The Slippery Slope to Isolationism

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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.

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Discussion17 Comments

  1. avatar
    Sim Linnell Hanfling

    It’s good to see an article finally published in the Scene on this topic. This is an interesting piece and some good points are raised- I’ll try and write a response when I can find the time.

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    This was a sloppy piece of journalistic masturbation akin to something one might find in the Sun espousing about the need to “put the Great back into Britain”. I take particular issue with the liberal use of un-cited quotations. You cannot simply assert something and then put it into quote marks and go “Ah well, I don’t need to substantiate these claims, I put them as a quote”. Secondly, what on earth is Britain? Did you mean the United Kindom? Did you mean the isle of Great Britain? Or perhaps the comic book charater Captain Britain? It would be nice if you could clarify. Also, I think you’ll find that today is the 3rd September, so I hardly see how last Thursday could have been the 29th September. A typo in your first line is just appalling.

    It’s not up to the UK, the USA and our allies to police the world. What is the point in having the United Nations, if the world’s most powerful nation acts first and then seeks justification from the organization set up to protect the sovereignty of nation states. Appalling acts are being committed in Syria on both sides and I was personally delighted to see the stance of the House of Commons reflect the widespread mood of the nation.

    • avatar

      While you clearly have valid points, the manner in which you have expressed them is entirely unacceptable and quite frankly offensive to someone who is clearly still finding their feet when is comes to writing articles. The Wessex Scene is designed for students to give people the opportunity to have a go at writing pieces such as this. I’m sure the writer would have welcomed constructive criticism but attempting to humiliate someone for your own personal entertainment is petty to say the least. This is not points of view and the Wessex Scene is certainly not made for cynical people like you to kick someone to the floor in such a manner as to put them off writing altogether.

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        I apologise if my comment has caused any offence. I chose to use emotive language not to cause humiliation for my amusement, but to convey my strength of feeling on an emotive subject. I agree that I have fallen into the trap of responding to pompousity in an equally pompous manner, but I certainly wasn’t intending to put the article’s author of of writing. In fact, I even suggested one journalistic establishment where he may wish to find employment. However, I stand by my point that this was sloppy propagandistic journalism at its worst.

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          I didn’t see any problem with your comment. Just because you said what you meant clearly doesn’t mean that you were causing offense (and even if you did, so what?). One should not worry about the feelings of the “journalist” when pointing out the complete and utter disgrace that this article is.

          PS: “Name” I write for the WS as well.

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        Facilities to comment in relative anonymity, particularly within a high pressured environment where students are enslaved to an idealized notion of good journalism (the highest virtue of which is supposedly attention to tedious grammatical detail), means that the meaner tendencies of fragile egos have absolute freedom to rage in comments which devalue any content they might have added to the debate with hateful tones demeaning and belittling the author. I suppose it all depends on how individuals choose to respond and I like your optimism that comments sections might one day harness a culture of sensitive and intelligent gratification of consciousness around important political issues, but it’s optimistic.

        It’s undoubtedly sad and demoralising for new voices finding their expression to meet such hostility. There’s surely a way of approaching the ideological problems you might detect in a piece of writing which doesn’t have to involve a scorched earth policy.

  3. avatar

    “The source of the anti-intervention argument is clear and, to a certain degree, understandable.”

    How can it not be anything but TOTALLY understandable? The problems in Iraq are not over: there is still corruption and human rights violations a-plenty, so I think it’s pretty easy to say we have not completely succeeded in our mission to democratize the country. As a sidenote, surely a good journalist would admit to being able to understand both sides of the argument?

    I also find your reference to our “…recently mighty Imperial Nation.” (which I am not sure why you have capitalized) pretty telling. Has it occurred to you that military intervention is not the only option available to us. You’re essentially, and falesly, accusing people who do not hold your teutonic world view cowards, and assuming they don’t care about human rights violations because they don’t want to go to war. “War” isn’t what it used to be- we’re not fighting nations over succession crises or territorial disputes , we’re fighting ideologies that cause, so it follows that violence may not be the only solution to these problems. Saying that, I find it perfectly understandable that when atrocities like this gain the attention of the public, their first reaction might be a military one. It’s the way we’re trained to think these are how the problems are dealt with. Although I don’t deny some force would inevitably be necessary, the immediate issue is protecting the people on the ground and plunging them into an open conflict is not the way to do it.

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    I suppose anyone is allowed to comment on this site at the end of the day, “journalistic masturbation”, really? I’d lay off the typo spotting Tim if I were you, have you read through you own comments?

  5. avatar

    “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.”

    Why now? why wait two years, after 100,000 people die because of the Assad government? Why are chemical weapons the “red line”?

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    The UN security council was formed with the specific purpose of solving conflicts such as that in Syria. By what authority does any country, including Britain, have the right to overrule them? It is as much of a mockery of international law as Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and could easily cause the loss of as many lives. The fact that the UK used to be an imperial nation is nothing to be proud of and is completely irrelevant as to whether we should intervene in my opinion.

    • avatar

      One more thing… How does this decision distance Britain from Europe? Last time I checked, France was the only European nation in favour of intervention. Germany for example did not even put it to the parliament.

  7. avatar

    I think the biggest argument against an immediate military strike against the Assad Regime is that we don’t know what happend yet. There are strong indicators who suggest a chemical weapons attack. But we don’t know who did it. To wait is a good idea. Because UN Inspectors have to still file their report. And even these Investigators will probably only find out that it happend but not who is responsible. I think we both are on the same page saying that something should be done. Any use of ABC-Weapons should always have a strong response. But this should be an UN decision. Not again the decision of an “alliance of the willing”.

    About the point of isolation: As it was said in previous comments France is the only European country who is with Obama. And to be honest Holande is just doing it because his opinion polls are pretty low. Germany is not in favour of an attack. The other coutries aren’t either. So we have the USA you could isolate yourselves from. But even there the Idea is not well liked in some cirlcles. Also: Among friends different opinions should be acceptable.

  8. avatar

    1 Despite the rights and wrongs of intervention or otherwise, hasn’t each MP got to reflect the views of their constituents rightly or wrongly. Or do people believe that our MP’s, who should be more informed (emphasis on should), must vote in the House of Commons according to their knowledge regardless of the electorate?

    2 Does the UK have the right to status internationally? Are we a small island that no one should listen to? The article and the comments criticizing it both seem to assume that we should have status. Perhaps, if isolationism is occurring it is long overdue, and we would be better to accept that than demonstrating a shameful inferiority complex?

    3 (The only point where i will clearly express my opinion) Why should we consider allies and international status? Shouldn’t the UK do what the UK wants to do? As our own nation don’t we have the right to our beliefs!? I will accept that the UN must always be considered because it is so extensive, important, and despite the lengthy procedures it would be hard to say that the UN was an unethical movement. As for considering our position with the U.S.A, why should we care? If they are our ally that is brilliant, but if they aren’t why should we all be terribly worried?

    I hope people understand im playing Devils advocate extensively here, but i do genuinely want to see your responses

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