Whatever my personal opinion on airstrikes in Syria, I always felt that a majority vote in favour of them had a chill inevitability. This lingering feeling of precognition comes from the behaviour of a cohort of post-graduate politics students I coincided with during a weekend’s trip to Gregynog Hall, an old stately home in mid-wales, a few years ago. From their conversations it sounded like they had been assigned a hypothetical political situation they had to resolve diplomatically. They were using individual rooms as ‘countries’ with two or three people acting as a UN delegate from each.
The lasting impression I took from this situation was that almost all of those involved were hopping giddily around the hallways and babbling about all of the military action that they were going to use for their respective countries. There were discussions of airstrikes, ground-troops, naval intervention. I even heard two of them talking – their excitement only thinly concealed – about a ‘country’ from the previous year’s ‘delegates’ using a nuclear strike.
These were adults to all intents and purposes, people in their early to mid-twenties. These were people studying politics, people who may one day have an element of power in government and they were expressing the same sort of delight at rushing into armed intervention as a child who has just found his dad’s loaded gun and wants to find any reason to shoot it.
Even though I don’t know what simulated crisis they were dealing with or even what political ideals they each adhered to, that delight – a childishly remorseless delight – was truly chilling. These were people hoping to, studying to, one day have control over similar real-life situations. The thought that those people may one day have that control has kept me awake some nights since.
Last night’s vote and the so-evident rush to it reminded me of that cohort of students. Regardless of the planned scale or potential effectiveness of military intervention, there was a palpable clamour for the most visible and short-term of strategies from people as far removed from their actions as that group of post-grads. Maybe – as the case could also have been in Gregynog Hall – there are other more considered and long-term strategies being discussed; I hope that this is the case with utmost sincerity.
However I just can’t shake the feeling that, if they also partook in comparable simulations when they were studying, those members of parliament who voted in favour of airstrikes last night have the ingrained sense that now there is a real-life situation requiring real-life solutions, rushing into military intervention is the most favourable action based on an assumed approval from their peers. I just can’t shake the feeling that, like with those students, there is a shared opinion that the most dramatic course of action is the best.
These are not the corridors of a 19th century mansion though and there are far more people depending on the outcome of the actions in the following days than two or three young people behind the door marked with a laminated sign that reads ‘Syria’.