Reflecting on parliament's decision to bomb IS assets in Syria I recalled several lectures I attended during my military training. These lectures contained a number of 'lessons learnt' (often the hard way) during past conflicts.
The complexity of the current situation is horrendous and resolution will require the full spectrum of political and diplomatic effort. That said I can't help thinking that our politicians should be required to attend the same lectures, particularly as they are the people who ultimately define what our armed forces are tasked to do.
My thoughts and prayers are with the men and women who protect our nation and of course the people of Syria and Iraq.
The following poem sums up some key lessons.
A Guide To Extending Foreign Policy
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” - Clausewitz
There are times when action is needed
when you just can’t stand and observe
but if you plan to use Armed Forces
take note these lessons learnt;
Regime change is not your decision
no matter what you might feel.
You have to let the people decide
not grind it in with your heel.
Rich bullies are never respected,
their acts breed envy and hate.
Win the hearts and the minds of a people
and your efforts will carry more weight.
When fighting terrorists or rebels,
you have to comply with the law,
if you break it you may win a battle
but morally you'll lose the war.
Your allies’ views will be different
they may even get in your way.
Tread carefully when taking action
lest the cons do the pros outweigh.
Befriending your enemy’s enemy,
is rarely the best way to go.
If you can’t find an ally you trust
take care; you’re in the wrong show.
You can't hold ground from a plane,
with artillery it's just the same.
If you want to hold on to what's around
you’ll have to put boots on the ground.
If you’re in you must be; all in,
there is no other way,
the reward for a half assed effort
is to be bitten another day.
Yes - war is a messy business
in which everyone gets burnt.
So before you stick your oar in
take heed these lessons hard learnt.
John Carré Buchanan
03 December 2015