Not taking action in Syria will be Britain's biggest failure

Beyond knowing they had reached Europe, some of the refugees we filmed jumping off inflatables onto Lesbos’ beaches this week, didn’t know where they were.

What mattered to them was where they were not – they were out of Syria and the rest of the neighbourhood known as the Levant.

None of the Syrians had bolted at the first sign of hardship. They had endured four years of war before giving up hope and home.

Refugees arrive on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos this week. Credit: Reuters
Syrian refugee children arrive at the Trabeel border after crossing into Jordanian territory. Credit: Reuters
Parts of Syria has been devastated by conflict. Credit: Reuters

The plethora of warring factions in Syria remain stalemated more or less, but the civilian population has already been defeated and that’s why they’ll keep on coming to Europe.

A lot of them are middle-class professionals with enough money to pay the unscrupulous traffickers who milk them dry on the way through.

And why wouldn’t these Syrians prefer Europe to life under canvas in one of Syria’s neighbours? The tented camps just inside Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are miserable. The bare minimum is done for them. Being kept alive isn’t the same thing as living.

Browbeaten and chastened by our non-victories in Iraq and Afghanistan the West seems to be paralysed.

The demons are such that in the UK the establishment is deemed not to have yet recovered sufficiently to face the cold-light-of day verdict of Chilcot.

But we’ll be haunted too by our inaction in Syria.

Yes, the full-on thing failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The half-arsed thing failed too in Libya.

But the do-nothing-thing in Syria – that’s going to be the biggest failure of all.