The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace. 

Stare at that for a moment.

 

The international community didn’t intervene to stop Bashar-al Assad dropping chemical bombs on civilians in Syria. I argued they should. Since then thousands more have been killed, including children, millions more made homeless, and the Syrian opposition has been taken over by jihadists. 

Not intervening has arguably been more bloody than intervening.

The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yazidis, Christians and other minorities have been the victims of Middle East conflict for decades. They were gassed by Saddam Hussein in Halabja in 1988, and we did nothing then. Now they’re on the front line of a global battle against modern fascism in the form of ISIS, and they’re asking for help.

These are real people and their children - workers, trade union members, doctors, builders, teachers, nurses. Those on the Left who use the disastrous American led intervention of Iraqi in 2003 as a reason not to intervene now, need to listen to these people. A group of UK Labour party members are calling on the Left and Trade Unions to support the kurds and show solidarity"

“(The Kurds are on) the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny.”

It’s true, we can’t go in boots and all and prevent the murder of innocent people in every global crisis. Each decision is complicated, rife with potential unintended consequences, and morally tough. But there are guidelines to help a country like New Zealand decide whether to get involved:

 - Intervention has to be legal under international law. 

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 wasn’t. If a crime against humanity has been committed, legal grounds for intervention exist. A regional response, like the Nato led intervention in Kosovo was legal because the massacre of 7000 muslim men and boys at Srebrenica was a clear crime against humanity.

 - Have a clear objective. 

Recent airstrikes to free the 44,000 Yazidis stuck on Mt Sinjar in Iraq who faced either starvation or slaughter was a pretty clear objective. David Shearer is right that a clear objective for further military intervention is still to be made. If and when it is made, Labour needs to re-assess it’s position, just as the UK Labour movement is.

 - Don’t go in without an exit plan. 

Getting rid of the ISIS fighters who are beheading, crucifying and slaughtering thousands today, won’t get rid of the ideology that justifies this in the name of Islam. That will take years. It will require a mixture of humanitarian aid, support for moderate muslims fighting jihadist ideas, help to nation build, plus economic sanctions to prevent ISIS re-arming.

Use the Kosovo blueprint as an exit plan. In 1999 the Nato-led air-war in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians were being massacred by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, lasted 78 days and achieved all of its goals. “The strategic goals were to stop the fighting, force Milosevic to pull back his army, restore Kosovo as an autonomous Albanian enclave, and insert NATO troops—30,000 of them—as peacekeepers. All the goals were met, ” writes  Fred Kaplin in Slate magazine.

 - Ideally any intervention should be UN-led. 

In 2012, the majority of the fifteen members of the Security Council agreed to send an African led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president. The five permanent members - Britain, the United States, Russia, China and France - who can use their veto to stop any action, chose not to. 

New Zealand is now on the Security Council. In 1994 when we chaared the Council we were one of the few countries calling for action to prevent genocide in Rwanda. Our call was rejected and 800,000 people were slaughtered in just 100 days.

This year Rwanda voted for us to go back on the Security Council.

It matters what we do  - or don't do.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (19)

by Joshua Grainger on November 05, 2014
Joshua Grainger
Bravo Josie. I agree fully. On paper the left's foreign policy appears to be one of multilateralism, endorsing concepts such as responsibility to protect. In reality it appears that a policy is instead one of isolationism that lets genocide and massive human rights violations happen under the excuse that it is not New Zealand's problem and that New Zealand lives are worth more than Iraqi lives.
by mikesh on November 05, 2014
mikesh

The West has been intervening in Middle East affairs since the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of WW I, and has made a proper bloody mess of it all. If we intervene against ISIS it should be on the basis that the West exits the Middle East completely and leaves them to their own devices once ISIS has been dealt with.

However, I don't this happening any time soon.

by Lee Churchman on November 05, 2014
Lee Churchman

It's not that people think that IS is a good thing, or that they don't agree with intervention in principle.

The problem is that the people proposing to intervene are proven incompetents.

 

by Alex Coleman on November 05, 2014
Alex Coleman

I'm a bit confused by what you are proposing. If Kosovo is the model then are you suggesting a semi-autonomous Kurdish area that would be protected by UN forces from local Sunni Shia Turkish Iranian forces?

