Tag Archives: oh what a miserable world

War, Syria and the Pitfalls of the Perpetually Complicated

It’s the weekend once more and we all know what that means. Five entire days of having your already miserable soul trampled under the steel toe capped boots of customer dissatisfaction and wildly unrealistic performance targets are at an end, giving way to a two day lull which, while promising much at its opening, will likely descend into 48 hours spent entirely in bed binge watching old episodes of Happy Days.

Or at least, that was my expectation. Because instead of the wholesome antics of Potsie Webber and Ralph Malph opening up my Saturday, I was instead greeted with this:

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I don’t remember this episode.

Oh shit. That doesn’t sound good. This is even more depressing than the episode where Fonzie went blind and, for those who possess a memory that spans beyond the last decade, there’s also a familiar sense of dread lingering in the air.

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Live scenes from Westminster – maybe.

Ah, war. Now there’s a dose of nostalgia that nobody is happy to see – save perhaps for Robert DuVall’s surfing CO from Apocalypse Now. To go along with all the death, destruction and diplomatic unrest that is par for the course when it comes to such shenanigans, there’s also the inevitable divide of public opinion. There’s those who, being well aware that we have a very capable military at our disposal, consider it our duty to intervene when a crazed fascist in a far away land sees fit to dispassionately kill scores of his own citizens in the most inhumane way imaginable – they themselves doing little more than desperately trying to survive with a war zone right outside their door. On the other side of the fence there’s those of a more pacifistic disposition, steadfast in their belief that further bloodshed can never be the antidote to a violent conflict – rather hoping that a pushing a diplomatic solution can finally bring about peace after decades of instability and brutality. The anti-war crowd also find their ranks significantly bolstered by a third demographic, people that feel we should stay the fuck out of squabbles halfway across the world – instead keeping our heads down and negating the risk of having ourselves dragged into a fight we could easily stay out of. After all, it didn’t work out so well last time, did it?

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War – It’s actually a lot more complicated than this.

So where do I, a perpetually befuddled burn out, stand on all of this? Do I think military intervention is the way to go? Or would I rather we push for a peaceful solution, sending Assad all the fruit hampers our budget will allow in the hope he can eventually be brought to the table for productive talks?

Well, in actuality it’s not so much about where I stand but rather where I sit – and that’s firmly upon the fence, watching the debate unfold with increasing unease as carbuncles begin to form upon my rapidly deteriorating posterior region.

Don’t take this as ambivalence on my part however. My staunch entrenchment to the middle ground doesn’t stem from any sense of disinterest, rather a weary acknowledgement that I just don’t fucking know. As with most divisive issues, there’s sound arguments on both sides though, sticking to form, the mutual recognition that all participants have somewhat of a point becomes lost amongst the tribalistic bickering. In what has sadly become true of most 21st century disagreements, it becomes less about the moral responsibilities and implications of the matter than a frantic bid to discredit the opposition – the distant horror all the while continuing unhindered.

So what to do? Well, as a layman in both global politics and military strategy who isn’t sufficiently decisive to throw his weight behind either cause, all I can really do is to take stock of everything (in as objective a fashion as my inherently biased mind can allow) and attempt to make sense of it.

So let’s try that, shall we?

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Many of us have been here before, Jeremy more than most.

Our first stop is at the door of those opposed to military intervention and the thoughts of arguably their de facto spokesman, Jeremy Corbyn – a man who achieved such idealistic prominence by way of routinely voting against every proposed military solution he came across during his 35 years in Parliament. Irrespective of whether you consider yourself part of his congregation, it’s rather difficult to argue against his dedication to peaceful resolutions and his portrayal as a dangerous, terrorist supporting communist is demonstrably ludicrous – but what of the validity of his counsel?

The main thrust of his contention with tactical strikes is what they will leave in their wake. Syrian refugees scrambling upon our shores are often noted by the mainstream media but considerably less focus is afforded to what they’re actually running from – quite possibly because it makes them much harder to demonise. Take a moment to look outside your window right now. See any buildings burning to the ground? Any dead bodies lingering awkwardly around the outskirts or your vision? Is your daily soundtrack punctuated by agonised screams and hails of gunfire? No? Then you’re lucky – very lucky. But if you were to be in such a position then chances are more missiles arriving on the scene courtesy of a distant third party wouldn’t be atop your wish list. Granted, the targets are described as military installations and chemical weapons plants but, as footage has shown, civilisation is never too far away.

