The Military Dave die is cast

The die is cast.
It seems highly unlikely that anything will stop David Cameron leading the UK into a bombing campaign in Syria. It has precious little to do with the arguments the Prime Minister set out in the House of Commons and everything to do with the hunt for the ‘good war’ that will define a mediocre politician’s term of office.
David Cameron does, after all, have form on this, having led the UK into a catastrophic adventure in Libya in 2011 that left the country mired in a fractured and chaotic civil war. Many of the arguments he used then are being recycled now.
Few will not feel the desire to ‘do something’ in solidarity with the French citizens massacred in Paris, or indeed those killed in Beirut, Sinai or Turkey, but what if that something makes things worse?
We did something in Iraq and Afghanistan over a decade ago and those tormented nations have been mired in endless and bloody conflict ever since.
The UK’s tiny morsel of air power will add little to the chaotic coalition of the bickering that is pounding Iraq and Syria. What can a few Tornadoes add to the shock and awe perpetrated by the US to little effect? Many US pilots report that they are returning with their bombs still on board because there was no obvious target left to strike.
Most of Cameron’s arguments were utter bunkum. We are succeeding in Iraq, he argued, rolling back ISIS and cutting their territory by 30%. The problem is that empty land is strategically worthless. In the same period, ISIS has taken the vital city of Ramadi and consolidated its hold on Mosul. We have, we are told, a moderate opposition to ISIS in the form of the 70,000 strong Free Syrian Army. This will be news to military strategists who think this force is ineffective at best and fictitious at worst. As General Lloyd Austin told a Congressional hearing earlier this year, out of the hundreds of rebels it trained, the US could track down only “four or five” fighters.

We are not supporting President Assad, Cameron continues. We want to see him go, but we will make him go by strengthening his hold on the country. As war aims go, this would appear confused to say the least. Leaving Assad in power after his forces have done most of the killing will almost certainly seal the support of many Sunnis for the likes of ISIS and Al-Nusra. It should be remembered that the last time Cameron went searching for his next, good war, it was Assad he wanted to bomb. Stir in the explosive ingredient of Russia’s pro-Assad military contribution and the Sunni chauvinist Turkish machinations and you have a lethal cocktail of military posturing.
Then there is the question of what will actually defeat ISIS. Even Military Dave admits that an air war will not do it. So whose ‘boots on the ground’ will tread on Syria’s ochre earth? The Kurds have been the most effective anti-ISIS force, but they have their own strategic interests and are constantly impeded by the West’s ally Turkey. Iraq is condemned to endless internecine strife between Sunni and Shia while Syria is an eye-wateringly complex web of murder gangs.
Few could disagree with the desire to do something to stop a sect as murderous as ISIS, but what if the something makes things worse?

Libraries and reading round up

Here is the latest library and reading news:


26th November



Libraries Taskforce : 26th November

Blog – Kathy Settle | Our first six months



Libraries Taskforce: six month progress report April – September 2015



Brixton Blog : 26th November

Gym-trification: Lambeth’s dodgy scheme to turn libraries into gyms parodied in Private Eye



Horncastle News : 26th November

Councillors make recommendation on who should run Lincolnshire library service



Coventry Observer : 26th November

Coventry Council set to ponder cuts to city libraries



Rossendale Free Press : 26th November

Lancashire | Volunteers may be needed to save our libraries and museum


The Courier : 26th November



Councillors express concerns over plans to close libraries in Fife |


Daily Post : 26th November

Anglesey’s Market Hall revamp (to create a new library) poised for go-ahead




25th November




THE BOOKSELLER : 25th November

Report highlights “concerning” gender pay gap in library sector



THE BOOKSELLER : 25th November

ACE ‘astonished’ by increase in funding



CILIP : 25th November

Autumn Statement is “perfect storm” for libraries warns CILIP


THE GUARDIAN : 25th November

Local councils warn of critical funding crisis as £18bn grant is scrapped



Brixton Blog : 25th November

Lambeth Library consultation ‘fake’ charge campaigners




Portsmouth News : 25th November

Hampshire County Council accused of holding ‘phony’ consultation into cuts to library service


Horncastle News : 25th November



Fears for community hub after ‘£10k bill’

Lincolnshire County Council has been accused of “murdering” library services after a community hub surviving on a ‘shoestring’ claims it was slapped with a £10,000 business rates bill.


