Since the British Government lost the vote in Parliament for military intervention in Syria, we have seen Conservative MPs, bloggers and television pundits tell who ever would listen, that the Leader of the Labour opposition, Ed Miliband MP, has lost the UK influence on the World stage and in particular, with the US President Barack Obama. Those decriers of Parliaments refusal to intervene with bombs in Syria, appear to brush over the fact that 30 Conservative and 14 Lib-Dem MPs either voted against their own Government or didn’t bother turning-up at all!!! Yet, they say, it’s all Ed Miliband’s fault even though the Labour amendment did not rule-out the use of force but called for time to obtain and review All the evidence, including that from the UN weapons inspectors.
Ed Miliband, they say, was ‘playing politics’ with the National interest , yet, David Cameron’s Conservative led coalition Government could, have accepted the Labour amendment (especially since Cameron must have known the numbers just weren’t there for him) and still had their military intervention. We must assume, then, that it was not in Cameron’s or Clegg’s Political interest; it would appear that Cameron’s Conservatives and Clegg’s Lib-Dems would rather lose a crucial Parliamentary vote than be seen to be supporting Ed Miliband’s Labour Party! So, we should ask ‘who is playing politics with the National interest? Parliaments refusal to accept military intervention in Syria was not an embarrassment to Britain but an example of democracy at its glorious best!
Members of Parliament have been much maligned over the years, particularly since the Iraq war. Voters on both sides of the pond, have an innate distrust of all politicians irrespective of party and with some justification. The evidence to go to war against Iraq was fundamentally flawed and the vote for the war by the British Parliament was seen as a forgone conclusion, even though an estimated 2 million people took part in marches against the war. The then Prime Minster, Tony Blair, made it clear that he could go to war without Parliamentary approval. MPs, presumably, felt that Parliament would be weakened if they voted against. Whatever the reasons, the majority of MPs voted to go to war and public distrust for their elected representatives resulted. Thursdays vote has helped to give back a little of that trust.
On Saturday 31st August President Obama argued for accountability of the Office of President and his decision to take military action against Syria. In what was a historic speech, Barack Obama informed the World of his decision to take military action and, crucially, to get authority to do so from Congress. Congress will now debate the issue when they return on Monday 9th September.
The US needs legitimacy for military action against Syria. If an international coalition could have been formed that would be all the legitimacy required (‘we are not alone in the need to take action’ etc.) but
when your “closest ally” will not join the action and the UN route is ruled out, the President has no alternative but to look inward and seek legitimacy from Congress, with all the uncertainties that brings, it’s a brave move indeed! Having said that, it does show that President Obama is a democrat and not the evil despot some would have the World believe. Obama’s position is clear, he believes, truly believes, that military intervention in Syria to stop Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons is absolutely necessary, however, he accepts that others may not agree. A despot would go ahead anyway, a democrat would open it to debate and a vote. The democratic route could back-fire on Obama but its a chance he’s prepared to take. What happens if Congress votes against military action is unsure. Will Obama go ahead anyway? We’ll wait and see; the sure thing is that he will be a very busy person for the next week or so.
So, now that the UK and the USA governments have discovered a greater version of the democratic process, perhaps they will use their collective energies to encouraging other Governments to trust elected representatives in the decision-making process and find some other activity for their trigger-fingers, at least for now!