Archive for October, 2013

Help Syria: 27 October

October 27, 2013

Could we do something to help bring an end to the murderous mess in Syria? A good petition is at This calls on the UK government to make it a priority to work towards a peace in Syria, in which all Syrians, especially Christians, can be secure.

Our government must not base policy on their understanding of ‘British interest.’ It is deemed in the British interest that we maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia, who are supporting the Syrian rebels. It is deemed in the British interest to support the Americans in their opposition to Iran, who is supporting the Syrian government. Therefore we tacitly support the rebels and do nothing to weaken them. No matter than the outcome of a rebel victory is likely to be a strict Islamic government who will oppress Christians and others. No matter that the country needs peace now. It can even be argued to be in the British interest that Saudi Arabia and Iran fight each other, in Syria, weakening each other in the process. If more British weapons are used and sold, this is clearly in British interest.

Our government must base policy on the well being of Syrians, especially the minorities. Our government must base policy on upholding internationally recognised human rights. Our government must base policy on strengthening international cooperation, especially through the UN. Our government must lead a firm boycott of all arms to Syria, including to the allies of both sides. Our government must simply think of what is decent and right for the people Syria, doing for them what we hope someone would do for us..

How will our government take the unusual stance of making British interests secondary? When public opinion pushes them. Public opinion stopped Britain supporting military action in Syria earlier this year. Public opinion needs now to keep up the pressure. You and me and our friends… Please sign and any other similar petition you know.

I have been reading up on the 1930s for book research. The British interest was to maintain the Empire, especially India and commerce with China. The British interest was to oppose the Communists, who were making worrying ground in both India and China. The British interest was to oppose and weaken Communist Russia and the Communists in China. A strong anti-Communist Nazi Germany, allied to a strong anti-Communist Japan, was in the British interest. Nazi Germany was on a collision course with Communist Russia, over both ideology and Nazi colonial ambition in Eastern Europe. Imperial Japan was on a collision course with the Communists in China. The British interest was for the collisions to happen, with Britain watching from the sidelines.

The British interest was more important than securing the future of a democratic Czechoslovakia. If Nazi Germany took over Western Czechoslovakia, Germany would become stronger and more of a threat to Communist Russia. No matter that the Czech and Slovak peoples would be tyrannised and enslaved. Hitler was given what he wanted in the Munich Agreement of September 1938 not only to avoid war, but because the British interest was paramount. We must not think and act the same with Syria.

British policy changed dramatically on March 17 1939. The Prime Minister, Joseph Chamberlain, made a speech in Birmingham. He was scheduled to speak on domestic matters with special emphasis on social services. On the train to Birmingham he had no Foreign Office minders. He abandoned his prepared speech and jotted down notes for a very different one, broadcast across Britain and the world. He pointed out Hitler’s lies, manipulation and aggression against Czechoslovakia. He committed Britain to resisting any further aggression. For the Foreign Office, it was not in British interest to fight for Poland. But for Chamberlain, eventually, it was simply the right thing to do. If British policy had been different earlier, Hitler would have been halted without war.

What caused Macmillan to change policy? Public opinion. MPs were being pressed to abandon Britain’s tacit support for Nazi Germany. MP’s, even senior Conservatives, were angry that Britain was conniving in blatant evil. The British interest was secondary. Doing the right thing, throwing our weight on the side of fairness, standing by the weak, who were threatened by the strong pursuing their interests, was primary.

Let us at least try to put our weight, such as it is, on the side of the weak in Syria. As we do this firmly, with other nations, we won’t need military action, but we will need to be prepared to be swayed less by Saudi Arabia, America and Iran.

Roger Harper