Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Slip sliding away

With the western world seemingly sliding toward greater involvement in the conflict in Syria its probably a good time for our politicians and leaders to think seriously about the pros and cons of military action. On the one hand we have an atrocious situation where thousands of people are being killed on a monthly basis and on the other a political, ethical and legal quagmire that could seriously bite us if done wrong. If it were me I'd try to build a model and iterate through different scenarios in order to reason about the possible outcomes, it would be a very complex model of course. I wonder how our government will do it, I read today that parliament has been recalled to debate it so it seems likely that something will happen. It's an interesting thought experiment to try to write down the list of factors, even more so to try to think about scoring them, anyway, here's my list (0=bad, 10=good).

Saving lives6Short and long term angles to this but should help
Ethical7What would we do if our own people were being gased
Self interest3Not a huge amount of trade with Syria but they do have some oil
Cost (money)4Not as expensive as Iraq, could do without it in a recession
Cost (human)4As long as it's an air campaign, not huge (like Libya?)
Complexity2Horribly complex, Russians, Turks, Americans - political rats nest
Impact(failure)3Bad but not too bad
Impact(success)7Can't see a massively positive outcome, perhaps a construction windfall?
Inconvenience8Most ordinary people won't notice any effect
Impact(long-term)7Probably won't affect the terror situation, might upset the Russians
Political6Probably good for the tories
Hypocrisy4Why are drone strikes less ethical than gas bombs?
Evidence4Need something incontrovertible

If you then take the average of these factor scores you end up with 5, i.e. possibly only just worth doing but not conclusive either way, which pretty much sums up my feelings about it.

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