The refugee crisis in Europe has at last stirred the world to the horrors of the Syrian civil war. People finally are calling for end to the war. For some leaders, such as David Cameron and Stephen Harper that means more bombing.
But will it really bring peace? Very unlikely I say. It seems to me that the Western allies who are currently bombing ISIS really have no clear war aims. And the so-called allies under the NATO umbrella have different enemies. So we have the US, UK and Canada supposedly trying to defeat ISIS, with the Kurdish Pesmerga as their allies. Meanwhile NATO ally Turkey is bombing the Peshmerga and not doing much about ISIS. In fact many claim that Turkey is covertly aiding ISIS. Certainly for many months it did little to stop ISIS recruits crossing over its border into Turkey and there is pretty good evidence that Turkey's intelligence service tipped off the jihadi group Al Nusra about Division 30, a US trained group opposed to Assad, who were infiltrated back into Syria. They were almost immediately rounded up and captured.
At the same time the US, UK and Canada say they want to see the defeat of the Assad regime, even though it is the Syrian Arab Army under Assad's control which is doing most of the on-the-ground fighting against ISIS.
I say the utmost priority for all Western governments must be to stop the fighting. And the only way to do this is to have peace talks, without pre-conditions, among all parties prepared to talk. The Assad regime has said it is prepared to talk, but always the NATO allies have said that a pre-condition is that Assad can play no part in any future government. This is prolonging the war, possibly indefinitely.
Assad is still in control of about 50% of Syrian territory, including the capital Damascus. His army and Hezbollah allies are a formidable fighting force and they are now being backed up by Russian advisers and possibly weapons and troops. Why would Assad ever agree to talks if he is told that he cannot play any part in a future government? He would almost be putting the handcuffs on his own wrists to be led away to a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
So in the name of humanity, pressure must be put on Western governments to start peace talks without pre-conditions.
At the same time they must be pressed to state their war aims. At present the stated aim is the defeat of both ISIS and Assad. But supposing by some miracle, a fairy waved its wand and both these fighting forces disintegrated, who then would form the government of Syria? There has been talk of a "moderate opposition". But even if such a group could be put together rapidly to form a government, they would soon be pushed out by violent jihadi groups who have done most of the fighting against Assad. Presumably this is not what the West wants to happen.
Or is it? Either the US and NATO leadership are guilty of muddled and wishful thinking or perhaps their war aim really is perpetual chaos. This idea sounds outrageous, but many gain from it - Israel, the arms industry, the armed forces with all the consequent opportunities for new advanced equipment and career advancement etc.
I hate to think that this could be the case. But ultimately the explanation for western policy must boil down to a choice between a cock-up or a conspiracy.