Why do our press and politicians instantly jump to the conclusion that the only people who were likely to have used chemical weapons were the Syrian army? I believe it's because we still harbour the idea that if 'the people' rise up against their leaders, then we're witnessing democracy in action - and democracy equals freedom of choice... which we support. BUT when 'the people' are religious fundamentalists determined to enforce their brand of delusional beliefs and customs on their neighbourhood, should we really be supporting them? What's the difference between uprisings of these people in our own countries (London 7/7, 9/11, Boston Marathon etc), and uprisings in middle-east countries? Our leaders will argue that uprisings against democratically elected governments and rules of law will out-trump uprisings against dictators and less well-defined legal frameworks. That may be so, but surely we have to accept the principal that where there is no democracy (in our terms) or where the 'rules of law' differ substantially from what we might regard as ethical and just, then uprisings may still be legitimately defined as acts of terror rather than freedom fighting. It's still one bunch of incensed people trying to change the way they're ruled by another bunch of people, equally keen to protect their tribes, neighbourhoods and families from harm.
And where better to start our assault to open the minds of Syrian children but the huge numbers sitting around in refugee camps with nothing better to do with their lives. There are estimated to be around 1 million children currently in these camps which are in the main located in relatively friendly neighbouring countries like Turkey and Jordan. But more importantly, these kids are no longer under the influence of their local mullahs and madrassas. Let's educate them properly. No parent would deny their child the opportunity to attend literacy, mathematics and, more importantly, science classes. It would be confrontational and counter-productive, if not down right dangerous for the teachers, if we blatantly tried to turn them away from generations of brainwashing by religious fanatics. Our ambition should be simply to help them open their own minds. Give them the intellectual power to wonder what are more likely explanations for the world's mysteries - old books that never change, or the world's growing understanding of what makes everything tick... something too few children in poor countries are ever exposed to, and especially the girls. Lets use our troops, if we have to, to protect the education of those children in the refugee camps.
Educating and protecting refugee children would only cost a tiny proportion of what it would take to deploy enough drones, bombers, tanks, warships and whatever to make only a temporary difference before insanity returns. How much more effectively could that money be used to arm children's minds to question the ignorance of their fathers, brothers and uncles who fight to defend versions of antiquated books taught by people who have no understanding of the way the world really works. Let's win the hearts and especially the minds of the millions of refugees now mercifully and opportunely out of the clutches of their tribal leaders. Let's give their children a future together with the skills and open minds to eventually restore sanity to their beleaguered former homeland.