”.
The trouble for Cameron in Syria is that the only ground troops worth the name belong not to the joint intelligence committee’s phantom army but to President Assad, whom Cameron wants to topple. In support of Assad are Iran and Russia, from whom Cameron does everything to distance himself.
In other words, the key component of British strategy lies with three potential allies who are anathema. In the light of this we are surely entitled to ask: just how serious is Cameron in wanting to defeat Isis and remove the “existential” threat to Britain? Cameron emerges not as a terrorist sympathiser, but certainly as a terrorist appeaser.
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