Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Bombing the Bad Guys

"...if sensitive issues of governance can be made sufficiently dull and arcane, there will be no need for officials to hide or dissemble, because no one not directly involved will pay enough attention to cause trouble. No one will pay attention because no one will be interested, because, more or less a priori, of these issues' monumental dullness." 
--David Foster Wallace, "The Pale King"
The House of Commons will meet on Wednesday to discuss whether our military should begin launching airstrikes into Syria. A few days ago David Cameron, through his Facebook page, posted the text to a statement he gave to the House in which he outlined his views on the matter (spoilers: he's up for it). The post is here. But you are not going to read it. There is no way. It is 3,148 words long, of which most are constructions explaining what he has just said or what he is about to say ("I said I would respond", "I have done so today", "I want to answer all relevant questions", "Let me deal with each of those questions", "Let us be clear", "Let me turn to"), as well as a bunch of phrases where he says things like, "we can significantly extend the capabilities of", when he just means, "we can help".

Fucking YAWN. We have sneak-peak trailers of probably ultimately disappointing superhero films to be watching here, Dave. The speech does pick up after a while, but only because ol' Moon-Face starts getting a weird hard-on for describing missile launchers and bombs and bullets all named by men who'd I'd guess didn't have such a hot time of it as kids -- "We have the Brimstone precision missile system", "RAPTOR -- the reconnaissance airborne pod for our Tornado aircraft -- has no rival", "Reaper drones" with their "high-precision missile systems". All right, mate, put the Call of Duty box down before you jizz yourself.

But the thing is, underneath all this obfuscation and bluster and army porn, what he's saying is really important. So I've rewritten his speech for him. This isn't me going off on one, this is the actual (more or less) contents of his argument, translated into language real human beings can understand:

Mr Speaker, I want to explain why I think we should bomb Syria.

Firstly, I believe ISIL poses a threat to us. They have attacked Ankara, Beirut and Paris. They are terrorists. They do terroristy things. They're bad guys. We should stop the bad guys -- and doing this involves bombing Raqqa, because that's where they all live.

But why should we be the ones to do something about these bad guys? Well, because America and France are doing it, and they want us to join in. And because we have the bombs to do it -- the same bombs we used in Iraq, which as you'll all recall worked perfectly there.

Most importantly, though, we should be the ones to stop the bad guys because we want the bad guys stopped, and therefore it is only fair and morally decent for us to be the ones to stop them.

So why is it time to stop them now? Because they did a bad thing in Paris, and therefore we're now in more danger than we have ever been before. Also the bad guys are thumbing their noses at us telling the world we can't hurt them in their, like, secret volcano base in Iraq and Syria (okay, maybe we didn't completely fix Iraq) -- and when the bad guys say this it makes bad guys all over the world flock to this secret volcano base and twiddle their moustaches and laugh at us mockingly.

Also we should bomb the bad guys in Raqqa now because we have bombed them out of Iraq (okay, look, we didn't fix Iraq at all, and the bad guys made a volcano base there, but recently we've done really well at getting them out) -- and, basically, it's like we squeezed a spot, and the pus was all pushed into a neighbouring pore, and so now obviously we need to squeeze that pore. Don't ask me where the pus will go then. Into the tissue of democracy, I guess.

Some people have asked me whether bombing the bad guys will make the bad guys more likely to come after us. Well, they are already coming after us! If a wasp has already stung you it makes sense to beat its nest with a rolled-up newspaper, no? And we have the best rolled-up newspapers known to mankind, let me tell you. We have the Raptor, the Wyvern, the... ahhh yeah... the Lizard-King, the... the TriceratOOOOOOPSOHGOD... Umm, excuse me...

Where was I? Yes: is bombing Syrians legal? Well, sort of. Basically, all the powerful countries got together last century and decided it would be legal to bomb bad guys if it was in self-defence. And luckily that's vague enough to apply to pretty much anything we want it to. And as we're the ones making and upholding these rules anyway, who gives a shit?

