Feature

Any takers for a war on Syria?

Despite David Cameron’s pleas, the British Parliament says no to Syria, while François Hollande, in a surprise move, provides French backing.

“We won’t get fooled again,” said Tony Parsons in the Mirror (U.K.). In the case of Iraq, Tony Blair “conned the British people into one expensive, destructive, and totally meaningless war.” We won’t let the current prime minister, David Cameron, con us into another. Despite Cameron’s pleas and protestations, Parliament has voted against joining the U.S. in military strikes on Syria. We have finally learned the lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan: that Western involvement only makes things worse in these “miserable little hellholes where regime change means one bunch of thugs being replaced by another bunch of thugs.” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a monster who kills children with sarin gas. But many of the rebels fighting him “are murderous al Qaida bigots who would merrily dance on all our graves.” There are no good guys, and there’s no reason to get involved.

Goodbye, then, to the Britain that punched above its weight, said The Times (U.K.) in an editorial. By refusing to act when Assad massacres his people with chemical weapons, Britain has “provided encouragement to despots and tyrants everywhere, dismayed the victims of repression, and weakened the Western alliance.” The special relationship with the U.S. is in tatters. Americans now have every right to believe that “once-reliable Britain is reliable no longer.” The isolationists and the anti-Americans among us can chalk up a victory, said Charles Moore in The Telegraph (U.K.). Most bizarrely, Cameron’s setback means that French President François Hollande “has moved from posturing pygmy to most robust European leader.”

No one is more surprised than the French, said Alexandra Schwartzbrod in Libération (France). It’s “a complete reversal of the situation just 10 years ago, when relations between Paris and Washington were nearly torn asunder over the Iraq intervention.” In fact, Hollande, then an opposition leader in the National Assembly, was the first to propose that France threaten to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing U.S. force in Iraq. Now, in an “unlikely alliance” with President Obama, he has declared that “the chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished.”

But Hollande may have “gone too fast and too far,” said Pierre Rousselin in Le Figaro (France). Obama is already backpedaling. After the British vote last week, Obama announced that he would consult Congress before acting and, notably, failed to mention that even if Britain is against him, France is with him. The French opposition has pressured Hollande into making his case before the National Assembly as well—and polls show that two thirds of the French oppose military action in Syria. Hollande is now “trapped on the domestic front and isolated on the international front.” He and Obama find themselves “in a whirlwind of uncontrollable events.”

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