Britain Clings to Its Bombing Addiction With the Weary Rationale of a Junkie
Turning Libya into a jihadi Mad Max should have cured Britain’s habit. But, instead of entering recovery, Cameron is just looking to score another hit in Syria
By Frankie Boyle /

In every addiction, a part of us is addicted to the process. Laying out the cigarette papers to build the joint; heating the spoon and flicking the syringe; dealing with our emails before our DMs; cueing up Netflix for when the kids go to sleep; methodically polishing the keys to our own prisons.

Britain seems to be going through the preliminaries associated with one of its most cherished addictions: bombing. Bombing Syria has probably only been postponed by Russia’s intervention. It was, of course, amusing to see the western press suddenly preoccupied about whether bombs were hitting their intended targets. Perhaps Putin should have avoided such rigorous international scrutinyby bombing only hospitals.

Historically, Syria has existed as a place where outsiders come to fight, a bit like Wetherspoon’s. No one likes Assad: he has the surprised appearance of a man who has just swallowed his own chin, and a bizarre, faint, fluffy moustache, as if he pulled on a cashmere turtleneck just after eating a toffee apple. He has created a hell for his own people that British teenagers seem eager to go to and fight in, just to give you some idea of how shit Leeds is.

But if their desire to go to Syria is deluded, how is our government’s any less so? A government that doesn’t believe it should have any responsibility for regulating our banks or even delivering our post thinks it needs to be a key player in, of all things, the Syrian civil war. Somehow, the plight of this strategically significant state has touched their hearts. Britain is so concerned about refugees that it will do anything – except take in refugees – to try to kill its way to a peaceful solution.

Why is war more palatable than more refugees? Why is the destruction of lives you can’t see easier to live with than someone on your bus making a phone call in a language you don’t understand? The idea that war is for Queen and country has always struck me as bizarre. It must be hard for the British royal family to see who we choose to fight against – I can imagine they were as baffled when we went after the Nazis as they are now that we disapprove of the ritualistic murder of journalists.

So, which of a variety of awful groups is Britain going to side with? We have all the options of a 39-year-old woman whose Tinder app has given her only one match: Broadmoor.

Of course, there are no guarantees that airstrikes in support of rebel groups will work. It’s simply uncharted territory for Cameron, with only the fact that he did exactly the same thing recently in Libya and caused an unmitigated disaster that turned the country in to a kind of jihadi Mad Max to provide any kind of guide. Perhaps we believe the myth that bombing helps because we think bombing beat the Nazis. That was a win, wasn’t it? I mean, it’s not as if we now live in a Europe controlled by the Germans or a country where the poor are restricted from breeding and disabled people are dying as a result of forced labour.

We cling to our dependency with the weary rationale of any addict. The addiction is simple; giving up is complicated. It’s a tricky old situation when you get down to it. Our key allies are the people funding the jihad that we are supposedly trying to stop. We want to stand against Islamic State while having a cosy relationship with other Islamic tyrannies. The tiresome thing about social democratic allies is that they don’t usually need to gun down their own people in any significant numbers, and we don’t make our money exporting ballot papers. Bombing is simple. It’s what we’ve prepared for. As the old saying goes, when all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a foreigner you can beat to death with a hammer.

Yes, recovery is difficult, but that’s because it’s a return to reality, in all its beautiful complexity. The ability to act unilaterally and the ability to create solutions for difficult situations with multiple actors are mutually exclusive. The very idea of unilateral action is probably a post-imperial hangover. If we wanted to get well as a society, we would end up like anyone in recovery: sitting around a table talking, having awkward conversations and making compromises. Instead, a few months from now, we’ll be dealing with the kind of horror that is unleashed when British MPs are told they can vote with their consciences.

Photograph: Keystone USA-ZUMA/Rex Features

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Britain Clings to Its Bombing Addiction With the Weary Rationale of a Junkie