The House of Commons voted down the government motion to support military action against Syria:
British Prime Minister David Cameron has lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes, a stunning defeat for a government which had seemed days away from joining the U.S. in possible attacks to punish Bashar Assad’s regime over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Cameron may now be regretting the decision to hold a vote on this, and it’s clearly something he would have preferred not to do, but he was right to do it anyway. Had he plunged Britain into yet another U.S.-led military intervention without a vote, no matter how brief it proved to be, he would have invited a huge political backlash from the opposition and from within his own party. If the U.S. is wrong to launch this attack, Britain has even less reason to be involved. While this will make the attack on Syria an almost purely American intervention, it is unfortunately not very likely to halt the attack or force a debate in Congress. The defeat for Cameron makes it that much more likely that Obama will proceed while ignoring Congress, since he won’t want to risk the same rebuke from our representatives. In truth, that rebuke would probably not be forthcoming, but it’s a chance that Obama isn’t going to want to take at this point. Despite the embarrassment for both Cameron and Obama that this vote represents, it is hard to imagine the administration won’t proceed with the attack because of this. This is good news for Britain, but regrettably won’t have much effect here except to cause a lot of whining about the state of the U.S.-British relationship.
The remarkable thing is that it has taken so long for British disillusionment with their government’s support for U.S. foreign wars to find expression among their political leaders. There was bound to be a price for our tendency to take British support for granted and to drag it into one war after another. The U.S.-U.K. relationship has been very one-sided and unhealthy for a long time, and there was going to be a reckoning sooner or later. Fortunately, it is coming in response to an unnecessary war rather than a more serious crisis.