Saturday, August 31, 2013

London Calling (Out Obama)

The inestimable Juan Cole handily sums up yesterday's UK House of Commons disaster as MPs voted down PM David Cameron's preliminary plan to use military force against Syria, and what it means for President Obama, the United States, Syria, and force as a tool.

The British members of parliament who debated whether to take action against Syria were obviously haunted by the mistakes of the Iraq War and determined not to repeat them.

The case of Obama and Cameron against the Syrian government has some holes, but it isn’t a bad case. But it involves murky allegations of weapons of mass destruction use by an Arab regime, and a unilateral Anglo-American shock and awe aerial attack. It looks way too much like Iraq, and there is no telling where it might lead. Britain is not very far from Syria and the repercussions of an attack could be significant. Britain also has a significant Muslim minority population that is die hard set against an attack on Syria.

The vote puts President Obama between a rock and a hard place. The formerly solid Anglo-American solidarity has been broken. Obama does not have the Arab League and he does not have the UN Security Council. He does not even have a consensus on the European continent.

Obama should pivot now and choose vigorous diplomacy over a military strike. The latter will now have no legitimacy in international law, and would not be supported even by the British parliament

The duplicity of Bush and Blair has deeply injured faith in government, even on the part of members of government. Their use of the high-flown rhetoric of protecting helpless populations from tyrants and deflecting dire threats of WMD cheapened those endeavors and trivialized them They bent the sword of state and rendered it useless in any similar situation.

In a very real sense, the blown vote in the UK is the perfect excuse for the United States to reconsider action in Syria.  And yes, Bush and Blair made it now very difficult for future Presidents to deliver more than token military assistance, such as in Libya.  Here's hoping that President Obama considers the opportunity here to bring both sides to the table and end this war.

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