Syria vote: Have the opponents of war in Syria been unfairly labelled as being weak on defence?

Will bombing Syria “defend” the UK? (Source: Getty)

Professor Michael Kerr, the director of the Middle East & Mediterranean studies programme at King's College London, says Yes

There is no doubt that Islamic State (Isis) represents a significant threat to UK security. Its objective is to create instability and provoke a counter-terrorism response that damages Western interests in the Middle East. Bombing Isis strongholds in Syria will represent an offensive rather than a defensive action.

Many politicians and experts on Syria are sceptical of the view that bombing will in fact “defend” the UK or make it more or less secure from an attack by Isis. We should not forget that a majority of MPs in 2013 did not share the government’s view that bombing the regime was in the national interest.

To label those critics of past or present UK government policy towards Syria as weak on defence misses the point; many of those sceptics would favour military intervention if a ground force in Syria existed that was willing and able to dislodge Isis from its strongholds, in line with a coherent international strategy to end the civil war and manage the humanitarian disaster that it has caused.

Michael Stephens, deputy director of RUSI Qatar, says No

While it is understandable that there is opposition to military adventures in the Middle East, given the UK’s history of careering to war in Iraq in 2003, the conflict against Isis should be viewed in a different light, and to reflexively reject airstrikes in Syria against Isis is to misunderstand the problem.

It is true that David Cameron has oversold airstrikes in Syria as a solution to Isis.

It is a complex problem that requires many different approaches of which military action is but a small part. But it is a part: Isis has an army, and has expanded its influence wherever it can, brutally so.

As such, it is nonsensical to suggest that we work against half of its operations in Iraq but not in Syria. Those who think there is a peaceful solution to the problem of Isis aren’t weak on defence, but they are naive.

Again, bombing Isis areas is not by itself a solution to the problem, but it does form part of a range of measures that need to be taken if it is ever to be defeated.

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