Saturday, August 31, 2013

Britain’s Major Power Suicide on Syria in the House

In face of chemical attack to noncombatant citizens in Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a resolution to protect them to the UN Security Council (“Syria crisis: UK puts forward UN proposal”; BBC News; 28 August, 2013). However, as a result of the revolt by Tory rivals and backbenchers (“Dozens of Conservative MPs defied David Cameron over Syria”; daily Telegraph; 30 August 2013), the Cameron administration lost the vote on military intervention in Syria at the House of Commons by 285 to 272 (“UK's Cameron loses parliamentary vote on Syria action; Reuters; August 29, 2013).

As widely argued, Iraq experience casted a shadow on Syria. Also, I have to mention psychological gaps between cabinet and party executives who believe in Britain’s burden as a major power, and non executive MPs who regard domestic accountability and much more important than national power and prestige on the global stage. Let me talk about it briefly. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minister Cameron and Lord Paddy Ashdown who chairs Liberal Democrats General Election Team worry that the House vote precluded Britain from harnessing the world’s 4th largest military power in such an international crisis, which will diminish its global influence. On the other hand, Labour leader Ed Miliband said that Britain adopt nonmilitary measures to pressure the Assad administration to abide by international norms. See the videos below.


Prime Minister Cameron


Lord Ashdown


Labour Leader Ed Miliband


Cameron blamed Miliband for siding with Russia and ruining the alliance with the United States. Though Cameron stressed that Britain explore to bring maximum pressure on Syria through international organizations (“David Cameron accused Ed Miliband of 'siding with Russia' over Syria”; Guardian; 30 August, 2013), the rise of isolationism within the Conservative Party makes Britain reluctant to overseas engagement, which pleases authoritarian opponents like Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin (“Britain and Syria”; Economist; August 30, 2013). Lord Paddy Ashdown laments that their defiance to Tory leadership has isolated Britain from both the United States and Europe.

Prior to the vote in the Commons, the British government issued a report on chemical weapons use in Syria, in order to assume the burden to stop proliferation of such destructive arsenals from Syria. Isolationist Tories rejected Cameron’ moral case for military intervention (“The heir to Blair: PM makes 'moral case' for attack on Syria”; Independent; 28 August 2013). By refusing to assume a special role as a major Western democracy and simply shaming the incumbent administration, what sort of Britain do they want?