The Problem With Short-Term Thinking

This was originally a comment but given that little of substance has come from the bombing campaign in Syria, I may as well revisit it. Largely my thoughts were sparked by comments made by (Hove MP) Peter Kyle about his decision to support bombing in Syria (he seems to support an inordinate amount of government proposals for an opposition MP). He kept talking about voting for bombing because it did good in the “short term” – as if short termism were a virtue! This is contemptible idiocy, and appears to have been the reasoning not only for many supporters of the measure, but also for Cameron in proposing this course of action in the first place.

Because of his desire to do something (keep Britain safe, even though there’s no evidence to suggest a bombing campaign would actually do that) in the short term we’re jeopardising long term strategic options. We need assets on the ground to help locate ISIS’ movements, and who is going to provide us with that information if they know, after every “targeted strike [sic]”, ISIS will be looking for people collaborating with the dreaded Westerners by feeding them their locations? Basically, locals won’t want to help for fear their collaboration will be uncovered, resulting in horrific reprisals (and there will likely be scapegoating anyway, even when targeting information really came from drone or satellite imaging). That fear is basic psychology; you don’t need to be an expert in human nature to realise that.

Furthermore, if IS are planning attacks on Britain, most of their assets will be in Britain or nearby already. Even their middle-east-based leadership doesn’t seem that much more centralised that other cell-structured Islamist groups. Even if it were, their supporters appear to be self-sufficient, self-motivated individuals and groups that are encouraged by propaganda but not materially supported by the group itself. So we’re not even cutting off the head and leaving the body to wither: the problem Syrian airstrikes were supposed to solve still lingers since they don’t adequately address the problem. (This is largely an embellished cut-and-paste from my original comment; I’ve had to change very little and I feel this bears out the general sentiment here: ISIS are still around and still regarded as a very real threat, despite us “doing something”.)

Now, admittedly I don’t know exactly what’s happening on the ground, but that puts me on a par with Kyle. However my intuition is that strikes aren’t and won’t disrupt ISIS operations all that much. What they will do is disrupt our potential intelligence opportunities and likely fuel terrorist recruitment (as Cameron, in a brief display of intellectual ability, pointed out with regards Russian airstrikes, and insight he apparently forgot when he proposed the same course of action).


About Elliot Rose
I am a graduate of the Centre for Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex. My PhD thesis concerned the way that human nature has been conceptualised and related to society. I write - when I remember to - about science and society, naturalism, ethology (and its observations in relation to humanity), a little on the philosophy of science and ethics, and occasional grumbles about society and pop-culture.

One Response to The Problem With Short-Term Thinking

  1. Pingback: Show, Don’t Tell | Unfortunate Conflict of Evidence

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