Another Step in the Wrong Direction?

Yesterday I saw this headline:

UK to send armoured vehicles to Syrian Opposition

The BBC have reported that William Hague, the foreign secretary, has said that the UK will be providing armoured vehicles and body armour to opposition forces in Syria to “help save lives”. Although he refused to rule out the possibility of military intervention in the future he did say “No Western government is advocating military intervention of Western nations into the conflict in Syria. The discussion is entirely focused on the degree of assistance that can and should be delivered to the opposition.”

I spent a bit of time finding out what the conflict was all about, I’ve heard a lot about it and I decided that I ought to know the details a bit better. The Syrian Civil War (commonly known as the Syrian uprising) began on 15th March 2011 with nationwide demonstrations as part of the wider protest movement known as Arab Spring. The wave of revolutionary protests have forced out rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen (to name a few) and civil uprisings have erupted in other countries too.

The Syrian conflict consists of those loyal to the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and those who want them out. Protesters have demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad as well as the end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule. The army was deployed in April 2011 and ordered to open fire on demonstrators, I’m sure we can all remember hearing about it on the news at the time. The protests eventually evolved into an armed rebellion and became increasingly armed and organised and the Syrian government described the rebels as “armed terrorists and foreign mercenaries”. There have also been reports of the abduction and torture (both physical and psychological) of protesters and the latest figures say a million Syrians have fled the country to escape the conflict.

Mr Hague announced a £13m package of logistical and humanitarian support, the US pledged £40m in non-lethal assistance. This is what got me going…

US population is 313.9 million
UK population 62.6 million

US GDP 14.99 Trillion (USD)
UK GDP 2.432 Trillion (USD)

The US population is just over five times bigger than the UK, their GDP figure is just over six times bigger yet the assistance offered to Syria is just over three times bigger. I’m not trying to criticise the US, £40m is a lot of money but I do find it hard to understand why we have pledged far more than our fair share when our country is still struggling. People are losing their jobs, taxes are being increased and the national debt is increasing by nearly half a billion pounds per day but our leaders think it is a good idea to send more than our fair share over to Syria.

I agree that we need to help those that are suffering and I understand that that will take money and resources but the UK is five times smaller than the US and I believe our pledge ought to reflect that, after all the US are in recovery now and we are not. We can’t turn our backs on the problems in Syria but with our country still struggling to recover from the financial crisis I wonder how far our leaders are willing to go. How much money will they spend? How many troops will they send, if and when it comes to that? Will the UK recover? Will it ever get the chance?

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