Friday, 30 August 2013
The Long And Winding Road
On a planet of seven billion people the law of averages dictates that at any given time a great many of us will be suffering. This is just the way it is, and it's right that we do all we can to alleviate suffering when we can. That said, there are times when to intervene is to court the risk of causing an even greater harm. For me, the issue of Syria was always a no brainer, and it has saddened me to see how shallow and impulsive the thinking of some people has been. Nobody denies that the genocide of so many is an unspeakable vileness. Nobody can fail to be moved when we see babies lain dead and wrapped in white linen, or people gasping as toxic nerve agents assail their respiratory system. These images are in our face, a grim reminder of what we are capable of doing to one another. For a few moments i want to ask you to put these to one side and expand your lens, however. Only when you do this will the potential cost of intervention become clear. Consider the potential risks, and then combine them with some recent historical facts. Has intervention in Iran and Afghanistan made the world a safer place? Has it reduced enmity and division? Reduced tensions? Improved relationships with the Arab world and helped to enhance trust? You know it hasn't. The West has killed a lot of innocents, and sadly done so on a platform that whilst morally sincere, was also fatally flawed and sincerely wrong. You may find this hard to believe but reformers do exist in the Middle East. People who are reaching out and trying to improve the human rights of their countrymen. Ask yourself, how hard do we make it for these internal advocates of democracy when we pursue military campaigns on foreign soil? Does it increase the likelihood that it decreases suspicion in our agenda? Does it help the reformers, those pioneers on the inside making a case for closer ties with the West? I argue that it does not. Now call me an idealist but I happen to think that many people currently denied freedoms actually desire them more than they are able to articulate. Many Arab women would love to seek higher education, or any education for that matter, without having to risk having acid thrown in their faces by male zealots. I also think Arabic children deserve a wider education than simply being farmed off to Islamic schools where they rock back and forth whilst learning the Koran all day long. This way isn't the path to enlightenment. This increases radicalisation and poisons minds and makes the world more dangerous. Combine this this with a perceived enemy in the West that they fear is seeking to undermine their way of life then it quickly becomes clear that military intervention is going to fail with any goal it intends, no matter how morally grounded. You see, morality is simply about the wellbeing of consciousness creatures. And there may be multiple pathways to achieve this. No religion has the final say on what morality is or isn't. Nor any despot. Morality is about the greatest good for the greatest number, and there is no perfect solution to many of the world's ills. But know this; no military crusade is going to make the road less rocky. It will simply add further obstacles, decrease trust, and increase tensions in a region which is already an absolute powder keg. And whatever changes that do occur will be longer lasting and more stable if they come from within. We cannot impose regime change, or enforce democracy from the outside in. It has to be the other way around. So support the reformers, support diplomacy and peaceable communications. And do so in the knowledge that this process is a winding and rocky road filled with potholes, and a journey likely to take decades.