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Before being allowed to watch this video of missiles on their way to wreak destruction, I was greeted by an inanely cheery Workplace by Facebook ad.

Humanitarian concerns aren’t the only argument present at the table either – some concerns rest much closer to home. Assad may be a despot with an unsettling lack of regard for the value of human life but, somehow, he’s managed to obtain himself a few allies – one of which being the seemingly perennial menace that is Vladimir Putin.

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With friends like these…

It’s arguable that we’re already embroiled amidst the opening days of a second Cold War, many fearing that one too many rushes of blood to the head could lead to this one heating up pretty quickly. Prior to the strikes, Russia had already stated their intent to both intercept any missiles that dared cross into Syria – along with a promise to retaliate against participating nations in kind. As to whether this is just bullish posturing or a genuine threat often depends on your own perspective but, with the perceived bluff having now been called, we’re all set to find out for sure – and there’s a dangerously fine line between petty bickering and walloping someone in the the face.

With more than a slight nod towards Corbyn’s historical opposition to war, the ‘take heed of the mistakes of the past’ argument also comes into play. His opposition to action in Iraq and Afghanistan wasn’t exactly popular at the time but has since been vindicated by hindsight and, given how blundering fists first into the fray proved a colossal mistake last time, Theresa May’s decision to disregard Jeremy’s calls for further investigation might not have an entirely happy ending.

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“Sorry to bother you ladies and gentlemen but can we interest you in a war?”

So if we don’t strike against Assad and his monstrous regime, what do we do? Well, diplomatic sanctions and a vigorous attempt at a peaceful solution of course. Such avenues have had their success in the past in remedying conflicts of varying size but such proposals aren’t without legitimate concerns. After all, we’re dealing with a tyrant who thinks nothing of indiscriminately gassing his own nation’s children – it might take more than a few harsh words and shoving a flower down the barrel of a gun to talk him down.

Speaking after Theresa May and her cabinet took their decision to take part in military action (completely without the approval of Parliament I might add), it’s fair to say that the debate on what we as a nation should do has ended before it really began – but did we make the right choice?

If you find yourself in the camp favouring giving that Assad character what for, chances are that the parliamentary decision to reject proposals for missile strikes on Syrian targets back in 2013 plays heavily on your mind. We stood idly by back then in the hopes that a solution not involving blowing shit up would arise only to find ourselves disappointed five years later. Nothing unveils the truth quite like the passage of time and Assad remaining at large to this day leads to a rather unsettling quandary. As to whether military action back then would have been the right thing to do is something that will remain unknown, but those that saw their wish denied back in 2013 are getting understandably antsy. For what they ultimately see in Assad is a vicious bully acting without restraint – and bullies need to be stood up to.

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It’s fair to say that Assad’s mates aren’t an especially delightful bunch either.

It may be an unpleasant and morally dubious path to take, even for those who ultimately are in favour, but there’s certainly an argument that the ends will justify the means – however brutal the repercussions may be. While the protests and alternatives brought forth by those in opposition may well be idealistically sound, many consider them at odds with the harsh realities of our increasingly dysfunctional world. Pacifists are quick to remind us that love is a universal language, but the sad truth is that violence also falls into such a category – and many suspect that violence is perhaps the only language Assad and his ilk understand.

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Whichever way you look at it, neither side of the fence is especially comfortable. Nor is, for that matter, the line of cautious neutrality that I’m attempting to straddle. It’s a miserable situation with a sense of futility accompanying our every move. Whatever we do innocent lives are set to be extinguished and it’s those lives that should be ultimately at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now – regardless of your political leanings. If you think this shit is nasty to read about, just try living it. Because they do. Every single day.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to demonise these people, blaming them for our woes while turning a blind eye to theirs but remember – going home isn’t especially easy when you don’t have a home to go back to.

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UKIP – A wounded and feckless lion with but one hand to play

UKIP have an image problem. It’s hardly a secret, even the most politically passive of individuals will likely find themselves experiencing almost innate feelings of unease should so much the UKIP brand flicker into their consciousness for but a brief moment. The reasons behind this are many and exist at many intervals across the entire absurdity spectrum; whether it be a, shall we say, reluctance  to provide aid to the third world or a perhaps overly aggressive approach to handling internal party disputes – the outside perception of UKIP remains one of near universal revulsion.

