Perhaps modern leaders make war beyond their borders because they can: elected presidents and prime ministers have so little freedom of manoeuvre at home. A buzz-phrase of our era is “make a difference”. Oh boy, have we made a difference in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. Heaven send us a breed of politicians who vow not to make a difference.
But the joy of efficacy, mere efficacy, is very strong in human beings. You or I might re-site the garden shed, where Tony Blair or David Cameron might authorise a bombing raid. It would be futile to discuss these decisions in terms of cost-benefit analysis because the balance has been secretly tipped by the weighty satisfaction of simply doing something — anything. The Middle East has become the western leader’s DIY. Never mind if the result is ghastly: I redecorate therefore I am.
A Commons vote on the extension into Syria of British military action is on its way and (with Labour’s disarray) will almost certainly be nodded through by parliament this time. So, Lord, give me grace. Here we go again.