The shameful British vote on Syria

British vote in Parliament regarding Syria is not a shocker. On the contrary it was completely expected. And somehow the vote even seemed rational. Britain finally realizes that the empire is long gone, something it took a long time grasp since the 1956 Suez Crisis. But before going into the details, one thing should be clear. No one came out as a victor from the now infamous vote in the parliament, where a running Prime Minister was handed a defeat while advocating war, only the second time since the American Revolution.

First of all, let’s have a look at the ground situation. Chemical weapons were used in Syria; there is no doubt about that. Both American and German Intelligence also confirmed that. Thousands of dead bodies, with foam in the corner of their mouth, bodies burned beyond recognition, hunched and broken bones due to uncontrolled convulsions, soiled clothes due to nervous system failures, thousands of photos and videos do not lie. The weapons inspector of the UN would possibly corroborate that too. They won’t be however mandated to say who used it, the government or the rebels. That would be judged with intelligence reports, circumstantial evidence like intercepted communications, use of gas masks by soldiers moments before use, delivery systems etc. Currently rebels don’t have the means…not saying they won’t in the future, but presently it is doubtful. Nor does killing own people make any sense, when they are trying to gain trust of the international community.

Assad and his clan are now fighting a battle to death, an endgame of this episode of Syrian history, which, like any other Middle Eastern state, is filled with sectarian violence, ethnic clashes, and bloodshed. Assad and the rebels are just the current actors in an ongoing centuries old drama. It is prudent and “realist” to stay out of it, especially when the future is unknown. However, having said that, the Labour party in Britain didn’t vote against the motion to intervene because they were Political Realists. They voted down to get even with Cameron, give him a bloody nose. They voted due to the changed circumstances in Britain, the changed demographics they cater to. Britain now, is not Britain of the 1940s. The massive migration from the 1960s changed the political landscape of the country permanently. With the present antiwar, binge drinking generation, with an attention span less than an absent minded goldfish, and a leftist idealistic streak not evident since the 1920s, combined with the global recession, the British lawmakers had no other way than to vote against another open ended intervention.

Secondly, British military strength is almost a ridiculous joke. Fifty years of American umbrella left Europeans complacent, and no other country suffered as much military cuts as the big three, France, Britain and Germany. The sorry state was evident most recently during Libya intervention, when France and Britain didn’t even have spare parts for their weaponry and the Americans reluctantly came to save the day. Global Fire Power compilation of the comparative military strength of the great powers shows that it is seriously doubtful the once mighty British Navy, which ruled the seas for almost two hundred years, can even make a flotilla to defend the Falklands should the need arise. The strength is gone, so has the will to fight for good in the World, the Anglo-Saxon optimism, and the pride.

Things might change in the future again, hopefully. In this globalised World, no one can afford to stay isolationist. The Hitlers of present day, who gas their own people, won’t let the World stay isolationist. Nor is that a society we aspire for…well, maybe the global left does. The anti-war protests sprawling all over the world, suddenly demonstrates the useful idiots, the ones who ironically didn’t utter a single word of condemnation, when over a hundred thousand were massacred. Nor will Russia, China or India be judged on being on the right side of history, their selective obedience to International laws and norms when it comes to humanitarian intervention, ironically is not present when chemical weapons are used. There will be situations where leadership will be needed, good wars to fight for. Only time will tell, if Britain or for that matter Europe can provide that leadership, or the baton has permanently passed to newer powers, as history of civilisations so many times demonstrated.

About the Author
Sumantra Maitra is a journalist from India, presently based in Auckland, New Zealand. He is an International relations scholar, planning a PhD soon. He generally loves football, good food, and lecturing people, not always in that order.