Whenever a British government announces that ‘we are going to war’ in the Middle East – this time to bomb Islamic State, or whatever it calls itself this week – I find myself wondering for the umpteenth time who it is we currently think of as our ‘friends’ in the region and who it is that we can indisputably consider our ‘enemies’.
I have never come up with a satisfactory answer because I’m pretty sure there isn’t one.
Perhaps the American and British governments know. They claim to, but in determining who should be doing what to whom, frankly they don’t have a stellar record.
The current ‘alliance’ partners – the quotation marks are tiresome but necessary – are ranged, alongside the
If these countries are our friends, one is tempted to ask why we need enemies. Each is appallingly and irredeemably medieval – as T.E. Lawrence says in the film a “cruel and barbarous people”. Each treats women as sex slaves. Each has a human rights record that even the Spanish Inquisition would find repulsive. Each has used its oil proceeds to fund the very terrorist bands against which they and The West are now launching air strikes. The ‘allies’ have joined us in punitive action because apparently they now fear the very monsters they helped to create.
But before mocking them for this, let’s first recall that the
I haven’t mentioned
I’ve no idea whether IS poses the kind of threat that to the West that the
Obviously we need to be vigilant in protecting our citizens, but frankly I feel more threatened by the criminal gangs and drug cartels that operate freely in our own cities than by the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Drugs and street killings dispose of more of our people in a week than Islamic fanatics could manage in a decade.
Not that I feel overwhelmed by a moral repugnance over air strikes, or drone attacks, or whatever other means of destruction we might apply to the campaign. I simply believe that the effort is futile, and with a lingering suspicion that some western governments are driven to it as much by domestic political considerations as any purely military calculations.
The Middle East is a confused mess – as it has been for several thousand years – but unless or until our oil supplies (and weapons sales) are directly jeopardised, I would encourage our ‘allies’ in the region to take care of their own problems, in their own way.
Meanwhile, since nothing in the