There is a truth, an unavoidable elephant-in-the-room truth, a glaring shining searchlight of truth, that the leaders of the world are choosing to ignore as they rage against IS/ISIL/Daesh and the collected nasties of Iraq and Syria.
And it is this.
We are fully aware that Daesh are hiding among the civilian population. They are hiding there not to deter attacks on themselves, but because they want large numbers of civilian casualties from the current and the upcoming bombing campaign to help to establish their credibility in their current ownership of their nascent caliphate, and also to attract recruits to buttress those casualties they have taken.
This is also true: it is entirely impossible to use pin-point attacks against Daesh. Cross-hairs on grainy black and white video on the nightly news of laser-guided weaponry only tell half the story. Sure, we can neatly attack specific buildings. What we cannot know for sure is who is inside them. The most “guided” bomb is still indiscriminate. Just ask the four women driving out to the fields to tend their vegetables near Raqqa who were blown to smithereens because they had covered their faces against dust and heat, so the fighter pilot thought they were fighters as he unloaded onto them.
As we are already seeing, the more we attack those we oppose, the more we will inevitably slaughter those we are claiming to defend. Some in the civilian population in Raqqa are pleading with the UK, for example, not to join strikes against Syria. They will fail. The politicians are not listening to anyone but themselves.
This is also true. Thanks to the disgraceful realpolitik calculations of Putin and others, the Russian bombing campaign against Daesh forces fighting Assad in Syria has already morphed into a wider assault on the entire rebel force, and not just Daesh. Larger numbers of casualties among whatever civilian population is still trapped in Syria have been taking place already, and further deaths are inevitable.
This is the truth no one cares to state. The more we attack Syria and Iraq to dislodge Daesh, the more civilians will die, possibly in their tens of thousands. Men, women, children. Entirely innocent of any crime.
And it gets worse. If we put boots on the ground as well, which would require a massive troop commitment or none at all to be a success, we will drastically radicalise the entire local population who will resent our occupying force more than they even resent the lunatics in charge of them now.
This is the truth. Our Middle East policy is a complete and utter failure and has been for decades. As soon as a ready and willing market in modern armaments became freely available to anyone prepared to buy them – often from us – the situation changed radically. We turned playing with a tinderbox into running around inside a permanently roaring brushfire.
Our bureaucrats and politicians should never try to decide between one tyrant and another based on inadequate information and half-assumptions. We were wrong to support Assad’s father as “sort of” non-religious bulwark against the lunatics around him. The result was a brutal civil war in Lebanon, apart from anything else, and one that could well be repeated. We were wrong to support the Shah for so long that when he was replaced it was inevitably with the worst possible band of brigands. We were wrong to initially support Saddam as a bulwark against Iran. We were wrong to then invade Iraq in pursuit of oil security and to punish Saddam for his adventure in Kuwait. We were wrong to attack Libya. We were wrong to allow Eqypt to slide into a worse fascist dictatorship than it was before.
Any opportunity presented by the Arab Spring was squandered.
Now, once again, we stand at a crossroads. The West and Russia simply should not be lumbering around the Middle East like blinded, enraged giants.
Here’s the ultimate truth. Only the Sunnis and Shias can sort out their problems, and until they get serious about doing so anything we do will merely exacerbate the situation, make ourselves more hated, invite more attacks on our own countries, and slaughter innocents who cannot understand what they ever did wrong. Don’t believe me? Count the bodies the length and breadth of Yemen. Thanks Saudi Arabia. Our lock-step ally. (Well, for today, at least.)
These are the truths. We all know them to be true. But we smother the truth with our anger at the hatred of us that we do not understand, but also with verbiage and slogans and posturing.
Tell these truths to anyone and everyone who will listen, and shout them in defiance at those who will not.
It is going to get worse before it gets better. How much worse depends on each and every one of us.