The international community was stunned last Thursday when the British Parliament voted NO on a resolution authorizing British military action in Syria. For the last 30-40 years whenever the United States has used military force, the United Kingdom was right there with us. Not this time. The British, clearly weary of a repeat of history have taken themselves out of the equation. I wrote my Masters’ thesis on Tony Blair’s fateful decision to support President Bush in Iraq, and another paper on the consequences of that decision for Britain and Europe, so based on my research I’m not surprised.
The decisions we make are just as important as why we make them. If there’s anything being a history nerd has taught me is that decisions are made sometimes because of a fear of repeating the past, rather than on the repercussions for the future. But in effort not to repeat the past, our actions can put us in the very situation we sought to avoid and we’re forced to make the very choice we strove not to make. Britain and France let their fear of second global conflict prevent them from stopping Hitler when they had the chance in the 1930s. Yet they had no choice when Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and faced a Germany that was poised to take over Europe.
I understand why the British parliament decided no to military action but I have two concerns: 1) Syria is not Iraq. Unlike in 2003, this is not a personal campaign by one or two leaders looking to fulfill a long time dream, international law has been broken. The most sacred, in fact and the world must act or face severe consequences for international security, whether militarily or otherwise. 2) What will the consequences be for Britain and the ‘special relationship’ between the US-UK? Will Britain regret this decision later? If this situation escalates, how long will they stay out of it?