I’ve got an admission to make: when I sent my pitches for this week’s opinion column, I only included Syria because I’d have looked faintly ridiculous had I not done. I worked really hard on making the other pitches seem super interesting and appealing. Alas, my editor’s one-word reply came: Syria. 

Fuck. What is there to say really? Assad is an evil asshat, yep, that’s obvious. But so are the leaders of the Islamist factions of the revolution, orchestrating the summary executions of civilians for being a) the wrong kind of Muslims b) Christians c) anything they don’t like.

The moral question posed by the situation in Syria crystalises the central dilemma faced by the West’s foreign policy since 9/11, because at the heart of its approach of liberal intervention lies this conundrum: with the ability and means to intervene, it is morally wrong to watch innocent people being slaughtered; but intervention costs innocent lives, and can create a power vacuum filled by a regime equally as bad or worse.

Add to this a multitude of other moral quandaries: how much international consensus is required before intervention? If it’s agreed, what would work best to achieve the desired ends? Boots on the ground? No-fly zone? But could they deepen the problem? Then chuck in a pile of practical and geopolitical issues: the all-but impotent UN security council hamstrung by China and Russia which, as authoritarian regimes themselves, tend to side with authoritarian regimes and ignore their signatures on the Doctrine of Protection. 

This time parliament have voted not to involve the UK. Hearing the news I felt a cowardly relief. Cameron’s argument was all about chemical weapons, as if we were some kind of war referee, calling a foul and giving a free kick, before letting the sides play on – i.e, carry on killing each other.

Yet the ideological fallout remains static: those opposed to intervention call those in favour war-mongering neo-cons with a white saviour complex, and those in favour call those opposed moral relativists shirking their responsibility. The debate moves on not a jot and people continue to die, and that is simply unacceptable.

» Agree or disagree? Should the West stay out of Syria? letters@tntmagazine.com



Abbott’s a victim blaming doughnut

On a July evening in 2012 Thomas Kelly, 18, was walking with his girlfriend in Kings Cross, Sydney. He was punched for no reason whatsoever by Kieran Loveridge. Kelly fell to the floor and hit his head, and later died in hospital.

This week, would-be Australian PM Tony Abbott seemed to blame the 18-year-old for his own death. Abbott said people “walking down the street at 2am in Kings Cross in Sydney” who are brutally attacked at random “maybe shouldn’t be there”.

Don’t mistake this for harmless practical advice. This is obfuscation on behalf of the violent and dangerous. 

This is a man saying, “Well, it’s partly your fault for being there to be hit.” These aren’t the retrograde opinions of a political has-been, this man is just days away from possibly becoming Australia’s next prime minister. Anyone thinking of voting for him, know this is what you’re voting for.


Photos: Getty