Turkey’s Syria Intervention: A Sign of Weakness not Strength

By Christopher Phillips in Newsweek, 22 September 2016

Last month, Turkey intervened directly in northern Syria, sending tanks and troops in support of Syrian rebels. Operation Euphrates Shield targeted the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) after the deadly Gaziantep suicide bombing but Ankara made little secret of its desire to simultaneously engage another enemy, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria’s affiliate of the Turkish Kurdish separatists the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has swiftly established a buffer zone free from both ISIS, the PYD and its allies. Yet, while some pro-government commentators in Turkey have claimed this intervention is a display of strength, Ankara finally flexing its muscles to achieve its objectives in the long-running civil war, the reverse is closer to the truth. This military action represents the failure of Turkey’s Syria policy.

For Turkey the Syrian civil war has been disastrous. Five years ago, when peaceful protest against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Turkey looked set to benefit most from the anticipated regional shift. The ruling AKP’s ‘zero problems’ policy had transformed Turkey’s economic and political ties with the traditionally hostile Middle East. Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party was hailed by western leaders and regional activists as a model for Islamic democracy, the economy was booming and moves towards resolving Ankara’s long-standing unrest with its Kurdish population were cautiously being made.

Today, the picture is very different. Erdogan, now president, is widely condemned for his creeping authoritarianism. Crackdowns on journalists and academics have grown steadily as the AKP founder tightened his grip on power, and accelerated sharply after an attempted military coup against him in July. The PKK’s insurgency has resurfaced in the East, while the economy has been affected by the arrival of 2.7 million Syrian refugees and a decline in tourism following a string of ISIS and Kurdish terrorist attacks. Regionally, Turkey’s dreams of playing a leading role in a post-Arab Spring Middle East seem to be in tatters.

Turkey’s policies in Syria have played a major role in weakening its position. Determined to topple Assad, Ankara facilitated the flow of foreign funds and weapons to disparate groups in the rebellion, often turning a blind eye and even encouraging the rise of radical jihadists such as ISIS. This contributed to the division and weakness of the opposition, helping prolong the war, and allowed ISIS to form cells in Turkey that it would later activate against Ankara.

Similarly, Turkey used its influence with the rebels and international powers to exclude the PYD. This reinforced the Syrian Kurdish group’s mistrust of the rebels prompting them to stand alone and carve out their own autonomous territory, known locally as ‘Rojava,’ in northern Syria. As a result, Turkey now faces what it considers a PKK proto-state along its southern border, offering strategic depth and inspiration for attacks inside Turkey. Indeed the reigniting of violence in Turkey’s Kurdish regions was initially prompted by outrage at Ankara’s policies towards Rojava.

Turkey’s regional position was likewise hit. Its historically close ties with the U.S. was strained by Obama’s unwillingness to intervene directly against Assad despite Erdogan’s assumption that he would, due to Turkey’s initial reluctance to join the anti-ISIS campaign and then over Washington’s support for the PYD in its fight against the jihadists. Moscow’s foray into the war backing Assad also ruptured what had been close links between Erdogan and Putin, especially after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November 2015, leading to the death of a Russian pilot. Relations with Saudi Arabia also temporarily frayed on Syria because of Turkey’s closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, Riyadh’s enemy.

Turkey has therefore spent the past few months trying to repair some of the damage from its Syria policy. In May, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was suddenly dismissed with Erdogan’s supporters blaming the departing premier for what were often the president’s Syria policies. Soon afterwards, alongside improving ties with Israel and Egypt, a rapprochement with Russia was sought, and Erdogan publicly apologized to Putin for the Russian pilot’s death. Tensions with Washington were also eased.

These rapprochements all facilitated Turkey’s Syria intervention in August, which would not have been possible without U.S. air cover and Russian assurances not to respond. Washington similarly ordered its ally, the PYD-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, to remain east of the Euphrates—the limit of Turkey’s incursion. There were also domestic reasons for the move. Erdogan, in his bid to change Turkey’s constitution to give greater powers to the presidency, is courting the votes of right-wing nationalists by portraying himself as tough on Kurdish militancy. Similarly, with the country rocked by the attempted coup in July, a foreign campaign is a welcome distraction for an anxious public and a military uneasy at the purges of alleged plotters currently underway.

