Home/Daniel Larison/Britain’s Sham Debate on Bombing Syria

Britain’s Sham Debate on Bombing Syria

The House of Commons approved the government’s motion to start bombing ISIS in Syria yesterday by a 397-223 vote. Freddy Gray didn’t think much of the debate he saw:

Yet all the MPs knew deep down that Britain’s intervention in the Syrian conflict would be so small-scale as to be pointless. For all the posturing about solidarity and keeping our citizens safe, the winning argument was that since we are already bombing Isis a little in Iraq, we may as well bomb them a little in Syria, too.

Some Americans may be tempted to take yesterday’s debate in Parliament more seriously on account of the complete absence of any debate over a resolution for the war on ISIS, but Gray is right to see the exercise as a sham. Gray writes:

Like the general public, Labour voters loathe Isis, but they don’t see the point in dropping a few bombs on Syria for no good reason. And people are disgusted that our politicians, while mouthing pieties about the moral gravity of the decision they faced, have so obviously exploited the Isis issue for political gain.

The U.K. was already part of the anti-ISIS coalition, and its contribution remains a token one whether its planes are bombing targets in Iraq or Syria or both. Cameron already joined the war a year ago with Parliament’s support, so another vote on expanding the bombing was a formality that Cameron could have dispensed with if he wanted to. The point of this exercise for Cameron was to hold a vote on military action on Syria that the government would be able to win, which would erase some of the embarrassment Cameron felt over being rebuked over a very different intervention in Syria two years ago. Now Britain can reclaim its dubious role as Washington’s faithful sidekick in the latest unnecessary foreign war that the U.S. happens to be fighting.

Britain joins the bombing campaign in Syria with relatively low public support. Just 48% approve of British participation in bombing ISIS in Syria, and support was quickly declining in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s vote. As the public has paid more attention to the arguments for and against doing this, they have understandably become more skeptical. Cameron finally won a vote for intervention in Syria, but the public remains appropriately wary of military intervention overseas.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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