The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, has added some words of wisdom to what was becoming, from the perspective of the Tory frontbench anyhow, a rather arid and even self-defeating conversation.
On Radio 4 this morning, Fallon said that if a definite connection could be made between the Sousse massacre and Daesh, then surely some further military response is needed. Now, I don’t so much agree with this statement from Fallon as much as I think some greater reaction from western governments to the group formerly known as ISIS is long overdue.
What I really agreed with the defence secretary on was this:
“We’ve always been clear that ISIL has to be defeated in both Syria and Iraq. We have plenty to do in Iraq. Each member of the coalition is doing different things. ISIL is organised and directed and administered from Syria. There is an illogicality about not being able to do it.”
The idea that we would militarily get involved in fighting Daesh in Iraq and yet not do so in Syria is indeed illogical. We know the group does not recognise nor respect the Sykes-Picot border between the two countries and considers all of the borders throughout the Islamic world to be constructs not applicable to them. The only reason we observe this caveat to military intervention in the Middle East is because Ed Miliband came over all indesicive in 2013 on the subject.
I would go further than Fallon, however, and make the point (that others have made already obviously) that simply trying to defeat Daesh via airstrikes is not working. We should either put boots on the ground or seriously question what we’re doing intervening at all. This point is like an add on to the Iraq-Syria problem: if we intervnene, let’s do so decisively, in a way that will defeat the enemy in question completely. Or, let’s stay out of it altogether. I’m in favour of the first option, but the second option would be better than the half-assed thing we’re currently doing.
The problem is an overall cultural one, partly routed in burnout from the Blair-Bush wars, but there’s something more to it than that – some kind of desire to turn away from the threat Daesh poses, even after something like Sousse happens. A great example of this was the BBC rejecting calls for Daesh to be referred to as such, as opposed to Islamic State. I don’t mind that the BBC rejected the idea proposed in the letter (signed by 120 MPs), so much as their stated reason for doing so. It was this: that Daesh has pejorative overtones, and is used by the group’s enemies, and so thus risks the Beeb’s impartiality. So from the standpoint of attempting to be impartial in its reporting, is the BBC saying that referring to the group in question as “extremists” and “terrorists” is fine, but referring to them using what’s a slightly impolite word in Arabic isn’t? What I’m getting to is that the BBC does not in any way treat Daesh impartially as it stands. I’m fine with that, by the way, I’m simply pointing out a fact.
We are clearly still adapting to how to treat this crisis – the rise of a group that wishes to create a caliphate stretching from Morroco to Xinjang, I mean. My worry is that we’ll only start treating the whole thing seriously if it (and hopefully it does not) comes closer to home than Tunisia.