However, this is no sign of strength. Erdogan has invaded northern Syria after all else has failed. He could not persuade the U.S. to intervene against Assad and proved unable to help forge a united and effective rebel force to overthrow the Syrian dictator. Instead he has had to send in Turkish troops directly, not to achieve his initial goal in Syria from 2011—toppling Assad—but to deal with new problems—ISIS and the PYD—that emerged partly as a result of his own policies. Moreover, with no clear exit strategy outlined and 10 troops already killed in the first month, a sharp contrast to the total of 20 lost by Russia in a year of operations, this move could yet turn into a quagmire and another costly Turkish failure on Syria.

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The Battle For Syria – Out Now

My new book, The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East is now available to buy in hardback and Kindle. It is on sale at bookshops such as Waterstones,  on Amazon or via the publishers, Yale University Press.

book-pile

‘An unprecedented analysis of the crucial but underexplored roles the United States and other nations have played in shaping Syria’s ongoing civil war Most accounts of Syria’s brutal, long-lasting civil war focus on a domestic contest that began in 2011 and only later drew foreign nations into the escalating violence. Christopher Phillips argues instead that the international dimension was never secondary but that Syria’s war was, from the very start, profoundly influenced by regional factors, particularly the vacuum created by a perceived decline of U.S. power in the Middle East. This precipitated a new regional order in which six external protagonists-the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar-have violently competed for influence, with Syria a key battleground. Drawing on a plethora of original interviews, Phillips constructs a new narrative of Syria’s war. Without absolving the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime, the author untangles the key external factors which explain the acceleration and endurance of the conflict, including the West’s strategy against ISIS. He concludes with some insights on Syria and the region’s future.’

‘Syria’s horrific civil war has been profoundly shaped by the competitive interventions and proxy wars by external powers. The Battle for Syria offers a brilliant, essential account of the international dimension of Syria’s descent from uprising into insurgency and brutal state violence. This sober and judicious book will become a standard text for those seeking to understand Syria’s tragedy.’ – Marc Lynch, author of The New Arab Wars: Anarchy and Uprising in the Middle East

‘This is the best work to date that focuses on the regional and international dimensions of the Syrian conflict. Christopher Phillips’ research is meticulous, with both depth and breadth in large part gleaned from his interviews with top officials and representatives from most of the stakeholder states and groups in the war. A must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the multidimensional complexities of the conflict.’ – David Lesch, author of Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad

The US and Russia could help end the Syria conflict

But are they hurting enough?

By Christopher Phillips, in Prospect, 26 August 2016

The shocking images coming from Aleppo in recent weeks are a stark reminder that there still seems no end in sight for Syria’s brutal civil war, now well into its fifth year. Over 500,000 have been killed and five million are refugees. What began as a largely peaceful revolt against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship has now morphed into a brutal, multi-facetted conflict with heavy international involvement. Might international players hold the key to the war’s overdue end?

International interventions in civil wars are nothing new and political scientists have long sought to analyse their impact. Several studies show that while heavy intervention on one side can bring about a swift end to a civil war, “balanced interventions,” when multiple actors intervene on each side, prolong conflict by creating a stalemate. Syria is a clear case of such a balanced intervention. From the beginning of the war Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, have been willing to commit more to helping the regime than its foreign enemies—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the west—have to toppling it. By providing weapons, money, diplomatic support and more recently troops and airpower, Moscow and Tehran have ensured the regime’s medium-term survival. However, they have not solved Assad’s chronic manpower shortage, making it difficult for the regime to reconquer and hold hostile lost territory. Assad’s enemies have given the rebels money and weapons, but this has been hampered by western reluctance about the involvement of radical jihadists in the opposition and by rivalry among Riyadh, Doha and Ankara. While the rebels gained sufficient support to remain in the field in some capacity, they have never received support that matches that given to Assad. Toppling the Syrian dictator by military means is extremely unlikely.

