My Commentator piece about the notable developments last night in Parliament, noting three reasons why all is not (yet) lost:
First and foremost, we risked ending up helping President Obama wriggle off an embarrassing immediate hook (the Syria regime boldly stepping across his own half-hearted ‘red line’) but without really achieving anything useful. Obama appears to be contemplating a ‘shot across Assad’s bows’, a quick symbolic bang to tick the ‘toughness’ box while clinging to his undeserved Nobel Peace Prize. A Reaganite shot straight down his chimney would be the moral thing to do – and catch Assad’s attention.
If that is not planned and there is no wider scheme for helping Syria end its war in a sane way, let the Syrians kill themselves. Yes, it’s horrible when we see them dying like flies on YouTube. But we have happily tolerated insane but far less visible North Korean butchery for decades on the solid basis that, all things considered, there’s not much to be done to stop it.
It’s a sound Ayn Randian principle that we should not care about dead Syrians more than Syrians themselves care. The world has got used to the Brits spending their treasure on solving other people’s stupid problems. Let’s sit back for a while and allow them to see what happens when we don’t.
Second (and at the risk of apparently ending up aligned with ‘anti-war’ Trotskyites), it makes little sense pot-shooting at Assad in the absence of a wider strategy for dealing with the Middle East.
Obama has made a strategic blunder in betting on the Muslim Brotherhood as the face of ‘moderate Islam’. That was unwise as the MB are not ‘moderate’ in any sense that matters to us. He now appears to have no strategy at all. In the absence of any clear guiding principles, droll ad hoc gestures such as blowing up the Syrian secret police HQ waste time, resources and political capital that would be better spent in helping Egypt manage a serious reform agenda.
Finally, the UK vote perhaps brings closer the day when we take a ruthless look at what works and why in foreign policy. The fundamental mistake by the Cameron Conservatives in this area has been to suck up to the Leftist development lobby and ring-fence’ international development spending.
Reversing that stupid decision and bringing development agency DFID back within the FCO (Foreign Office) to make ‘development’ spending much more political will transform our international impact for the better. We can do far more to get make a positive difference in the world in partnership with Washington and the wider Western family if we use our own considerable weight determinedly.
My main misgiving? That the vote reflects and reinforces a dumbed-down isolationism based on dangerous ignorance in Parliament and across the wider public of the way things work.
The babbling trivialisation of 24-hour news and chat radio create a climate in which almost nothing is believed any more by huge numbers of people. This allows those who hate the strength of Western democracy to sneer at the value of sharp-end intelligence work and deny its credibility…
As if by magic, and to make the outcome even better in key respects, the French have popp’d up saying that THEY will stick by Obama on this one. If we needed any proof that the whole planned military intervention against Assad was more about showing-off than substance, this is it.