Given that conflicts across the globe often have complex origins, one of the besetting mental vices of progressive politicians in the West has been the tendency to believe that "humanitarian intervention" ( military action ) in nations from Afghanistan to Iraq and Libya can make the situation better rather than worse.
The additionally unfortunate fact is that groups that are supposedly claim to be maintaining an organised opposition to such military adventures consist of a narrow coterie of propagandists and ideologues. The Stop the War Coalition is just such a group think a simplistically anti-Western line somehow adds up to a coherent opposition.
Of course, the StWC is not one coherent organisation. It is, as the name suggests, a "coalition" of people who claim to be anti-war. The main thing their leading lights and members all have in common is that they are broadly "anti-imperialist". But this has often not turned out to be quite the case in practice.
For some leading formerly associated with showing admiration and sympathy for the Soviet Union, the largest Land Empire in history until it collapsed in 1991. George Galloway, a current Vice President called the end of the Soviet Union "the saddest day of his life". Well, he must have had a limited experience of life beyond his bleak and emotive viseral political rants.
Andrew Murray, who was the Chairman until 2011, was a card carrying member of the British Communist Party. By advocating a "Stop the War" they believe they are halting Western Imperialism and by "the West" it is largely the USA, and any nations that side with it. But he seems to be a rather simple minded ideologue with a sense of overinflated self importance.
Consequently, in the light of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War since October 2011, the StWC has had problems in trying to "take a position" or "a stance" on a situation where Arab revolutionary militias have sought to overthrow President Assad's dictatorship because it was never backed by the West.
In a very botched and confused way the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland attempted to criticise the StWC on these lines. Freedland claimed that the STWC were only interested in Arab casualties when the West could be blamed but had nothing to offer on Assad's forces slaughtering civilians.This was because there was no Western intervention in Syria.
This led StWC's Lindsey German to opine,
"Contrary to Freedland's claims that western intervention is nigh on impossible, the west and its supporters – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are already directly intervening, providing arms and other military support"
This is not quite factually correct. The USA and Britain ( which is not "the West"-is Germany part of this policy of intervention) is not directly providing arms. It is Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are doing that as part of their proxy struggle against Iran. Whilst the US and Britain does nothing to prevent that it is untrue that it directly supplies arms as tet.
So whilst that foreign policy entails a tacit backing for a Saudi regime which has an undoubtedly far worse human rights record than Iran, that Saudi policy reflects its own geopolitical enmity towards Iran and less something "directly" created by "the West". The conflicts have their own long standing historical origins.
German goes on to write,
'The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were all portrayedas helping the peoples of those countries. They have caused untold misery and extremely high death tolls. Stop the War campaigns to prevent the people of Syria suffering the same fate'
The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq clearly made things worse. Yet if the STWC is to vaunt its "internationalist" stance, it can not ascribe the violence in Syria wholly to "Western intervention". For a start, the USA is not responsible for what Assad has done to his people: these conflicts have their own sectarian and ethnic origins prior to US involvement in the Middle East.
The regional realities of the Middle East have a dynamic of their own that exists independently of Britain and the USA.This is not something that comes out in what can only be termed the crude propaganda of the StWC which comes across as the ourpouring of those sorts of anorak clad neurotics who have most like frustrating jobs in high schools.
There are plenty of intelligent criticisms of the futility of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that do not dovetail with the hard left totalitarian school of cliched agitprop positions advocated by Murray and German. The most formibible comes from writers and intellectuals such as John Gray in his Black Mass
German moans "Freedland is wrong to say that Stop the War is "not active on Syria". We have held a number of public meetings and demonstrations on Syria and Iran, including a well attended fringe meeting at the Labour party conference which he seems to have overlooked". Well since they know little about the conflict who cares about what one hack thinks of another hack propagandist?
Anyway, hat does not add up to any position on Syria that takes into account the dynamics of the conflict as it is in Syria. The standard reflex of fitting the facts to fit a position already decided upon. That we shall go against any faction or movement in Syria that the USA could see as serving its interests ( i.e removing Assad ) if it benefits the USA
It is clear that Clinton and Hague's foreign policy is both messianic and bungling, calling for "Assad to go" ( effectively meaning "regime change" ) whilst threatening Russia and China that they will "pay a price" for not backing a policy of removing Assad, as is presumed to be the 'democratic will of the Syrian people'.
Yet the StWC offer nothing but platitudes and slogans on Syria as it is simply not interested in the fate of Syrians. That is fine if an isolationist stance is being taken in the way some anti-war conservatives do on the principle that it is a matter of indifference whether one group of foreigners slaughters another in a far off place.
But German does not take that line. She was at pains to deny that the StWC had been "active on Syria".
But the StWC theme is against western intervention in those countries, rather than taking a position about what is happening domestically. We take the view that it is for Syrians to decide what happens in Syria.
Yet if a military intervention is purely hypothetical, then the claim that Syrians can decide what happens in Syria amounts only amount to copping out of actually having any opinion on the crisis in Syria. In which case, until Britain does actively intervene, they should just be quit and try to learn some history.
The problem that SWP ideologues such as German are going to have with trying to "take a position" on Syria is that President Assad and his regime is Allawite and against the sunni Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood has been anti-imperialist elsewhere and supported by the SWP.
In turn, the SWP via the StWC and Respect ( at least until 2007 when it split from Galloway ) have all aligned themselves in solidarity with Hizbollah's struggle against Israel. Unfortunately for the Party Line, it gets complicated as Hizbollah is an ally of Iran which is supported by Assad's Syria.The absurdity is manifest in these muddled headed diatribes.
The Galloway line was always tripe anyway. For the Leader of the "Bradford Spring" is a great admirer of Colonel Nasser of Egypt and yet courted British Islamists ( including the MAB ) who were favourable to the Muslim Brotherhood which Nasser had crushed in 1966 having executed leading members.
If British foreign policy is going to be criticised ( as it must for the follies, errors and bungling idiocy of it as regards Afghanista, the "War on Terror" and Iraq ) it should come, at least, come from organised groups of intelligent critics as opposed ot cranks, pinheads, fanatics, zealots and platform demagogues.
German writes 'Their interests are hardly humanitarian...' This is hypocritical coming from someone who lauds the liberating role played by Leon Trotsky in the Russian Revolution. and who himself condemned the "slug humanitarianism' of Western liberals and those who rejected the possibility that any Workers Opposition in Russia could now remove Stalin's consolidated dictatorship.
So can German fails to explain how criticising the Western Powers for their lack of humanitarianism dovetails with the SWP venerating Leon Trotsky, a commissar responsible for mass bloodshed, eulogising terror, savagely crushing independent bloodshed, eulogising terror, savagely crushing independent workers organisations and helping to found the world's first totalitarian state.
When the StWC jettisons ideologues and cranks who are terminally incapable of admitting the Bolshevik Revolution was a a total catastrophe, and drops this doublethink version of "imperialism" in looking at the world simplistically in accordance with whether rebellions are 'objectively' pro-US or not, more might listen.
Britain stands in need of what AJP Taylor once termed The Troublemakers, those who challenged Establishment Foreign policy. But the opposition has to be based not on a one dimensional hatred of the USA as if that alone were the only basis for forming any sort of opinion about international relations.
Regrettably, only the cranks have a prominent platform to criticise British foreign policy, at least as far as organised protest movements are concerned. It is to be hoped a new generation of principled opponents to foreign misdaventures can emerge. These people, to borrow their hero's phrase, should be dumped in the "dustbin of history"