Negotiation rather than military victory has therefore long seemed the most likely way the conflict can end. However, as seen by the failure of peace processes in 2012, 2014 and this year neither the regime nor the rebels seem willing to make significant compromises (primarily on whether Assad can remain as president) and their external backers have proved unwilling or unable to pressure them.

Again, political science offers some explanations for this. In past civil conflicts, belligerents have only seriously negotiated when they feel they will gain more from peace talks than war. This tends to happen when actors have reached a “hurting stalemate”: when continuing the war is more costly than compromise. However, neither of Assad’s key international allies are currently in such a position. Both Iran and Russia have lost personnel since both stepped up their involvement in 2015, but with Russia losing around 20 and Iran 400 men, not enough body bags are arriving home to create significant domestic pressure for them to change their policy on Syria. Nor is either really financially burdened by the campaign: Russia is reportedly spending $4m a day in Syria, but with an annual defence budget of $50bn this is affordable, despite the weak state of Russia’s economy. Likewise, Iran’s anticipated economic opening after the end of western sanctions gives it more money to pour into the campaign. Of the rebels’ key supporters, Saudi Arabia is not hurting either. Again, its economy is struggling with low oil prices, but the financial support sent to the rebels is still easily affordable. Moreover, unlike Syria’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia has not suffered the conflict’s immediate spillover in the form of refugees or radical militants, so has little incentive to shift its approach.

The two key external players that are hurting are the west and Turkey. Unsurprisingly, these are the actors seemingly most willing to change position. Turkey, struggling with over two million Syrian refugees and multiple terror attacks from Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish groups linked to the Syrian war, has recently softened its line. A growing rapprochement with Russia has seen prime minister Binali Yıldırım suggest there is some leeway on Assad’s future, previously a red line for Ankara. Damascus seems open to this new stance, symbolically bombing Turkey’s Kurdish enemies in Hasakeh last week. European leaders, suffering from the migrant crisis and increased IS terrorism have also hinted at a softer line on Assad, with various leaders suggesting the Syrian president may not have to leave immediately, while US Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly in deep discussions with Moscow about a possible settlement. However, even though Turkey and the west are hurting, both have invested heavily in the Syrian opposition and it seems unlikely either is at a point to cut their losses and walk away, which would represent an unacceptable loss in international prestige.

So what might change to make these key international actors hurt more and take negotiations more seriously? The election of a new US president in November may shift Washington’s approach. Some hope that Hillary Clinton, who advocated more action in Syria as Secretary of State and is closer to the anti-Assad Gulf states than Barack Obama is, will adopt a more aggressive stance, such as deploying a no-fly zone over rebel held areas or sending better weaponry. However, to escalate the US presence to the point that Russia and Iran begin “hurting” sufficiently to compromise would require a major commitment of US military resources. It would risk retaliation from Russia in an arena that the US has not historically seen as in its vital interest—an argument regularly made by Barack Obama for his own limited involvement. Moreover, US presidents rarely seek out major conflicts “of choice” early in their first term in office, fearing a quagmire that may damage their reelection prospects. Crucially, outside the DC Beltway, there is little domestic demand for the US to play a more active role in Syria.

Alternatively, should Donald Trump be elected, with his preference for a reduced international role for the US, it is possible he might entertain a deal with Vladimir Putin, perhaps keeping Assad in power and ending US support for the rebels. However, were Trump even to entertain such a potentially humiliating climbdown, there is no guarantee that allowing Assad to “win” would end the war. As discussed, even with Russian and Iranian assistance, Assad lacks the manpower to reconquer all of Syria. Large stretches of territory would remain potentially dangerous “ungoverned spaces” controlled by rebel groups, the Kurds, IS and new groups that may yet emerge. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey would be unlikely to accept such an outcome and, with their ties to the US already strained, would likely keep backing anti-Assad forces, continuing the war in some form.

Sadly then, it seems unlikely that enough key foreign actors in the Syrian civil war will experience enough hurt to end the conflict any time soon. A change in US president does not seem likely to prompt such a shift. More dramatic but less likely changes seem necessary, such as a major shift in Russian, Iranian or Saudi policy. In their absence, Syria’s brutal civil war looks set to continue.

The Battle for Syria – available for pre-order!