So what were the UKIP top brass to do? A public image, once foisted upon you, becomes seemingly set in stone and the act of shifting it a monumental task. Besides, the farcically regressive aura was hardly ill deserved. The only realistic shot they had at vanquishing the rot would have been to tear the whole thing down and to quietly set about starting from scratch, hoping beyond hope that the ever settling dust masks their intentions.

But of course, such a bold gambit would have taken vision, discipline and professionalism – qualities that have consistently failed to seep into UKIP’s isolationist cabal. So they just changed their logo instead.

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Surprise, surprise – it’s shit

Ever the populists, the UKIP re-brand played to its base – or at least attempted to. The ‘all the better colours were already taken’ purple and gold colour scheme remained of course,  but no longer was this the canvas for a fusty old pound sign to serve as their motif. Ideologues require something more fearsome rather than being merely symbolic and so, the lion won the day – inspiring a backdrop of groan inducing predictability.

Though, from the very outset, something seemed amiss. This was a recurring theme; a smog of farce had accompanied UKIP at every turn they attempted and it took but mere moments for incompetence to take centre stage once more. As to how much of these apparently inevitable blunderings are down to design or simple negligence is open to debate. Did they unwittingly re-purpose the Premier League logo? Do they appreciate the irony in appointing a lion, a creature that only currently roams these shores by virtue of being imported from a foreign land, as mascot to their hard line anti immigration party?

Who the hell knows? But one thing’s for sure – that lion sure doesn’t look happy. A sullen expression adorning its face and exuding a sense of beaten down impotence – one could argue that it epitomises UKIP perfectly.

However, occupying a state of feckless irrelevance hadn’t always been the norm for UKIP. Why only back in the 2015 General Election they achieved 3rd place in the overall vote share standings. Though this only ended up amounting to one seat, it still presented a significant victory and in part almost justifying David Cameron’s ill fated scheme to ensnare UKIP voters to his cause. With it being successful enough to grant him the majority he perhaps didn’t crave, the simultaneous rise of UKIP applied further pressure for Cameron to begrudgingly deliver upon what he had promised.

Leading the party during this period of unprecedented success was a peculiar chap named Nigel Farage. A former city trader turned populist war cry, who possessed a fashion sense so peculiar you could easily imagine it being the result of a night spent binging on 1940’s media whilst impaired by some sort of extreme narcotic. Nevertheless, this bewildering anachronism managed to prosper in grassroots politics, a world away from the uniformed halls of Westminster – a world that also contained the so called “unheard majority”.

Nigel set to work on schmoozing with the proletariat; he wasn’t like the stuffed shirt elites who littered the Houses of Parliament – he was just like them. He even had the ‘Fisher Price – Beer and Fags Accessory Set’ to prove it. He charmed them, he inspired them and, depending on the narrative to which you subscribe, he came to represent them – because he was just like they were; disenfranchised and pissed off at the corrupt system holding the little guy down.

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Here’s an unrelated shot of Nigel Farage, surrounded by needlessly extravagant decor, buddying up to a cunt.

As divisive and morally dubious as Farage could be, he was most certainly an effective politician – all the while assuming the guise of a vengeful outsider. However with Brexit secured the party’s overall purpose had become increasingly unclear. The war was viewed as won and, with his name recognition having soared, the general decided to step down. He’d “got his country back”, now he was going to pursue getting his life back; though, having spent his entire political life chasing the Brexit dragon, with the dragon now quelled it didn’t seem like there was much else to get back to.

Still, losing their figurehead (arguably their only prominent figure in the entire party) didn’t sit well at a time their entire relevance was dwindling. Some sense of stability was desperately needed. If they were ever going to save the sinking ship then robust, reliable and enduring leadership was required – to hold the party together as their entire reason for being faded around them. This task fell to Diane James, coming right out of the blocks with defiant proclamations of UKIP’s potential to thrive – going as far to say that they would become the de facto party of opposition.

Diane James quit after 18 days.

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Can’t possibly imagine why.

Nigel, ever the maverick detective for who circumstances never allow him to retire, took less than a day to swoop back onto the throne – albeit on an interim basis until a suitable heir could be elected.

