It’s worth reflecting on whether there is a country where air strikes or military aggression has been effective in neutralising a violent threat, in making the streets safer, in implementing democracy and human rights. In the last 50 years say. Gaza? Derry? Baghdad maybe. How about Grenada, or Sierra Leone perhaps. Kosovo. Bosnia. Chechnya, Ukraine; Korea. Libya? Afghanistan.
Militarists will argue until the planes come home about the relative successes of some of these campaigns in recent years. But we only have to look at the litany of recent failures – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – to know that something is wrong in the heart of Whitehall. The nexus of power where the ministries of defence, foreign and commonwealth, treasury and home affairs vie for supremacy, for the ear of the politicians, generals, mandarins and contractors who inevitably come off best after a good battle or two.
No doubt their tentacles stretch as far as Crewe Toll, where Edinburgh’s own lethal cottage industry is headquartered, under the misnomer of the “defence” industry. “Let’s order some airstrikes,” shareholders and bonus-hungry managers say; and to borrow from Blackadder: “It’ll raise the whole tone of the war, Darling.” To the beat of Cameron’s war drum, it feels like a terrifying mix of Groundhog Day and Alice in Wonderland.
Have we learned nothing? Have the British and foreign lives lost in miserable military failures been so easily forgotten? It’s clear that holding high office blinds politicians and officials to the basic lessons of recent history and common sense. And because – weirdly – the voting public still trusts them, 60% of us apparently now support this apparently inevitable reckless and fatal revenge fest.
But thousands will support massive nationwide protest marches this week. We’ll gather to demonstrate against the idiocy of bombing desert camps and civilian towns that will drive hordes of new recruits into the suicide vest shops and the ISIS quartermasters stores, eager to tear our western lives apart. The resurgent left will speak out against war, because in a few years time, another Chilcot will start compiling a dossier of evidence against Cameron et al, incredulous that in so short a time we were ready to repeat the fatal errors of only a few years before.