My new book, The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East is out in September, but you can pre-order now on Amazon or via the publishers, Yale University Press.

Book cover

Most accounts of Syria’s brutal, long-lasting civil war focus on a domestic contest that began in 2011 and only later drew foreign nations into the escalating violence. Christopher Phillips argues instead that the international dimension was never secondary but that Syria’s war was, from the very start, profoundly influenced by regional factors, particularly the vacuum created by a perceived decline of U.S. power in the Middle East. This precipitated a new regional order in which six external protagonists-the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar-have violently competed for influence, with Syria a key battleground.

Drawing on a plethora of original interviews, Phillips constructs a new narrative of Syria’s war. Without absolving the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime, the author untangles the key external factors which explain the acceleration and endurance of the conflict, including the West’s strategy against ISIS. He concludes with some insights on Syria and the region’s future.

‘Syria’s horrific civil war has been profoundly shaped by the competitive interventions and proxy wars by external powers. The Battle for Syria offers a brilliant, essential account of the international dimension of Syria’s descent from uprising into insurgency and brutal state violence. This sober and judicious book will become a standard text for those seeking to understand Syria’s tragedy.’ – Marc Lynch, author of The New Arab Wars: Anarchy and Uprising in the Middle East

The Battle for Aleppo and the Politics of Intervention

As fighting in Aleppo intensifies, I recently made a few media appearances, discussing the conflict and the chances of a sustainable ceasefire.

BBC News at 10 on 3 May 2016 (around 2:03)

BBC 5 Live Drive on 3 May 2016 (around 1:53)

As well as this, in March I took part in a panel as part of a book launch at the London School of Economics. The audio file can be found here, with my segment beginning around 00:54 mins. The book, to which I have contributed a chapter, is Mandy Turner and Florian P Kuhn (eds.), ‘The Politics of International Intervention: The Tyranny of Peace’ (London: Routledge 2016) can be purchased here.

 

 

 

Britain must not escalate the conflict in Syria

With Tim Eaton in Prospect, 2 December 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron is today seeking a vote on extending airstrikes to Syria. The Prime Minister acknowledges that they need to be part of a wider strategy for the Syrian conflict, which Number 10 attempted to set out on Thursday in response to criticism from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Military measures against Islamic State are to be accompanied by diplomatic support for a political settlement in Syria based on a negotiated transition, alongside a continued programme of humanitarian aid.

There is little new here. In essence, this is the strategy that has been in place for years, with air strikes against IS added to equation, illustrating the reactive nature of UK policy on Syria. The last bout of discussion surrounding air strikes was spurred by the attack on British tourists in Tunisia, while this debate follows the terrible events in Paris. These are kneejerk reactions from leaders who must be seen to respond to terrorist acts, not part of a well-considered long-term strategy to defeat and degrade IS, let alone resolve the Syrian conflict which has allowed the extremist group’s growth.

It is understandable that the British government doesn’t want to stand by as IS continues to terrorise or as Syria continues to be consumed by chaos, but reaching for a quick military option like the one proposed is not the answer. Instead, the UK needs to re-evaluate its entire Syria policy, which has clearly failed.

Britain should recognise that its capacity in Syria is limited. For over four years many of the UK’s stated goals have not been matched by a realistic capacity to achieve them, whether removing Assad from power or destroying IS. Bold intentions have been accompanied by a reluctance to use substantial military measures while unknown or unreliable local allies on the ground are expected to do the heavy work. It is time to adopt a more realistic position based on what Britain can actually influence. Four things in particular should be encouraged.

First, Britain must not escalate the conflict. The war has seen a steady pattern of escalation and counter-escalation by states supporting and opposing Assad. Four years of war has shown that there is no military solution: every time Assad’s enemies make gains, his allies counter. The danger now is that this will go on until there is no Syria left to fight over. Rather than adding itself to the long list of military actors in Syria, Britain should use what limited leverage it has to urge de-escalation upon the region.

