As the war drums beat in Paris and Washington, we look at the five types of British hawk eager to get a piece of the action in Syria
Maude Flanders Collective
The vaguest but perhaps most sincere of the hawks are those who have simply had enough of images of death and destruction pouring out of Syria, helped along somewhat by the selective filming of some of the more ghoulish elements of the Fifth Estate. This camp is the most emotive, and as is often the case, they think with their hearts and not their heads.
The Somebody-Should-Do-Something-Brigade don’t want to be bogged down with such trivial distractions as ‘what, where, against who, for how long, to what intensity, and what comes next’. No no, those aren’t helpful or necessary questions at all.
And of course Twitter and Facebook are the perfect enablers of grief-a-thon phenomenon, where participants race to post the most heart-wrenching picture or despair ridden soundbite. The complexities of a mulch-faceted ethic, religious, ideological and geopolitical struggle easily distilled into a 140 characters. Mercifully, the attention span of these loving souls is short, and once the nasty images leave the evening news, their heartfelt but directionless anguish can be safely ignored from the debate.
Chemical Weapons Klaxoneers
As our very own editor discussed here, the reported use of chemical weapons seemed to make the issue of civilian deaths even more emotive. The fact that 100,000 are already dead isn’t to be ignored of course, but for some reason death by gas is worse than shell fragments or bullets.
I posit that behind this seemingly simple stance is a lingering superiority complex. In the West, we’ve given up deploying such weapons on the battlefield, with the US in Vietnam perhaps being the last significant user. This is not to say that we’ve stopped killing civilians, but that we’re somehow cleaner, more discerning butchers. It doesn’t matter if guests at an Afghan wedding party are sliced in two bomb casings, because the bomb just contained good-old high explosives, not nasty sarin.
There. Don’t you feel better?
Perhaps the most focused of the four, the Punisher seeks only to ‘send a message’. As long as something in Damascus blows up, with all the dramatic television coverage and newspaper images, they’ll be happy. It’s cathartic. It’ll make them feel like something has been achieved, just don’t ask too many questions about what the specific objective was.
For them, an attack on the Syrian government is aimed at making the regime re-visit the cost benefit analysis of launching chemical weapons again, and of maybe even pushing Assad to the peace table. Of course, the fact that the last round of peace talks failed to secure a representative from the fractured opposition is a pesky fact than can and should be ignored.
The most curious of the breeds of hawk greedily eyeing the dusty plains of Syria, is the Brit with a warped sense of Britain’s role in the international community. Though far from exclusively, these will tend to slightly older individuals who grew up in a Britain that had both the clout of a Great Power, and the unswerving belief that it had a duty to protect the weak and slay monsters whenever and wherever the need arose. After all, it was we who defied Philip’ Spain, we who stood up to Napoleon, we who mortgaged an empire and a sacrificed a generation to thwart the Kaiser, and of course we who stood alone, the only thing standing between Hitler and his dream of a world empire ruled by a Master Race.
Growing up with this narrative, it’s not difficult to see why slapping down something as trifling as the thuggish Assad should be par for the course. We don’t do it because we want to; we do it because we’re British…that’s what we do.
This breed has much in common with the former specimen, though its motives and objectives are very different. The Neo-Con seeks to unashamedly re-order the world into one more conducive with Western interests. For them, we are not toppling brutal regimes to improve the lot of those chaffing under tyranny, but simply because the West benefits when there are a few more places like Denmark and a few less like Burma. Coups, bombs, sanctions, invasions, assassinations are all fair tools of the trade in the grim, eternal battle for dominance and supremacy that is international relations.
Oddly, this group has much in common with the Realpolitik wing of geopolitics, even though they would differ on how to handle Iraq and Syria. The Neo Con, purely to spite Moscow, would topple Assad, and then scramble to tidy up the place and install a puppet who can be nudged towards democracy. The Realists would rather have supported Assad with money, arms and intelligence, and thus taken Syria out of the Russian-Iranian orbit, and secured as a Western backed asset. All the time, the interests of the Syrian people would be a peripheral concern.