Now, although I said before that it was morally decent of us to be the ones to stop the bad guys, we're not going to actually send any of our people to do it. We think it best that the actual people risking their lives be Syrian rebels and Kurds and moderate Sunni Arabs. What we will do is stay a long way behind these people and press buttons to drop bombs on the bad guys. And this will be, I believe, really helpful.

Getting the bad guys with bombs is only part of our strategy. We'll also foil plots, and do things about the nasty words the bad guys say about us. We'll also talk to countries near the bad guys, and give aid to the Syrian people who are being murdered in their thousands (who there's like zero chance of us harming with our bombs), and in the long-run we'll look at making these people's homes safe.

How much effort will we put into this? A lot. A lot a lot. Do not even worry. We're going to do loads, and eventually we'll get rid of Syria's president, Assad, who is a bad guy on a scale the ISIL bad guys can't even hope to reach -- in fact he's the real bad guy, the M. Bison if you will, except confusingly he's not aligned with the ISIL bad guys, and we don't know what we're going to do about him, and it's all really convoluted and complicated and difficult, so let's move on.

What's the end goal for us then? Well, we're going to chip away at the bad guys for a while, and we reckon eventually they'll just sort of collapse and be gone from the world forever. Now, we're not naive: we know this will take a lot of chipping away. So if you come to me next year and say it hasn't worked yet, I will say that I did tell you it would take a long time. And if you come to me in a decade, well, same thing. You really cannot touch me on this, because though I am saying it is what we should do I am also admitting it might take forever to work. But eventually it will work, and Syria will be free, and ultimately Assad will be got rid of. I'm sure of this.

Another question I'm asked is whether us bombing bad guys will have any repercussions in the incredibly convoluted intra-religious conflict of the region, wherein Sunni and Shi'a Muslims have this whole thing going on not unlike Protestants and Catholics, only actually worse, if that's possible. Well let me just say: no. No no no. It's Us-versus-Them and it's also Them-versus-Them, but ultimately it's Good-versus-Evil, and I can envisage precisely zero problems arising from this viewpoint in the decades and centuries to come. Just chill, please.

So then, the crux of it all. One question. Should we bomb the bad guys?

Well. Plenty of people are saying we should try other means, for example closing the bad guys' supply routes, cutting off their methods of weapon accretion, helping stabilise the surrounding region so suppressed Sunnis don't feel as if a radical extremist group is the only sympathetic shoulder to which they can turn. But to this I say: well, actually you're right. But that all takes a long time. We need to do something now! We need to do whatever is immediate, regardless of whether it will help or just make things way way worse in the long run. And you know what is immediate? Bombs. Brimstone. Motherfucking RAPTORS and STEGOSAURI and FIRE-BREATHING GOLEMS and shit. We can unleash these bad boys tomorrow. Today. Right now! Let's get going. Huzzah!


Does all this sound good to you? Because it is essentially what our prime minister just said to the major legislative body of this country. Which makes it what he just said to us. Do you agree with him? Do you see any holes in his logic? Do you, perhaps, kind of want to know more information before you agree to rain fire down upon a country of mostly not-terrorists, many of whom, despite empty assurances to the contrary, will be killed, in awful and bloody and painful ways? Not that I am telling you what to think, here -- just that I reckon you should.


  1. In case anyone is wondering about something important here: "Stegosaurus" should never really be pluralised, referring, as it does, to the taxon -- there were many individuals in the Stegosaurus genus, but only one genus -- but as I was actually talking not about the name of a group of giant lizards but about an imaginary weapons system, I felt I could get away with it. "Stegosaurs" might also have worked.

  2. It's a very sad state of affairs indeed to once again go headlong into bombing people. Of course it's not going to work. I thought the article does indeed round up what Cameron is saying very well. It's terribly sad. God I hope they vote no.

  3. Not sure why when I comment (Sue) it comes up as Ruairi. I'll have to look into that. Sue

    1. Ha, yeah I noticed that before. I think it uses your Google account, so his will just automatically be logged in. Not that it really matters. x