BBC News : 25th November

Two Brighton libraries introduce out-of-hours service


Manchester Evening News : 25th November


Manchester Central Library to be the home of a Google ‘Digital Garage’



24th November


Times Series : 24th November


Barnet council leader defends approach to outsourcing


Lancaster Guardian : 24th November

Lancaster and Morecambe children’s centres, libraries and day care centres hit list



23rd November


THE BOOKSELLER : 23rd November


Book trade braced for Spending Review cuts

Alan Gibbons well quoted



Lancashire Evening Post : 23rd November

Barbarians both burn and balance the books







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Round up

Here are the latest items of news about libraries and reading:


THE GUARDIAN : 23rd November

Save the library, lose the pool: Newcastle finds self-help has its limits as cuts bite



BBC News : 23rd November

London cuts: Which council services should be stopped? : 23rd November

Five years into austerity, Britain prepares for more cuts

Officials in Lewisham’s town hall, like those across the country, know they will have to shoulder much of finance minister George Osborne’s renewed push to fix Britain’s budget.


Accrington Observer : 23rd November

Lancashire | Sign our petition to save Hyndburn’s libraries



Save Lincolnshire Libraries : 23rd November

“Utter disregard for the people of Lincolnshire’s concerns…”



Get Reading : 23rd November

Budget consultation ideas



Public Libraries News : 22nd November

Editorial | Scotland … Edinburgh … and Lambeth?



Leon’s Library Blog : 22nd November

Bridging the Gap



The Scotsman : 22nd November

Dani Garavelli: Why libraries are worth saving



Libraries Taskforce : 20th November

Guest Blog | The library is the community and the community is the library



Here is the latest library news:


Barry Today : 20th November

Rhoose Library fight goes to Court of Appeal§ionIs=news&searchyear=2015


Don’t Privatise Libraries : 21st November

Solidarity to Lambeth Library Workers!



Daily Record : 21st November

Councillors stage protest at Scottish Parliament against planned cuts to both Lanarkshire councils



Express & Star : 21st November

Dudley Council cuts: Volunteers to run libraries

has the newspaper misunderstood these proposals?



Edinburgh Evening News : 21st November

Services cut as Edinburgh seeks £70m saving

includes details of a ‘review of libraries’



When is a global threat ‘existential’?

In discussion about the nature of your enemy, it is important to apply a number of analytical tools, among them mathematics, the accumulation of verified facts and a certain cool-headed refusal to engage in bombast. All of these were lacking when the US and UK launched their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, in the rush to assemble yet another anti-terrorist coalition against ISIS, another intellectual failure is evident.
One phrase in particular sums this up. It is the term ‘existential threat’, meaning, stripped of rhetoric, that the Islamic State/ ISIS/ ISIL threatens our existence. This organisation is certainly morally abhorrent and has recently proved its ability to reach far beyond its bases in Syria and Iraq. It has created an infrastructure in Libya and carried out attacks in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and Bamako and paralysed the Belgian capital Brussels.
Does this list of appalling crimes constitute an ‘existential threat.’ Not yet, I would argue and not by a long chalk. Hitler’s murderous regime led to the deaths of fifty million people. The threat of nuclear devastation was another existential threat. There have however been many mass slaughters on a much bigger scale than those ISIS has initiated and they were not termed existential threats. The Vietnam War killed a million. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed millions- plural. The purges of Stalin and Mao clocked up litanies of horror well beyond the capacities of Raqqa’s fanatical sect. General Pinochet in Chile and a number of South American military juntas killed more than ISIS has managed and, of course, Western intervention in the UK and US launched military actions whose body counts dwarfed the ISIS horror and laid the basis for its growth.
So what is ISIS’ capacity for horror? It has tens of thousands of fighters at its disposal and a support base possibly into the hundreds of thousands worldwide, but let’s be clear, its military capacity is still limited. It was responsible for the deaths of about 6,000 people in 2014. According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) released last week, it is the world’s number one terrorist brand. That makes it a frightening and vile organisation. It does not make it the existential threat of so many flights of political oratory. A strategy to roll it back might have a number of elements: the fostering of a local coalition to take it on ideologically, politically and militarily (the Kurds are at the moment the most robust opponent in the region, but Western-backed Turkey is hindering their efforts); a concerted effort to broker a Syrian peace; a systematic drive to reach out to alienated Sunni communities in Iraq; a refusal to give ISIS what it craves (more mass bombing resulting in civilian casualties, more Islamophobia, more wars of civilisation).
If the global community’s only response is to bomb Syria and be seen to side with President Assad, the main initiator of the civil war, ISIS might just evolve from a malignant and dangerous military sect into a genuine existential threat.