James Heappey retired from the Army in 2012 after service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wells. Follow him on Twitter at @JSHeappey.
When Parliament debates intervention in Syria the legacy of Tony Blair will frame the debate.
MPs will be more interested than ever before in the legality of action and the evidence that proves Assad gassed his people, not to mention the moral case for whether we should be ‘meddling’ in the affairs of another state with no obvious connection to the national security of the UK.
This enthusiasm for absolute rigour in determining whether we should use force is, of course, no bad thing although it does place our security services in a difficult position as there is only so much leg that they can show before our enemies get a dangerous insight in to our ability to see what they’re up to.
Equally, we must be careful to ensure that the pendulum of morality has not swung too far in the other direction. The ‘West’ may have been quick to intervene in Iraq, but not too long beforehand we were late to intervene in Rwanda and Bosnia and the consequences were appalling.
However, the part of the Blair legacy that frustrates this former soldier the most is the idea that Parliament must also worry about the threat to the lives of the British service men and women who may be sent to intervene.
After ten or more years in Iraq and Afghanistan we are a war weary nation and the recent drop off in flag draped coffins arriving at Brize Norton is welcome relief. But if we are honestly saying that any decision to intervene is going to be based, at least in part, on the risk of taking casualties in the process; then we may as well give up on any notion of having expeditionary armed forces altogether.