The Kurds and other minorities are obviously in a tight spot, and if we can help we should. But that is a big if. They are caught in the middle of a conflict between Sunni and Shia. Could you explain your thoughts a bit more deeply on how that conflict is to be resolved using the Kosovo blueprint?

I don;t think these are unfair questions. Your post attacks unnamed persons on teh left accusing them of being isolationist and not fighting fascism, but the worries I have and have seen others express don't relate to that at all. It's a strawman you knock down.

For example, the 'coalition' is being assembled between the west and various Sunni states. Those states mostly oppose Iran. these are facts that have to be acknowledged. As is the fact that the Iraqi government is closely allied with Iran, and that it is Iranian and Iraqi Shia who are doing nearly all of the fighting against ISIS on the ground.

How do you see that dynamic playing out? Using Kosovo or whatever other template you like.

 

 

 

 

 

by Tom Semmens on November 05, 2014
Tom Semmens

News Flash: Blairite apologist makes excuses for reckless western military adventurism.

We need to fight to protect the Kurds? You blithering idiot Pagani. Our PM and the rest of the sycophantic colonial boys of the old empire will, come April, be crawling around Gallipoli kissing the ass of the Turkish leadership -  a country that has done everything in it's power to suppress the Kurds and kill their fighters. Will we hear a peep out of Key about the need for Kurdish homeland then? My arse we will. The hypocrisy stinks like wading knee deep through shit. We need to protect the Kurds, except when it is it awkward and we won't.

Do you really think we will beat these ISIS guys on the battlefield? Anymore than we beat them in Fallujah, or in Pakistan, or we beat them in Helmand? Or will they fight them until we get sick of it and all the body bags and lost treasure and go home, and then they'll come out again, even more radicalised and murderous than now? And of course while we fight that perpetual war and accompanying perpetual fear of terror our politicians will turn our country into a police state.  So why is it our fight? The Americans made this monster, they can pay the price of dealing with it - fuck them sideways if they expect us to send our soldiers to clean up their mess. To hell with our colonial contingent fighting obediently alongside our imperial masters.

You make me sick Pagani, invoking the internationalism of the left in defence of the imperialist war mongers of Washington, London, Canberra and now, it seems, Wellington.

 

by Alex Coleman on November 05, 2014
Alex Coleman

Lee. Pretty much.

I mean we all get that "the opposite on intervention isn’t peace." But that doesn't mean the opposite of doing nothing is actually helping.


Show us a plan that would actually help, and that has the backing of the people who would be doing it, and you might get support. But 'destroy ISIS' isn't a plan. that won't make Sunni trust the Iraqi govt, and it won't make the Iraqi majority trust Sunni. 

 

by Flat Eric on November 05, 2014
Flat Eric

So why is it our fight?

Because, Tom, we either fight them there or we fight them here.

by Josie Pagani on November 05, 2014
Josie Pagani

Alex - yes those are very fair questions, and I'm not pretending to have all the answers. My point it that there has been a tendency on the Left in recent years (see some Left commentary on Syria, Libya, Mali, ISIS etc) to favour isolationism over intervention - and with good reason; the Iraq war has been an unmitigated disaster and we're paying the price today. But that shouldn't stop us being true to our history of protecting innocent people against tyranny, no matter what country they live in. David Shearer is right - the case for boots on the ground has yet to be made. The objective is not clear and neither is the exit plan. But if the atrocities continue we should be prepared to help define the objective. In the meantime, here's some things that NZ should at least consider:

 - It may be that the region breaks up into 3 separate states (Sunni/Shia/Kurd) - we should be prepared for that (hence the Kosovo example).

 - Send NZ military specialists to train Iraqi (and Kurdish) fighters.

 - Advocate for an arms embargo to stop weapons getting to ISIS through Turkey.

 - Increase our humanitarian aid to help millions of refugees as winter comes.

- Support at the highest level of government for muslims on the ground who are fighting for tolerance, pluralism and women's rights.

 - If thousands of innocent people are herded into a corner for slaughter as the Yazidi were a few weeks ago, we should be the first to call on the international community to send in troops to protect them. In that instant there was a very clear objective. It didn't solve the conflict, but it did save those lives. Being paralysed by history (and the past atrocities committed by the West) is no excuse for inaction.

by Josie Pagani on November 05, 2014
Josie Pagani

Tom - If you think calling me a ' blithering idiot' and writing 'You make me sick Pagani', is engaging with the arguments, then we're not going to get very far. 

