YEP Says, November 23: Airstrikes? We must never give up on diplomacy

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Last night, just over a week after the atrocities in Paris, as the city of Brussels put pretty much all life on hold in the face of a threat of ‘imminent’ terrorist attack, Leeds Minster was a venue for reflection and remembrance as dignitaries, politicians and the public gathered at a memorial service.

These are strange, difficult times indeed. Times when perhaps all of us have been reminded to take nothing for granted - that simply living normally carries with it a shadow of what has happened, of what could yet happen.

Yet live normally is what we must do - for to do otherwise means the terrorists have won.

On the political stage moves towards the inevitable are being played.

That the UN Security Council decided unanimously to call upon member states to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, to “eradicate” Islamic State’s “safe haven” in both Iraq and Syria is almost without precedent.

The tragedy is that it has taken such loss of life on the streets of Paris, and also the cold-blooded execution of British holiday-makers on the beaches of Tunisia earlier this year, to shock world leaders into working together to tackle this barbaric threat to the liberty of all – this remains a global crisis which demands a global response.

However, as David Cameron travels to Paris to meet French president Francois Hollande prior to setting out the conclusions of Britain’s Strategic Defence and Security Review to Parliament, the Prime Minister needs to be mindful of political grandstanding on this issue as the drumbeat of war becomes ever louder – appealing to the emotions of MPs, and telling them to start behaving like “Churchill not Chamberlain”, should not be necessary if the Government’s case for war is a compelling one.

Though public support for military action has increased the Prime Minister needs to demonstrate how British airstrikes against IS are, in fact, part of a wider and political approach to bring about an end to the bloodshed in Syria and he must not give up on diplomacy . In all likelihood, this will be most onerous decision of Mr Cameron’s premiership. Yet the public should be assured that Mr Cameron has sought to build a consensus, and this change in strategy and tone is welcome. However the deployment of the RAF – despite the precision accuracy of the latest military hardware – should only be the action of last resort, and this remains so.

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