enismirdal: (erestor swan 2 (my own picture!))
[personal profile] enismirdal
So this week, the MPs are supposed to vote on whether the UK will start bombing Syria.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on this. Everyone seems to know what the right thing to do is. Except me. I don't know what the right thing to do is. I want to have an opinion, but I feel like I just don't understand enough.

My general feeling is that wars are bad, bombing places is horrible and anything that results in civilian casualties is bad. But I'm also aware that the country is already full of civilian casualties, and horrible, horrible things are happening. There are various groups all fighting, ranging from the horrifically bad and utterly despicable through the only moderately bad, through bad-but-at-least-not-radicalised, to apparently moderate but nonetheless committing war crimes anyway. I don't know whether starting to drop bombs on the worst will help the situation or make it worse. My gut feeling is the latter, to be honest.

I also understand that it's not logical to drop bombs on one side of a border that a lot of people are barely respecting any more, but not on the other. That's like - if you'll excuse the rather dehumanising analogy - treating half your field with lambda-cyhalothrin but not the other half.

I understand that some people elsewhere will be furious with the UK for going in and bombing, because they feel it's not the UK's place. I understand that some people elsewhere will be furious with the UK for not going in and bombing, because they feel the UK are a cause of the situation and are thus responsible for the solution.

I am so glad not to be an MP at the moment, because this is a vote where the choices people make will have awful consequences for some people, regardless of what happens, and those MPs will have to be accountable for that forever.

The only thing I do know is that in my job, if I want to spend a load of money on a project I think is important, I have to write an extensive justification of what the current situation is, what I want to do to change it, and what I intend for the outputs to be. I have to explain how I will achieve those outputs, how I will monitor whether I am achieving them, and what I want to spend money on, line item by line item - and I will not be permitted to go over-budget, but will be expected to deliver on what I promised - and how long it will take. I have to say what activities I and my colleagues will carry out, where, and when. I'm increasingly being asked to provide details of long-term impact, in a variety of dimensions, and how I will realise that. With development type projects I'm also being asked, increasingly, for an exit strategy: what will I do when the project is over and the money stops, and what will happen to the outputs of the project and the people involved after that? I have to do that if I want to spend a few tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds on a research/international development project that, even if I messed up almightily, is pretty unlikely to cause anyone to become dead.

I would damned well hope that if a leader of a country wants to spend billions on something that will make people dead and has the power to ruin or save the lives of millions more, he or she is expected to provide all of the above information and will be held accountable if there are deviations. In particular, I hope that "outputs", "impact" and "exit strategy" are especially clearly laid out.

I am not an MP. But I hope that the people voting this week are provided with a comprehensive proposal along the lines of the above, and are both given time to read it properly and actually do so, before they have to decide which people are going to die and how.

(Comments welcome, but please be polite.)
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May 2017

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