And calling me a 'Blairite apologist' is odd given that in this post and every other I have written about Iraq (or Syria, Ukraine etc) I have been absolutely clear that the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by Blair and Bush was illegal and a military and moral disaster for which we're still paying today.

by Alex Coleman on November 05, 2014
Alex Coleman

Thanks.

 

I agree we should be calling for solutions. I have concerns about 'training the Iraqi govt forces' though.

The Iraqi govt has been saying they do not want 'foreign' troops intervening. They will probably accept training and arming, (because why wouldn't they?) but they feel they can achieve their aims with the troops they have. The militia and the Iranian special forces. How do we apply 'responsibility to protect' etc in the areas taken back from ISIS?

See this piece, for example:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/03/gangs_of_iraq_shiite_mi...

We can call for things to be done, but if the international community doesn;t agree to do those things, we still have to decide whteher or not to support what is on the table. Labeling not choosing to join what is being done as 'isolationism' isn't really helpful, I think.

by DeepRed on November 05, 2014
DeepRed

The Iraqi military has been trained for maybe 10 years now, and what happens? They get weak knees and retreat when ISIS come at them. It doesn't help either that Baghdad and the Iraqi military is riddled with corruption, rock-bottom morale, sectarianism and weak leadership - a vacuum that ISIS is only too happy to fill.

There are definite parallels with Kosovo regarding a partitioning. But combat-wise, Kosovo was a walk in the park compared with the fight against ISIS. And what if it becomes military quicksand like Vietnam or even Napoleon's Russian campaign?

I'd say most if not all of us will support action against ISIS, if the UNSC says yes.

by william blake on November 05, 2014
william blake

+ 1 Tom Semmens.

Isis is the result of the West's illegal imperialist adventure in the Middle East. Things will not improve by repeating the same mistakes.

by Lee Churchman on November 05, 2014
Lee Churchman

I don't think any of that well-meaning stuff will do much to change things. Tom is largely right, whatever you think of his tone. The people proposing to do something about IS represent a cluster of interests many of which diverge in ways that will make a decent outcome possible. Today's US elections introduce a further wrinkle in that the emboldened Republicans will white ant whatever Obama does for partisan purposes. Even if the United States were to succeed in militarily defeating IS, they no longer have the human capital required for nation building or the kind of political organisation required to obtain it. 

This is not the Cold War. The Soviet Union was a credible, existential threat – a superpower with an alternative model of development that had appeal for much of the world's population, including many within the western democracies. The US had to get real very quickly and managed to do so. The people running things were competent because they had to be.

IS is not a credible existential threat. It's ideology simply will not appeal outside of predominantly Muslim countries and even then it won't appeal in most of them – the prospect of a great Muslim caliphate as a superpower is nil. Hence, there's going to be much empty talk and grandstanding about IS, which will get sidetracked by political interests because it's just not threatening enough to demand a sober response. Even if the US wasn't effectively in thrall to Israeli interests, it would still be incredibly difficult to get anything done. Iraq in this respect was a lesson, because the occupation was completely corrupted by political interests. No doubt there are private military contractors salivating at the prospect of once more siphoning off billions of dollars of public money.

It's just not credible. Anyone with curiosity and an internet connection will discover that John Key is basically full of shit when it comes to IS, just as they very quickly discovered that US and UK leaders were full of shit on Iraq.

by Peggy Klimenko on November 05, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

"...there are guidelines to help a country like New Zealand decide whether to get involved"

And the very first should be: understand the complexities of a situation before you blunder into it.

There is a direct causal link between the rise of IS and the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq: the West isn't welcome in that part of the world, no matter what the major powers may assert to the contrary. That is why it shouldn't return.

IS began as al Qaeda in Iraq, then morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and, as it expanded its operations into Syria, began to call itself Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham. Its current iteration is simply IS.

UKLP uses the term "fascist" as a gloss for "people we don't like". IS isn't fascist: it's an extremist religious group fighting a sectarian conflict.


Syria under the Alawites is a secular state, in which women can drive cars and go about with their hair uncovered. Other religious minorities aren't - or weren't, until IS and the other jihadists came along - persecuted, but allowed to practise their faith.

There are no "moderate Muslim rebels" in Syria; in fact, it's doubtful that there ever were. The uprising against the Assad regime certainly began with street protests, but it morphed so rapidly into a jihad that it's questionable whether there ever were any moderates. If there were, it's likely they fled across the border very early in the conflict.

