Why the British aren’t coming
August 31, 2013 12 Comments
In the last century the British have been first up to deal with the threat of evil: we were trying to stop the Kaiser a full three years before the Great Republic got involved, and we (along with the French) were the only ones ever to declare war on Nazi Germany without being attacked by it or one of its allies; we have been extremely grateful for American help, which has always been invaluable, and during the Cold War Years, and after, have stood with the USA when many others failed. So why, on this occasion, have we declined to get involved in taking action against Syria?
In part it is because we have, none of us done so over the last two years, despite thousands of deaths and millions being made refugees. We have not done so for a variety of reasons: the UN can’t, because Russia and China won’t let it; we can’t be sure that if Assad went, Islamic extremists would not replace him; and Assad, thanks to the Russians, possesses sufficient force to hang on to power, and so it would take another Iraq war to remove him, and no one has the stomach for that, especially when what might replace him might well be worse.
Does the illegal use of chemical weapons against his own people by Assad (if we take Secretary Kerry’s evidence for it as decisive) change any of these things? No. We could take it as the pretext for regime change, but no one seems to be advocated that; so what is military action supposed to achieve? Indeed, why is it only now that military action is being considered?
The answer seems depressingly simple - President Obama made the use of chemical weapons ‘a red line’; and he has to follow-through on his threats to retain his credibility. Well, this may well be the reason for the US to take symbolic action, but it is hard to see why the British should get involved; he made the unwise promise, and perhaps it would be better if he learned better.
The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons shows a willingness not just to ‘cross red lines’, but also to flout international law, has grave implications; but it does not suggest that a ‘surgical strike’ would change such a mind. What is a strike meant to achieve? Assad would be an idiot if he had no idea where the Americans are going to strike, and he is not an idiot. Indeed, he is moving out any military kit and moving in civilians, whose dead bodies will be used to show that America is as bad as he is.
If action is to be taken, it should be the product of long-term thinking about its consequences, not short-term anxiety because the President has said something silly and needs his face-saving and his backside covering. The British parliament could not see that this had been thought-through, or that the consequences of any military action would be positive, so, in a display of what democracy is for, it told its Government that it was not prepared to back it.
I wonder what the result would be were President Obama to ask the American people?