George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times: MPs sceptical and anxious over Isis strikes
“The vote was decisive and deceptive. An overwhelming majority of 481 gave the impression that the House of Commons was confident in its decision to send British forces to war in the Middle East for the fourth time in 15 years. In fact the mood among MPs was one of scepticism and anxiety – even fear . . .
“During the course of a sombre emergency debate, speaker after speaker stood up to back UK military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, but expressed fears over whether it would work, and where it might lead, in almost the same breath.
“The Conservative MP Ken Clarke gave voice to a political class scarred by the experience of previous interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which the former chancellor said had ended in disaster: “What happened in all those cases was that the military deployment produced a situation at least as bad as it had been before and actually largely worse”. Like many other MPs, he concluded that bombing Isis was the least-worst option.
“Yet his short intervention summed up the doubts reverberating around the chamber over what MPs were being asked to approve: the “almost symbolic participation” by the RAF in attacks on Isis targets in Iraq, but not Syria . . . the drift towards a wider engagement beyond Iraq stirred foreboding among MPs who remember the way UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were sucked into an open-ended conflict . . .
“In the upper house, just as in the Commons, the big majorities for British intervention in Iraq did little to disguise the pessimism over its chances of success.
“As Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary, put it: “If we look at the track record of the interventions of the French, the British and the Americans in the Middle East since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, then the odds look as though we won’t succeed. Everything else has gone wrong . . . ”
The Herald reported SNP MPs’ refusal to support air attacks on Isis
Angus Robertson, the Nationalists’ foreign affairs spokesman, expressed revulsion at the militia group’s reign of terror, which includes beheadings, crucifixions and rapes, and agreed international co-operation was required. However, during an impassioned eight-hour debate, the Moray MP yesterday told the Commons that because there was no coherent plan to “win the peace” in the Coalition’s motion then SNP MPs would vote against it. He said there was “deep scepticism for the potential of mission creep and a green light for a third Iraq war”, given what had happened previously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, adding, “The motion asks for a green light for military action which could last for years [but] there is no commitment in the motion for post-conflict resolution.”
In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins: “This is the moment in any war when peace goes dumb. The cause is just. The enemy is in our sights, and the provocation is extreme. Blood races through tabloid veins. It is white feathers for dissenters”.
“The new Iraq war has no strategy, not even tactics. It is a ` a token, a pretence of a strut on the world stage . . .
“The return to war will reinforce the politics of fear – which is the grimmest legacy of the Blair era in Britain. It has Cameron popping in and out of his Cobra bunker like a rabbit in a hole. Every government office, every train, every airport welcomes visitors to Britain with terror warnings and alerts. Cameron does this because he knows he can only get Britons to go to war by portraying Isis as a “threat to Britain’s national security”. Some Isis adherents may have criminal intent, but that is a matter for the police. Britain survived a far greater menace from the IRA without crumbling. Its existence is not threatened by jihadism. The claim is ludicrous. Cameron must have no faith in his own country.
“The contrast between Asia’s eastern and western extremities is now stark, the one booming, the other descending into catastrophic instability and medieval horror. It is impossible not to relate this to two centuries of western imperialism and meddling. It strains belief that further intervention – through the crudest of all forms of aggression – can bring peace and reconciliation”.