Contrast social conditions in Syria with the US client state Saudi Arabia, where women must be completely covered when out of their homes, lest they be accused of being prostitutes, and are forbidden from driving. Religious minorities are relentlessly persecuted. Beheading is the favoured form of punishment. Note also that Saudi Arabia supports and funds IS.

Turkey - a Sunni country - supports the IS campaign to oust the Assad regime. As far as Erdogan is concerned, if IS takes the Kurds out as well, so much the better. So: if New Zealand troops were to be sent to fight with the Kurds, it's likely they'd end up fighting Turkey as well. An unfortunate and unintended consequence of well-intentioned intervention, and guaranteed to sour the Gallipoli commemorations next year, I'd have thought.

"... the Nato led intervention in Kosovo was legal because the massacre of 7000 muslim men and boys at Srebrenica was a clear crime against humanity."

You're talking about two different conflicts here; the Srebrenica massacre happened in 1995, during the Bosnian War, while the NATO intervention was in 1999, during the Kosovo War. That bombing campaign didn't come about because of Srebrenica; and it wasn't mandated by the UNSC either, so it wasn't legal.

Despite it having fallen out of the headlines recently, Kosovo isn't at peace; it remains occupied by UN peacekeepers. And, despite Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo having been recognised by the UN, Serbians, Romani and other ethnic minorities have been forced to flee, either to a few closely-guarded enclaves, or out of the province altogether, in the face of sustained persecution by the Albanians.

Kosovo offers no blueprint for the Middle East. But it does point up an inconsistency in NATO's approach to the Ukraine; NATO embarked on the bombing of Kosovo in support of Albanian efforts to make Kosovo independent of Serbia. Now remind me: what was the NATO and US reaction to the desire of Eastern Ukrainians and Crimeans for independence from Kiev?

"In 2012, the majority of the fifteen members of the Security Council agreed to send an African led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president."

You can see the inconsistency here as well: there was an illegal coup, by real, honest-to-god fascists, which toppled a democratically-elected government in the Ukraine. But I don't recall any handwringing on the part of UKLP or the UN over this. Or any intervention of the sort mandated for Mali.

We should stay out of the Middle East; as Mikesh points out above, Western meddling there over the past century (and further back) has brought nothing good. No matter how worthy our intentions, if we intervene, history suggests that we'll make matters worse. The Caliphate will survive if it's supported; if not, it'll wither and die. It really is up to the people of the region.

I note that some commentators have begun claiming that we should go in to protect the rights of women. This is the great stalking horse that gets dragged out when other arguments in support of intervention have been debunked. If the West cared a flying fig for the rights of women in the Middle East, it'd have gone into Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the Soviets and in response to the rise of the Taleban. Or better yet, it wouldn't have opposed the Soviet presence in the first place: the women of Afghanistan were never better off in terms of their rights than under the secular regime of the Soviets.

"...we were one of the few countries calling for action to prevent genocide in Rwanda"

And that was one of the very few instances where Western intervention would certainly have saved lives. But NZ was ignored. What does that presage for our term on the UNSC this time around?

 

by Lee Churchman on November 06, 2014
Lee Churchman

Such an excellent comment, Peggy.

by Tom Semmens on November 06, 2014
Tom Semmens

I'll continue to call you a blithering idiot if you think 12-30,000 ISIS fighters running around in Syria represent the same threat as the Axis powers, or that fighting ISIS - where our "allies" include the Assad government armies, splinter Al-Qaeda factions, Hezbollah and various Shia militias who were our enemies until recent expediency deemed otherwise - is the same as opposing Hitlerism.

BTW - a big plus one to Peggy Klimenko's analysis.

The "natural" ally of the West in the Middle East is not Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, whose fundamentalist government should cause that country to be a pariah. If the USA should have any ally it should be Iran, whose Persian population have no love for the Arabs. Only, US imperialism ruined that when the CIA engineered the 1953 coup that foisted the Pahlavi dictatorship on Iran, and when the Islamic revolution over threw him the USA (as in the case of Cuba) spent  the entire since then truculently trying to punish Iran for the American humiliation.

My view is simple. There are no good guys in the Middle East. Plenty of victims, but no good guys. There is no military solution. If there was, the Palestinians and Hamas wouldn't still be resisting Israel.