Secondly, the UK has thus far largely mimicked the United States position on Syria, but should instead look at imaginative ways to complement rather than echo its ally. Britain would do better to act as an innovator – proposing or trialling ideas initially unpalatable to its Washington, such as brokering talks with controversial actors, or taking up former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ suggestion to targeting IS economically rather than militarily. Alternatively, Britain could use its position to spotlight aspects of the conflict missed by other actors. William Hague did this by spearheading a global campaign against sexual violence. The UK also took an early lead in aiding Syria’s refugees, before the government’s negative attitude to the extension of that crisis to Europe undid much of this good work.

Thirdly, Britain should lead by example in seeking a political settlement under the auspices of the Vienna peace process, by showing a willingness to make real compromises. Abandoning its demand for Assad’s departure as a pre-condition might be one such move. This need not mean accepting Assad as a partner, but may provide sufficient space to break the current diplomatic logjam with Russia and Iran in search of a viable peace. Concessions such as this can lead to confidence building measures that actually de-escalate the civil war, such as ceasefires and halts to barrel bombing.

Finally, Britain must think long term. The potential for Syria’s uprising to turn into a civil war, the refugee crisis and the rise of IS were all visible from a long way off, yet next to nothing was done about it. Today, there are other clear fallouts from the war needing attention including instability in Syria’s neighbouring states and the unknown fate of Syria’s refugees which, if left untreated, could be the source of the next crisis. Ensuring all Syrian refugee children get a proper education, for example, could be a way to avoid their future radicalisation, and building schools is cheaper (and more effective) than dropping bombs.

Such vision and innovation has so far been absent from the UK, pursuing instead mostly ineffective short-term reactive policies like the current plan to bomb IS in Syria. Thus far these policies have brought the war no closer to a resolution and a re-evaluation is therefore sorely needed.

A UK strategy for Syria?

By Christopher Phillips

These comments were first made at a Council for Arab British Understanding (CAABU) panel discussion at the UK Parliament, 4 November 2015

Caabu2

The first question we should ask is whether there has been a UK strategy for Syria so far. For four years UK policy on Syria has been confused and reactive, with many of its stated goals, including its desire to remove Assad from power, not matched by a capacity to achieve them. Instead, Britain has done more to fuel the civil war than resolve it.

Let’s go back to 2011: three things are worth recalling about when protests first emerged against the Assad regime in Syria. Firstly, Syria was a state over which the west had little leverage. It was in Russia and Iran’s sphere of influence, trade was limited and there were few personal ties with the elite or military, unlike, say, Egypt. Secondly, it was an era of military and financial retrenchment in the west. Obama had come to power determined to leave the Middle East while Britain was war weary from Iraq and cutting military spending. Thirdly, from the very beginning western leaders recognised the potential combustibility of Syria – its ethnically mixed population, its proximity to recent civil wars in Iraq, Lebanon and Kurdish Turkey, its large stock of chemical weapons and the potential for radical Jihadism. For these reasons leaders were slow to condemn Assad when his forces gunned down unarmed protestors, urging him for months to reform.

None of those conditions changed, and yet in August 2011, five months after protests began, the UK joined with President Obama and other western leaders in calling for Assad to stand down. This was a political decision. The British, French and American ambassadors in Damascus were all reporting home that Assad was not likely to fall anytime soon, having sufficient support among Syria’s military, Middle classes and ethnic minorities. However, this decision was overruled by elected leaders, including in the UK, who felt under pressure to act and ‘do the right thing’.

This locked Britain into an anti-Assad policy – which it is still locked in – that it had only limited capacity to achieve. The UK tried to persuade the Americans on several occasions to deploy greater military pressure, but Obama was already reluctant to be dragged into another unwinnable quagmire like Iraq and he saw the instability of post-war Libya – the last conflict he had been persuaded into. It tried to pressure Assad through sanctions, but Syria was not integrated enough into the global economy nor had an economic elite independent of the regime for this to prompt any internal coup. It tried UN Security Council resolutions, but Syria’s old ally Russia protected it. It worked with the Syrian opposition in exile, but having no historical relationship had to start from scratch and struggled to overcome the deep personal and political divisions that prevented it from becoming a united and effective force.

