15:07 GMT27 January 2021
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    The former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party - and ex-Royal Marine - Lord Ashdown has described the Syria crisis as "the fourth major failure of international western intervention" after Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

    Lord "Paddy" Ashdown led the Liberal Democrats for 11 years, following a career in the Royal Marines and the elite Special Boat Section. He described western interventions in recent years as being the result of failed diplomacy.

    He told the Independent newspaper in London:

    "We've got to stop this knee-jerk reaction: see a problem, bomb it. This is the fourth major failure of international Western intervention: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria."

    "The reason for all the failures is the same: we have forgotten the great dictum of [Prussian military theorist Carl von] Clausewitz that war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means. It is the baleful inheritance of bloody shock and awe," he said.

    The war in Afghanistan followed the 9/11 attacks after which US President George W. Bush declared a war on terror and the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as the capture of Osama bin Laden. Is began in 2001 as a US military invasion, but became a NATO operation soon afterwards.

    After what UK journalist Jonathan Steele described as "12 disastrous years" — NATO ended it military operations at the end of 2014.

    "After spending billions of dollars to promote good governance, economic development and women's rights, they will depart from a state that is among the three most corrupt in the world, has rates of infant mortality that match the worst in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 175th on the UN's chart for gender equality."

    Regime Change

    The US-led invasion of Iraq which began in 2003 was widely criticized for having no exit strategy. Many critics believe the invasion was illegal and the UK still awaits the Chilcot Inquiry report into the intervention, which is rumored to be highly critical of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who followed the US into war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein from power. 

    Although Hussein was deposed and later hanged, the country was left in turmoil for years and is now massively split and partially controlled by ISIL and other militia forces.

    The NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 — again to depose another dictator, Muammar Gaddafi — was heavily criticized for having ended too early. Britain's former ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith has admitted the UK, the US and France made mistakes in the aftermath of bombing Libya to topple Muammar Gaddafi, leaving the country in crisis for the last four years.

    Asquith, who served as Britain's ambassador in Tripoli from 2011 to 2012, said the US-led military intervention in the first Libyan civil war to assist opposition forces fighting against Gaddafi's government led to a vacuum in the aftermath caused by a failure to work with the new government to rebuild the nation. 

    Four years on, the country has been ravage by civil war with two alternative governments having been set up and fighting between countless differing groups.

    In Syria, the US and the UK were poised to begin bombing President Bashar al-Assad's forces in 2013, but stood back in the face of public opinion. The US, France and Australia are now bombing ISIL targets in the country, which Lord Ashdown describes as a mistake and is urging the UK not to join the military action.

    "That provides the diplomatic context with which you could reach a solution in Syria," he said.

    "In Syria, now that ISIL has come in, you've got to choose: do you want to get rid of Assad or do you want to get rid of ISIL? That's a no-brainer — you want to get rid of ISIL. [By bombing] I think you immediately remove yourself from your capacity to be a major player creating the diplomatic solution. All this talk [of bombing] always was nonsense."


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