So I don't for the life of me see why we should get involved in a war in a far away place which is of no possible interest to us with such morally disgraceful allies, no matter how bad the other lot are - because the other lot are just as likely to be our allies in 12 months as not.

by Peggy Klimenko on November 06, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

Thank you, Lee and Tom.

@ Josie: "The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace."

To accuse the Left - and those who comment here, which isn't necessarily the same thing - of neo-isolationism, is wide of the mark. Not surprisingly, people who've done  a bit of reading and have formed a much more conditional view of the situation in the Middle East, take exception to it. If it is indeed primarily the Left advocating caution with regard to IS - and I'd doubt it - better that, surely, than the unreflective, Bible in one hand, M16 in the other pro-interventionism of (at least some of) the Right, especially in the US.

Lee and Tom are right, even if Tom's tone isn't to your taste. We can't make a difference there, no matter how earnestly some might wish it; and that is because, as Tom has pointed out, there aren't any good guys in the Middle East, just plenty of victims.

"Not intervening has arguably been more bloody than intervening."

What would have happened, had the West done as you wished? Here's a counterfactual scenario:

Obama goes against his better judgment and uses the United States Air Force to break the back of the Syrian army. The Syrian state collapses and ISIS moves quickly to fill the void. Before long, ISIS controls all of Syria, not just a third, as was the case before the bombing.

Religious minorities - Christians, Shias, Alawites - are slaughtered. Other rebel movements are forced, one by one, to surrender to ISIS. ISIS bolsters its ranks with masses of former Syrian army troops, who have little choice but to pledge allegiance to the new order, if they wish to save themselves and their families. Their expertise will be invaluable as ISIS prepares for its next campaign.

ISIS helps itself to the rich spoils to be had from Syrian military arsenals - tanks, artillery, sophisticated surface-to-air missiles that will allow them to hit both high-flying American bombers and Western airliners. But the greatest prize claimed by the victors are Syria's chemical weapons stocks. Baghdadi can only laugh as he reflects on how well these chemical weapons have served him - first they gave the Americans cause to open the way for his victory over the Assads, and now they shall help him to destroy the Iraqi state and massacre the Shias who would dare to defy him.

June 2014 sees ISIS unleash its full force upon the doomed Iraqi state. Baghdadi proclaims his new Caliphate in the city for which he is named.

So it would have been, had Obama not come to his senses at the last minute, and backed out, with his pride bruised. But his honour preserved....

So you see, there are worse things than doing nothing. Which is, in essence, what some of us here are arguing.

by Josie Pagani on November 07, 2014
Josie Pagani

Thanks for your comments Peggy. A few quick responses: 

  1. You seem to be arguing that because situations are complex, or because history is littered with examples of the West causing or carrying out atrocities, we should just go away and never intervene again.

I reject that. I’ve never understood how the West’s failure to stand up to injustice in the past is a reason not to stand up now.

We absolutely have to be aware of the complexities. The case for military intervention has not yet been made. But we cannot let the risk of unintended consequences mean that we walk away from the slaughter of innocent people.

2. You say the ‘West is not welcome’. That’s simply not true. The Kurds  - the worlds’ biggest population without a land to call their own - are asking for our help. So is the Iraqi government. The Kurds have been on the frontline of the fight against this modern fascism for years, and the West has let them down. 

3. I don’t call IS ‘fascists’ lightly. ‘Fascism is a term that applies to a political philosophy, religious movement, or regime that exalts identity or race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by dictatorial leader, severe social regimentation, and forcible suppression and murder of opposition.’

Sounds like the IS Caliphate to me, which at present covers an area bigger than the UK.

You’re misrepresenting the fight. This is not a clash between two civilisations - Islam and Christianity. It is the struggle between those who believe in peaceful co-existence for people of all faiths (including no faith) and extremists who would use religion wrongly as a source of violence and conflict.

4. You say there are no ‘moderate Muslims fighting in Syria.’ That is untrue and an insult to those who are putting their lives at risk right now.

5. I agree Saudi Arabia is a hideous society with state sanctioned executions and the persecution of women. We should stand alongside those who want change in that country, and the West is not doing enough. 

But I fail to see why that is a reason not to act against other examples of injustice.

