At the Parliamentary Labour Party I made a brief contribution on the following lines. This version is expanded from that delivered.
We are fighting and losing the wrong war. It’s a battle for hearts and minds. They can never be won over with bombs and bullets. It’s terrifying that young Muslims from Cardiff and Newport, born and educated here who have fully absorbed our culture and values, are being persuaded to lay down their lives for a barbaric cause.
The narrative of Isil/Daesh is a seductive appeal to victimhood. It churns up long buried medieval hatred when the Christian Crusaders massacred Muslims without mercy. The attraction is that of a cult shaped to appeal to the vulnerability, idealism and hunger for adventure of the young. To combat their legacy of hatred delivered in cleverly produced videos, we need a narrative of truth that celebrates the remarkable accord and tolerance that have characterised the growing harmony of mixed religious communities. Newport and Cardiff are fine examples of happy assimilation over the past 200 years.
The Daesh strategy is to provoke a regional war into a world war. The purpose of Sharm al sheik, Tunisia and Paris atrocities was to create military reactions that would drag nations into a war between Christians and Muslims worldwide. They believe in a final battle between the two religions that will result in a Muslim victory and the creation of the Caliphate. Stepping up the UK’s involvement by bombing Syria is the familiar trap of mission creep. If the nightmare of a captured British pilot suffering the terrible fate of the captured Jordanian pilot occurred, our troops would be on the Syrian ground immediately. The United Kingdom would be again by trapped in an unwinnable war.
The greatest danger comes from the combination of two dangerous parliamentary mind-sets. The ‘Something must be done’ faction is combined with the ‘Give war a chance’ faction and produced an emotional spasm of shoot first and think later. As a party Labour is in a sorry state with our internal problems entangled in the urgent need for a cool mature judgement on war making.
I have received many hundreds of message all opposing UK bombing of Syria. The strategy we should adopt does not have the attractive simplicity of ordering troops to put their lives at risk. This gives instant gratification to politicians eager to lash out in retaliation. But it's impossible to bomb an idea to smithereens and extinction. The fable of Muslim victimhood is widespread in Africa, Asia and infects all countries with substantial Muslim/Christian communities.
We should starve Daesh of the money and support that sustains them now from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. There must be boots on the ground to dislodge them. These boots should be worn by Muslim soldiers from Middle East states. But supremely important is our war of an alternative narrative of skilfully prepared, widely disseminated, truths of the recognition of the miraculous harmony that has developed as the world recognising that we are one human family with shared ambitions and dangers.