As British Prime Minister David Cameron declared from Paris on Monday his desire to escalate the UK's military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in both Iraq and Syria, campaigners are looking to Jeremy Corbyn to see whether the Labour Party leader can temper the nation's march to war.
Cameron is trying to rally support for a pending parliamentary vote authorizing the Royal Air Force to bomb Syria, joining ongoing airstrikes by the United States, France, and Russia in that country, and the amplified regional onslaught against ISIS following the attacks in Paris earlier this month.
"We must also do more to defeat ISIL [ISIS] in their heartlands in Syria and Iraq," Cameron declared on Monday. "I firmly support the action President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria and it is my firm conviction that Britain should do so too."
With that vote expected as soon as Thursday, anti-war campaigners with the UK-based Stop the War coalition are calling on British MPs to "Support Corbyn, Not Cameron," by "stand[ing] against the military escalation in Syria."
More war and an escalated intervention, the group said,
will only increase the violence, chaos and suffering there. It will also lead to an increase in the number of people fleeing the already war-torn country.
The idea that so called safe havens or no-fly zones are a solution is a myth. Attempting to create either would involve military confrontation with Assad's military and possibly Russian forces too. This would involve intense fighting. The call for no-fly zones was the prelude to the Western intervention in Libya which left tens of thousands dead and the country in ruins.
Britain has been the most aggressive country in Europe over the last fifteen years, leading military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Yet it has done little to help the victims of the wars it so enthusiastically pursues and it has been at the forefront of opposing a humane policy towards refugees.
Another destructive bombing campaign is no solution whatsoever. It will make moves toward a political solution harder. It risks intensifying and widening what is already a catastrophic war.
Calling for a political solution "led by the Arab and Muslim world itself," Corbyn said last week that it is "vital" to learn from history and "not to be drawn into responses that feed a cycle of violence." World governments, he added, "must not keep making the same mistakes" in the fight against terrorism.
"It is the conflict in Syria and the consequences of the Iraq war which have created the conditions for ISIS to thrive and spread its murderous rule," he declared in a speech following the United Nations Security Council resolution vote late Friday.
Corbyn has repeatedly said that should the question of bombing Syria come to Parliament, Labour MPs would not be given a "free vote," and instead that the measure would be decided "as a party." However, there are reports that as many as 60 party members are preparing to "defect" from Corbyn's anti-war stance and back the bombing campaign.
For its part, France on Monday continued its military escalation, launching the first airstrikes from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier on the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Mosul. President François Hollande is traveling this week to meet with the leaders of the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Russia to discuss his plan for a "grand coalition" to destroy ISIS.
In an op-ed in the Morning Star over the weekend, Lindsey German with Stop the War Coalition asked when, if ever, the West will learn that "more war is not the answer to defeating" military groups like ISIS?
Pointing to the ongoing "War on Terror" that erupted following the September 11 attacks, and the more recent military campaigns within Syria and Iraq, she writes:
Behind Cameron’s new round of banging the drum for war lies a total failure on the part of most politicians to admit the reasons for the growth of Isis and other groups.
Because the inescapable truth is that the “war on terror,” as it was named after September 11, has not only failed to stop terrorism, it has presided over a massive growth of groups linked to al-Qaida and Isis, in an increasing number of countries, in those years.
One major reason for this has been the invasions, wars and occupations which the West has carried out over the past 14 years.
In every case, large numbers of civilians have been killed. Many more have been displaced and made refugees, and whole societies have been ruined by the ongoing consequences of war.
To that point, human rights groups within Syria said on Monday that since Russia began launching air strikes on September 30, as many as 526 civilians have been killed, including up to 137 children.
Joining an international day of protest against the military escalation, campaigners are holding a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office at 10 Downing Street this Saturday.