Indeed an heir was eventually chosen – but if UKIP were hoping for a suitably cunning rabble-rouser to extend upon what Farage had created then they were to be sorely disappointed.

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This is Paul Nuttall. I repeat – this is Paul Nuttall.

Paul Nuttall was a interesting bloke, but how much of this interest was down to his actual credentials and qualities as a person was infinitesimal at best. For you see not much about who Paul Nuttall really came out; at least not direct from the source. Apparently concerned about stepping into the shoes of a man who, at least partially, had achieved some measure of success by playing the ‘Cult of Personality’ hand, Nuttall seemed determined to cultivate his very own cult of personality. Unfortunately for Paul, likely being misrecognized as Eddie Hitler more often than being acknowledged for who he actually was, such a task didn’t seem especially feasible. Hell, what did he even have to work with?

So he set about crafting his own mythos and it was one that needed to tick certain boxes in order to be effective. UKIP aren’t especially well regarded by the would be intelligentsia so hey, by all means bolt a PhD next to your name.  Then there’s the working man to appeal to; your core demographic – the base. There must be some high profile yet highly emotive cause to latch onto out there, surely? Don’t forget to throw a footballing past into the mix. Everyone loves football, right? Politicians being deceitful is just the way of the world, it’s accepted. Even if someone were to check, who the fuck cares?

They checked, they cared and UKIP’s descent back to being a mere political punchline was all but confirmed with the unsurprising revelation that they’d appointed a jobsworth as their leader. Nuttall had staggered on to fight the 2017 snap election but he was a beaten man long before the battle had even begun. UKIP were vanquished, Nuttall resigned (seemingly disappearing into the nothingness from which he came; legends and all) and the stage was set for Nigel, ever on call for “one last job”, to return.

Only he didn’t. Nigel kept his name decidedly out of the hat and they were forced to look elsewhere. Following a fairly fractured party election campaign, (so much so that one of the unsuccessful candidates immediately jumped ship to start her own party; a kind of UKIP for the especially deranged) Henry Bolton OBE reigned supreme. A man described by Don Farage himself as “a man of real substance”. Could Henry be ‘the one’? Become Neo to Nigel’s Morpheus – finally stabilising the party in the process?

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The “substance” in question being the blood of executed badgers.

Perhaps not.

For that’s where this increasingly circular tale of near perpetual calamity (with the odd smattering of unforeseen success) catches up with the present day – aptly punctuated by a timely scandal. A UKIP leader, still green to the role, had become embroiled in another PR nightmare of his own creation. With what little credibility he may have once had dissolving away by the minute, the ever lingering phantom of Nigel circles overhead – seemingly prepping the waiting public with hints of a potential re-animation. Where have we heard this story before?

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That sound you can hear is Humphrey Bogart rolling in his grave.

Today’s news isn’t shocking; it’s merely part of the UKIP cycle – lurching from one slapstick episode to the next with little respite, each time having to fall back on Farage to keep their heads above water. It’s often been suspected that UKIP are a one man show and time has only served to provide evidence for the prosecution. At this moment the Bolton debacle is still ongoing and he’s remains in charge but, without any particular cause to avoid destabilisation for, it seemed his days are already numbered.

What happens next remains to be seen but expect a predictable path to be followed, in turn serving to further highlight the increasingly laughable notion of a future for UKIP. Whilst it’s undeniable that UKIP are a somewhat more potent proposition when fronted by Farage their dependence on him seems certain to be their undoing. They’re mired within a high stakes game of Pontoon yet find themselves hindered at every interval when they’re inexplicably dealt a joker with every second deal. It’s not just that they’re struggling to replace Farage, they simply can’t. The party rose to prominence with Nigel at the helm with his colleagues relegated to background extras in the recollection of the general public – hardly an environment within which a potential successor can thrive. Above all, it’s Nigel who, whilst not bringing respectability, at least brought some sense of feasibility to the cause; not least with his apparently permanent residence on the nation’s television screens getting the message heard.

Alas, it’s with a certain irony that the man who established them will also be their undoing. Without Nigel there’s no feasibility and without feasibility the enthusiasm among its members is destined to fade away – finally bringing an end to this miserable and misguided tale of attempted populist upheaval.

Not that the UKIP lion gives a shit. He’s foreign.