6. The international intervention in Kosovo was legal. It was a Nato led regional response that was recognised by the UN. It was a direct - but late - reaction to the genocide at Srebrenica, and a fear that unless the fascist (and I use that word intentionally) intentions of Milosevic were not stopped, there would be another Srebrenica. 

7. Finally the Ukraine. Whatever your sympathies, and however just the cause, there is no such thing as a legitimate referendum at the end of a gun.

by Peggy Klimenko on November 08, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

Josie: I'm arguing for a proper understanding of a political environment before any nation intervenes in a conflict in another nation. Further, I'm arguing that we in the West don't have a grasp on the complexities of the contemporary Middle East. Ergo, we should stay out, at least on that basis.

"I’ve never understood how the West’s failure to stand up to injustice in the past is a reason not to stand up now."

The issue at present is not a past failure on the part of the West to stand up to injustice - whenever that may have been. It is that the current imbroglio stems directly from past injustices inflicted by the West in the guise of "standing up for justice". And this is the prime reason why we should stay out at present.

"...we cannot let the risk of unintended consequences mean that we walk away from the slaughter of innocent people."

And yet, and yet.... those "unintended consequences" might well be the slaughter of more innocents. This is just what's happened in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. What price intervention then? In virtue of what should we believe that doing it again will bring different results this time?

"The Kurds  - the worlds’ biggest population without a land to call their own - are asking for our help. So is the Iraqi government."

The Kurds want heavy weapons and training for their fighters, as do the Iraqis.For the Kurds, that doesn't necessarily entail troops; some military commanders have asked for troops, but others for resources only. Keep in mind that Turkey and the Kurds have been fighting for well over a century, and that the Kurdish relationship with the Assad regime is ambivalent, to put it mildly. We need to be very careful about what support for the Kurds might entail: unintended consequences aplenty lie in wait for us there if we intervene.

With regard to Iraq, the West has already spent vast sums on training and equipping the army; to no avail, it seems, when IS showed up. We must take a sceptical view here; if the army can't fight IS now, after so much Western support, of what use would further support be?

"This is not a clash between two civilisations - Islam and Christianity."

No kidding! I didn't say that it was: you must have misread my comments. IS is an extremist religious Sunni group fighting a sectarian conflict, that is, against Shias, Alawites, Christians and so on. Fascism has nothing to do with it.

"You say there are no ‘moderate Muslims fighting in Syria.’ That is untrue and an insult to those who are putting their lives at risk right now."

That isn't what I said. I pointed out that there are no moderate Muslim rebels: that's why the West couldn't figure out whom to support logistically. Every group they assessed turned out to be jihadists. In the end, the US provided weapons to al Qaeda, having concluded that this group was the best of a bad bunch. There certainly are moderate Muslims fighting in Syria, however: it's just that they're to be found in the Syrian army, fighting for Assad.

"The international intervention in Kosovo was legal. It was a Nato led regional response that was recognised by the UN. It was a direct - but late - reaction to the genocide at Srebrenica, and a fear that unless the fascist (and I use that word intentionally) intentions of Milosevic were not stopped, there would be another Srebrenica."

You're mistaken about this. NATO acted unilaterally, without UNSC mandate. Note that the mass expulsion of Albanians came after the bombing campaign began, not before. I recommend that you go do some reading on the subject.

"Finally the Ukraine. Whatever your sympathies, and however just the cause, there is no such thing as a legitimate referendum at the end of a gun."

I'm sure that the Crimeans would agree with you. However, the most recent referendum wasn't one such; don't believe what CNN and the BBC have claimed about this.

Again, I recommend some reading on your part. There have been three referenda in the Crimea, the first just before Ukrainian independence in 1991. In each of these, Crimeans have voted for independence from the Ukraine. At this most recent referendum in February this year, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede; the parliament was determined that this time, secession would become a reality, so immediately following the results, it petitioned Russia for annexation.

The "point of a gun" referendum to which you refer was in fact the one that took place in 1994; the guns were those of the Ukraine. But despite that, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly for independence; Kiev declared the result illegal. Such are the complexities of geopolitics in that region.

I reiterate: we need to stay out of the Middle East. Quite enough damage has been done there by Western intervention, without our adding to it. Those of us who argue against  intervention have been criticised for being cowardly. In riposte, I offer a quote from the late Peter Ustinov which about covers it:

"Courage is often lack of insight, whereas cowardice in many cases is based on good information."

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