What kind of world do we want to build? One where our children (all children in every country) can live their lives in peace. How do we do that? Not, by appeasing tin-pot dictators using chemical weapons on their own people.
I strongly supported the action by the US, the UK and France in making a military strike against President Assad of Syria’s chemical capability last week. The world decided several decades ago, after the horrors of the First World War, that we would not permit the use of chemical weapons in warfare. The death and disease that chemical weapons inflict were deemed by our forefathers to be beyond the pale in inflicting excruciating agony and long term consequences, impacting women and children indiscriminately.
Now, either we enforce those past decisions to ban the use of such weapons, or we pass on by on the other side.
This is where we run into realpolitik. Of course it would be better if such action was condoned by the United Nations Security Council, on which sits (as permanent members) USA, Russia, China, UK and France. Each one has a veto. We know for certain that Russia would veto any action against its close ally Syria, and therefore we have two choices: do nothing or act outside of a UN resolution. I strongly support the latter.
To do nothing is to invite more rogue states to act in an unacceptable way, thus making the world more dangerous for our children, not safer.
We have learned big lessons over the past two decades. We had little choice but to go into Afghanistan after the attack on the twin towers, but the war in Iraq was a mistake. We were wrongly told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This experience has severely dented the appetite of Western citizens to take any military action anywhere.
Just because the incursion into Iraq was a mistake does not mean we should not intervene anywhere. After the First World War the western world was understandably weary of bloodshed and as a result we appeased the rise of the Nazis for far too long. With appalling consequences.
As Russia flexes its muscles again and the situation in the Middle East is becoming desperately fragile, we have to remain vigilant and where we can sensibly intervene to stop conflict developing or escalating, we have to do so. Our children will not thank us if we duck this.