On one level – the parliamentary balance of forces – it made no difference to the outcome. Had every Labour MP opposed, and Tory rebels tripled, there’d still be RAF fighters over Syria today. We can’t know the thoughts of each Labour member entering the division lobby but do know which lobby it was, and in many cases their given reasons. These may even – I speak now of the lowly backbencher – reflect their true motives and depth of understanding.
On another level – the military balance of forces – it made no difference either. Had Cameron’s sums been out, i.e. post Paris incandescence insufficient and the vote going against, there’d still be death over Syria from fighter planes paid for by French and US equivalents of you and me, to the enrichment of firms so close to government it’s scary. (And there’d still be death in the very different conditions of Iraq from RAF jets paid for by you and me, to the enrichment of firms so close to government it’s scary.) It’s not as if Hollande and Obama need the RAF for operational reasons. As I noted days ago, bullies get antsy if pals hang back and watch. They want blood on all hands for reasons that have nothing to do with needing the extra muscle.
So why does last night’s vote matter? There are many answers, including the possibility it ups our exposure to Isis atrocity in the UK. I put it no stronger than that: we can’t know. Cameron says it lowers our exposure. He doesn’t know either and to say otherwise is as dishonest as his cheap, gob-smackingly hypocritical* shot about Corbyn’s “terrorist” pals. Beneath a blokish exterior modelled on his hero, Tony Blair, is a mediocrity who (unlike, for all his many faults, John Major) is also a spiteful and vindictive man.
Last night’s vote matters because … One, a Muslim country pays again for chaos created by western venality and knee-jerk. Two, Isis gets what it wants and blessed are the arms traders. Three, our media are again exposed, and not just the Sun with its – shall we say methodologically flawed? – ‘survey’. (3b we’ll be lied to even more now: starting with boasts of clinical strikes feared by the bad, loved by the good.) No mainstream organ has determinedly, as opposed to the token leftist column in Guardian and Independent, driven home the elephant-in-room sized questions.
Why do we back Saudi Arabia as it prioritises undermining Iran over reining in Isis?
Why do we relentlessly vilify Damascus, Moscow and Teheran when they have both means and motive to crush Isis?
Why don’t we – I mean every western force – pull out and force Ankara and Riyadh (add in the lesser Gulf states) to fight Isis on the ground; else cede the job to Iran?
Why these omissions, when movement on a single one would hit Isis harder than any number of RAF strikes? As Holmes famously observed, when we eliminate the impossible whatever is left, however improbable, is the truth. Do our leaders want to defeat Isis? Yes, but not at any price. Not if to do so weakens western ability – I mean big capital, not you or me – to continue its century old exploitation of the region. And do we have a genuinely and even handedly vigilant press – influential not just on you and me but those who in our name took that decision last night – committed to truth regardless of where that takes it? Clearly not.
NB a fourth reason the vote matters is more parochial and has to do with the way air strikes on Syria have merged seamlessly with open season on Corbyn. The Labour causes and consequences of last night’s outcome merit a separate post, forthcoming. For now I content myself with noting house flipper Yvette Cooper’s declaration that her support for air strikes is “with deep reservations” and “subject to review”. Cake … One’s … It … Having … Eating … And …
* A friend reminded me today of just one aspect of that hypocrisy. Cameron voted to smash Iraq; Corbyn not. Among the most capable Isis commanders are Sunnis who’d served under Saddam, and would have been ruthless in crushing Isis. Many who survived America’s Ba’athist purges of the Iraq army, post Saddam, fell victim to the Shia sectarianism of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Unemployed since 2003, they’ve now found a more appreciative employer.