Britain says no: Obama should take the hint on Syria

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Any idea that the United States might be partnered by the United Kingdom in the attack on Syria currently being contemplated in Washington went down in flames Thursday in London.

The British parliament voted decisively and categorically, in defiance of the recommendation of Prime Minister David Cameron, that Britain would not go to war in Syria, whatever the United States might decide to do. The vote against war, 285-272, included even 30 members of Mr. Cameron's own Conservative Party, who refused to follow his lead on the issue. The United Kingdom had gone to war along with the United States in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Several elements went into the parliament's negative decision on war in Syria. One was that its members were unconvinced by U.S. and other intelligence claims that the Syrian government had employed chemical weapons, leading to a conclusion that punishment was due and should be delivered by the United States and the United Kingdom. The British undoubtedly felt seriously burned by the claims from the administration of President George W. Bush of possession by Iraq of nuclear weapons and Iraqi cooperation with al-Qaida that turned out to be false.

Another element in the decision against yet another Middle East war, following on Iraq and Afghanistan, had to be the financial cost in an economy already strained in trying to recover from the global recession. The British public has already been railing against the Cameron government over the austerity cuts it has imposed on it.

The implications for President Barack Obama's decision on a war in Syria of the hitherto faithful British opting out remains to be seen, but Mr. Obama should rethink his plans in light of the debate and the conclusion in Westminster.

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