Summary of discussion December 3 2015
We met on the morning that UK bombing was extended from Iraq to Syria, after the Commons vote. Our first reading in the prayers (from the CofE daily lectionary, which we usually follow) was from Isaiah 28, about Israel’s “Covenant with Death”- they thought that an alliance with the Assyrian Empire would make them secure, but Isaiah says it will bring disaster. The second was from Matthew 13, about those who “have eyes but do not see”.
So should we take that as God’s Word to us, or is that too “magical” a way of thinking about Scripture? Which “prophets” do we trust: Jeremy Corbyn or David Cameron and Hilary Benn? Given that air power cannot “solve” the problem, what are the long-term prospects? Will the Vienna negotiations produce a settlement to end the Syrian civil war and unite everyone against Da’esh/ISIL? Or are too many contradictions involved?- Turkey does not want the power of the Kurdish Peshmergers to increase, even though they are probably the most effective ground force; the majority of Syrians may want Assad gone, but a substantial minority see him as their protector against the unchecked power of that majority; Putin has used the Syrian crisis to re-assert power in the region, after the US and its allies had ignored Russia since the 1990s (and he perhaps fears that a “human rights” agenda for regime change could be used against him); Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals for regional dominance- mainly a political rather than a religious matter, although the anti-Shia ideology of Da’esh/ISIL has some roots in the Islamic reform led by al Wahhab (1703-91) in Arabia (known as Wahhabism, or “Salafism”- the “followers” of Prophet Mohammed).
When public opinion cannot make sense of events conspiracy theories often fill the vacuum: “there must be something they’re not telling us”. Who is buying oil from Da’esh and selling them arms? (There is evidence that oil is smuggled out through links established by Saddam Hussein; arms are captured equipment from Iraq and others “left over” from older conflicts- eg Bosnia- smuggled in). Does the bombing of oil installations (rather than Raqqa) suggest that the focus will be on these supply lines?
Young people attracted to join Da’esh usually feel alienated from the society where they live (eg the UK) and equally from the “home” their grand-parents left long ago- an Islamic Caliphate can offer a powerful vision of their future, and a role for them. There are reports of tens of thousands of interventions already made by the “Prevent” strategy to counter “radicalisation” of individuals.
We might wish we could “keep out of it”- especially in view of the history of past interventions by “the West” which often exacerbated or even caused problems. But this is not sustainable in a world of growing global connections and links. The question is not so much “whether” we should be involved, but how.