UK MPs approves air strikes in Syria

December 3, 2015

To cope with the terror problem, the United Kingdom government has implemented a deterrence policy that led to so called #SyriaVote in UK parliament that ended less than an hour ago.The vote followed a highly supercharged house of Commons debate that lasted more than 10 hours, in which British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed the threat posed by the extremists, whom he branded ‘woman-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters’. Public mood in UK has changed following the November 13 Paris attacks, claimed by ISIS, that left 130 dead. UK allies, France and the U.S. have urged Britain to join their air campaign in Syria, and Cameron said Britain should not let its allies down.Cameron said Britain was already a top target for ISIS attacks, and airstrikes would reduce the group’s ability to plan more Paris-style carnage.”Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people?” he said. “Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?” Cameron was backed by most members of his governing Conservative Party which holds 330 of the 650 Commons seats as well as members of the smaller Liberal Democrat party among others. Cameron’s plans were backed by 397 votes to 227 with an impressive a majority of 174.Media reports say 67 Labour MPs voted for the strikes, in opposition to their recently elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn warned against an ‘ill-thought-out rush to war’.

Those opposed against the strike repeatedly claimed Cameron’s Government’s plan challenged claims that 70,000 moderate fighters would be able to take on IS.But now, its now official the Royal Air Force airstrikes will be launched against Islamic State militants in Syria after the country’s MPs backed extending military action. Watching the highlights on telly, I would not doubt say the most impassioned speech of the day was made by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, who in a highly unusual move closed the debate for Labour with a speech in support of military intervention.Benn was among a number of senior Labour figures to defy the Labour leader and speak in favour of airstrikes and he received applause from both sides of the Commons chamber for his speech.Benn said: ”We must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.’Benn told his party ‘we never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road’.’And we are here faced by fascists,’ he said.’Not just their calculated brutality but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent.’They hold us in contempt.’They hold our values in contempt.’They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt.’They hold our democracy, the means.But my question is, will it work? Referring to the debate above, it is safe to conclude that it does not. So, what needs to be done to address the IS matter from U.K perspective? For starters,I strongly believe that cost-benefit analyses commonly practiced by economists might come in handy.

UK Prime minister David Cameron
UK Prime minister David Cameron

Applying analysis to explain terrorism, the number and magnitude of terrorist attacks could be predicted by equalising the incremental, or marginal, costs of undertaking terrorism to the incremental benefits of executing it. In my understanding, the incremental costs are the increasing costs of carrying out additional terrorist attacks, encompassing the costs of raising funds, collecting equipment especially weapons and explosives, recruiting and training terrorist operatives, building networks including preparing escape plans, and gathering intelligence like choosing targets would have worked much better for U.K than bombing Syria targets where the despicable murderers called ISIS are operating from.There is clear strategy that marginal costs of terrorism include the costs of operatives being killed or apprehended leading to incarceration, torture, and interrogation that may compromise the terrorist network. Considering all the costs as constraints, it would be harder for IS and other terrorist group to execute additional terrorist strikes in the West which are their primary targets.Incremental costs in matters related to IS will be highly influenced by impetuses propelling the operatives. There are also internal impetuses such as religion, clique mentalities, and cultural as well as political ideologies. In this case of Syria, they can undertake terrorist activities steadfastly regardless of any external impetuses being offered even if there is none. With a rise in impetuses, at the same level of marginal costs, more terrorist incidents may occur but we can only hope for the best and that security agencies will be on top of the game.So far, the western countries deterrence policies have included intention to increase the marginal costs of terrorism so that the amount of terrorism can be reduced.

The policy has been carried out by setting grim castigations like long prison sentences and the death penalty for the perpetrators, and creating conditions like strict security measures that make it difficult for terrorists to accomplish their missions.Though prevention efforts such as heightening security measures in public places like offices, malls, and airports surely increase the marginal costs of terrorism, the efforts may drive terrorists to seek other targets and types of terror, making prevention more costly than planned.Taking the shortcomings of deterrence into account, UK and its allies should adopt another policy to complement it. What the powerful allies need is some sort of policy that will lessen the marginal benefits of terrorism, which are the decreasing benefits of launching additional terrorist acts as the targeted society will adapt to terrorist acts, so the incremental effects of them tend to subside.The more centralized political and economic systems like we have seen in Syria since war broke out in 2011, with a limited number of key actors, are easy prey for terrorism because when they can paralyze the actors, there will be not enough parties to substitute for them. The coalition forces allies need then are policies that really decentralise political and economic powers, which can be done by truly embracing democracy and improving the workings of market economy in Syria.In more decentralized systems, when terrorism strikes, there will be many parties to substitute for the crippled actors and resume activities, decreasing terrorism’s marginal benefits and thus making it less appealing, as it will have minimal effect on political and economic stability.Decentralizing and deterrence policies should be invoked concurrently. Relying only on deterrence like military air strikes will not stop terrorism in Middle East and it merely delays it for a while.

Contador Harrison