Britain and the west declared a policy of regime change, yet lacked the capacity and will to bring it about, but the actors in the region didn’t know that. Of course, little was done to dispel their misperceptions that the west could intervene any day – indeed it was (wrongly) hoped that the implicit threat behind calling for Assad to go might prompt a scared elite to turn against him. Convinced that western intervention, like that seen in Libya, would eventually come, Qatar and Turkey and eventually Saudi Arabia helped arm rebel forces against Assad with the tacit approval of Britain and the West. The opposition already favoured a zero sum view of the conflict, that Assad must go, but they were encouraged to maintain it by their regional supporters and, indeed Britain. At the two peace conferences on Syria thus far, in 2012 and 2014, the UK along with other western leaders reaffirmed their uncompromising stance that Assad must go as a precondition – contributing to their failure.

Western commitment to regime change impacted Assad’s allies too. Russia and Iran, already strong supporters of Damascus, saw in the west’s August 2011 declaration a move to try to pull Syria from their influence. This redoubled their determination to ensure the regime survived or, at least prevent Syria from falling into enemy hands. Yet the difference for Assad’s friends was they were defending their regional position and were willing to commit much more to the fight than Assad’s enemies. Both Russia and Iran have risked their regional reputations, large sums of money, and their own troops, while Assad’s enemies have deployed financial and political support only.

The result of this is a balanced conflict: all the external actors have helped fuel a war that neither side is likely to win. The limited capacity and will of each state means they are able to provide enough support to keep the war going, but not enough to tip the balance. At the same time no state is hurting enough from their involvement to prompt a change in policy. Indeed, despite optimistic hopes that Iran and Russia will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ Russia’s recent deployment of air power and Iran’s sending more troops illustrates that both states have a long way to go before that happens. Moreover, for all the states involved, the Syrian civil war is just one piece in a wider picture: the Iran-Saudi regional rivalry, Turkey’s relationship with the Kurds, Russia’s bid for great power recognition and, of course, the west’s clash with ISIS. The question is whether anyone is willing to make concessions on their wider goals to stop Syria’s war.

So that brings us to what the UK can do now. I don’t have a specific plan but I think that given the mistakes and miscalculations outlined so far, three things in particular should be encouraged.

Firstly, Britain should recognise that its capacity in Syria is limited. It acts like it has a big mouth but a small stomach, declaring big intentions but without the ability to fulfil them. Of all the players in the civil war, Britain’s leverage is among the smallest. It has largely mimicked the US’ position, but this has not translated into much influence. Rather than being a US echo chamber Britain would do better to act as an innovator – proposing or trialling ideas initially unpalatable to its ally the US, such as brokering talks with controversial actors. Alternatively, Britain could use its profile to spotlight aspects of the conflict missed by other actors. William Hague did this by highlighting sexual violence and initially the UK was making loud noises about Syria’s refugees, before its negative attitude to the extension of that crisis to Europe undid much of this good work.

Secondly, Britain must not be involved in any escalation of the conflict. The war has seen a steady pattern of escalation and counter-escalation by states supporting and opposing Assad. Four years of war has shown that there is no military solution as, every time Assad’s enemies make gains, his allies counter, and the danger is this will go on until there is no Syria left to fight over. Britain must use what limited leverage it has to urge de-escalation upon the region and certainly not contribute by launching military moves itself. Engaging in the Vienna peace process is a start. Britain should lead by example and abandon its self imposed zero sum call for Assad to go as a precondition. It is from concessions such as this that confidence building measures, such as ceasefires and halts to barrel bombing can be obtained from Russia and Iran.

Thirdly, Britain must think long term. The potential for Syria’s uprising to turn into a civil war, the refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS were all visible from a long way off, yet next to nothing was done about it. Today, there are other clear fallouts from the war needing attention including instability in Syria’s neighbouring states and the unknown fate of Syria’s refugees which, if left untreated, could be the source of the next crisis. Ensuring all Syrian refugee children get a proper education, for example, would be a way to avoid their future radicalisation, and building schools is cheaper (and more effective) than dropping bombs.

Such vision and innovation has so far been absent from the UK, and consequently it has contributed far more to fuelling the war than it has to resolving it. A re-evaluation is therefore sorely needed.