The UK appears to be out of the war. Which leaves things rather shorthanded. Cameron was a primary mover behind air strikes on Syria. And, unlike Obama, he appears to be willing to defer to the vote.
Cameron had yielded to the opposition Labour Party’s demands for a separate, second vote to authorize military force, to be held only after the report of United Nations weapons inspectors now at work in Syria. It was widely expected that Mr. Cameron would win Thursday night’s relatively meaningless vote on a motion supporting the notion that the chemical attack required an international humanitarian response that could involve military action. Instead, it was rejected 285 to 272.
After the shocking defeat, Mr. Cameron was clear. “I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “While the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”
I can’t even begin to imagine Obama uttering those words. I’m not a fan of Cameron, but after years of this nightmare, it’s strangely surreal to encounter a leader who when faced with disagreement does not simply go ahead and do what he wants anyway while the media shouts RACIST at anyone who criticizes his unilateral imperial rule.
Prime Minister Cameron knew that his own conservatives were unhappy with the idea, but he expected Labour to back him, essentially meaning that he was selling out his own party. Again.
Mr Cameron had anticipated an issue with some of his own MPs. After all, more than 80 of them recently demanded a vote on arming the Syrian rebels, in order that they might say No. With the support of Ed Miliband, though – who had indicated that his party would “consider” backing international action – even a sizeable rebellion over plans for targeted air strikes could be contained, particularly with the Liberal Democrat leadership also on side.
But it didn’t go that way. Labour, which doesn’t have much going for it, chose to take a populist position and humiliated him.
According to The Times newspaper, a government source used a string of expletives to describe Mr Miliband’s attitude and said: “The French hate him now and he’s got no chance of building an alliance with the US Democratic Party.”
How awful. The French and the Democratic Party both. Two political stalwarts of unbending principle like that. Now all is really lost.