UK Parliament says 'no' to Syria adventure

The British parliament dealt a severe blow to Prime Minister David Cameron when it voted to deny him the authority to go to war against Syria.

Interestingly, it was a rebel faction in his own Tory party that swung parliament against the prime minister.


The UK government's motion was in support of military action in Syria if it was backed up by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors, who are investigating the attack.

They are due to finish their work on Friday and give their preliminary findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the weekend.

After the vote Prime Minster David Cameron said it was clear Parliament did not want action and "the government will act accordingly".

Chancellor George Osborne told Radio 4's Today programme there would now be "national soul searching about our role in the world".

He added: "I hope this doesn't become a moment when we turn our back on all of the world's problems."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had told BBC's Newsnight programme that he and the prime minister were "disappointed" with the result, saying it would harm Britain's "special relationship" with Washington.

But he said he did not expect Britain's decision to "stop any action" by other countries.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Friday that the House of Commons had spoken "for the people of Britain".

"People are deeply concerned about the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but they want us to learn the lessons of Iraq," he said.

"They don't want a rush to war. They want things done in the right way, working with the international community."

He said Britain "doesn't need reckless and impulsive leadership, it needs calm and measured leadership".

Dropping a few bombs on Syrian army barracks is hardly "reckless and impulsive." But the ultimate point is valid. Since the end of World War II, Great Britain has been acting as if it were still a major power in the world. But their role in the world has largely been defined by how closely they hew to Washington's line. They've been cutting their military budget to the bone to pay for their social democracy and what was once a nice little army and navy have been decimated. They cannot project their power across the seas as once they could. This makes them a bit player in world affairs, relying as much as they can on their "moral authority" and the collective security of the European Union.

Perhaps the most interesting thing a British official said was Chancellor George Osborne talking about "soul searching" to determine Britain's role in the world. You don't often hear government officials talking like that so perhaps some much needed realism will be injected into Britain's foreign policy debates from here on out.