Fight against evil: Should Britain play a greater role in defeating IS?
An American graduate of the West Point military academy told me the reason no ground troops are in Iraq is due to the lessons learnt from the USA’s previous venture. As for Syria, the civil war makes the situation far too complex for hasty actions.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are left more than a little traumatised every time somebody is brutally decapitated and find ourselves asking what we are doing about it. So, should we play a greater role? And what thinking do we use to determine what such role should look like?
There is a distinct public antipathy for overseas conflict. The impending publication of the Chilcot inquiry, combined with recent withdrawal from Afghanistan has left the public questioning the value of overseas conflicts, due to both financial and human costs.
Despite this, in recent days MPs have said that our current role is “strikingly modest”. Our government seemingly believe we should play a greater role. Yet our reflexive considerations should not be limited to “should we send troops?” but rather have we considered the consequences which our actions may have?
Any hesitancy to put our military back in the line of fire is not necessarily born of isolationist politics, but of an awareness that we must be more thoughtful before committing to another engagement.
Certainly there are reasons we should increase our involvement: the increasing radicalisation of British citizens, as well as protecting our interests at home by combatting terror overseas, to name a few. Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said as recently as October last year that five Britons a week are joining IS.
There are equally good reasons not to involve ourselves. The coalition of nations fighting IS, led by the US, but including regional allies: Iraq, Turkey, Iran, UAE (until recently), Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar; may not be a group we want to be a part of. Questionable human rights records, minimal civil liberties and the risk of our weaponry ending up in the wrong hands make a compelling argument for us to stick to humanitarian aid based assistance.
In spite of this, our role should undoubtedly be greater, but this can be innovative; for instance, by deploying the army’s new social media unit. What our growing involvement will come to look like will be a decision for the government. What it is fair to say is that while there may not be the public appetite for prolonged ground combat missions against IS, we have a responsibility to the region and to our citizens to be as active as possible against such monstrous terror.