Late last Thursday evening, 29th August, Britain’s standing in the world stage and their influence on world affairs was severely dented when MPs voted against a motion of using military intervention in Syria if the UN Security Council’s findings conclude that it was President Assad’s regime that were responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the country. But what is the significance of this vote?
The result of this vote flouts the nature of the British character; to promote freedom, liberty and equality throughout the world and to support free and fair democracy where there is no place for oppressive states. These principles are the foundations upon which our society is built, and to abandon these because Syria “is nothing to do with us” contradicts everything that Britain stands for; and what it has always stood for. Britain’s decision not to intervene will diminish its influence amongst its allies and will weaken its arguments at any negotiating table for years to come and it threatens to relegate Britain from the top table of world politics. Is this Britain’s first step on the slippery slope to isolationism?
The source of the anti-intervention argument is clear and, to a certain degree, understandable. Britain entered into the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under Tony Blair’s Labour Government, as it was suspected that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. This ‘suspicion’ is now largely regarded by many as a means of Tony Blair and George W. Bush legitimizing the invasion. The support for this conflict has steadily decreased since 2003 and it has created a scepticism surrounding Britain entering into a conflict which they could easily ignore. However, I believe it is important for Britons to remember that this is not George W. Bush, and this is not Iraq.
It is shameful to know that the nation’s MPs opted to sit back and do nothing whilst thousands of innocent Syrians perish and suffer from Napalm and chemical attacks at the hands of an oppressive, dictatorial regime. A military intervention in Syria would not be simply an arrogant British sabre-rattling exercise, but would to seek to end the use of chemical weapons and would show a Western solidarity in the rejection of the use of such weapons. Surely we have a moral obligation to protect the freedom and civil liberties of fellow human beings unconditionally. As Labour sees last Thursday’s vote as a victory for the British people, I ask myself just how many Britons feel comfortable with the thought that we, as a nation, are going to do nothing to help the Syrian people? However, the average voter will take comfort from the fact that Britain will not be entering another foreign war. It is all too clear from the media that the popular consensus is no longer to promote the utopian vision of world peace but instead to look after number one- due to our position within the shadow of Iraq. It is nigh on impossible to find a supporter of Britain’s continued involvement in a far away land, the nation would sooner “bring our boys home” and “prevent further needless deaths of our troops”. However, this is a narrow-minded view as, in the long term, not militarily intervening in Syria will be more harmful to Britain due to its damaging effects upon Britain’s position within world politics.
Britain’s proposed exit from the EU is a further example of how the nation is becoming increasingly isolationist. This seems absurd from a recently mighty Imperial Nation, but as Britain becomes increasingly disillusioned with Europe, Europe will, in turn, become increasingly disillusioned with Britain. The sense of disillusionment with Britain will not be confined to Europe however. The nation’s failure to stand up for the civil and humanitarian rights of innocent civilians and its failure to act in the face of abhorrent war crimes will haunt this nation for years to come.