Friday 30 August 2013

It is all Blair's Fault

I recently saw this tweet from Piers Morgan on my Twitter timeline:

"Cameron got punished for what Blair did. Simple as that #Iraq" (

Ok, you got me. I follow Piers Morgan on Twitter. I am not his biggest fan and I do think he is the most awful interviewer, incredibly arrogant and full of himself but, with all that in mind, his views are, at the very least, thought-provoking. Sometimes I even find myself agreeing with him - gun control, for example. Here I am not so sure. I agree that, to an extent, there is a sense that the British public and British MPs are (rightly) more wary about intervention in Syria after Iraq (and Afghanistan) than they would be if British troops had remained on home soil. The implication, however, is quite clear - that without Iraq, British MPs would have voted for the motion that was brought before the house yesterday. That is an altogether different point, and one I am not so sure about. (See, thought-provoking.) 

My stance on Syria is simple. There is nothing we can do. We are condemned to listen to George Galloway rant about how Israel supplied the chemical weapons to the rebels via Al Qaeda; to listen to our MPs try and score political points out of such a tragedy; and, ultimately, we are condemned to sit idly by as Assad, with the help of the Russians and Chinese, brutally murders his civilians until there are no more Syrians left for him to kill and he deems the job done. On the one hand, I understand the arguments against intervention and there are, of course, some MPs with a genuine opposition to intervention (then there is George Galloway). On the other, do we not have some moral responsibility to act, if we can? Perhaps the crucial point is exactly that: that, with the best will in the world, we cannot improve the situation and, as I say, we are condemned to watch on in horror. Diplomacy has failed and will continue to fail, whilst intervention seems only to mean that Syria's children are killed by our bullets as well as Assad's.

With that sobering thought firmly in your minds, let's return to the question at hand: Do we think British MPs would have voted for yesterday's motion had we not intervened in Iraq? I think Piers has a point, especially considering how close the final vote was, but it's not as clear cut as he is suggesting (or perhaps is forced to suggest with only 140 characters to play with).

I leave it as an open question - feel free to comment a response.


  1. Clearly MPs are paying more attention to public opinion, and public opinion is more firmly opposed to intervention than it was in days past. People are more sceptical of government lies and 'intelligence' and so they should be after the obvious debacle that was Iraq (although the kind of lies and power interests that contributed to the Iraq War were no one-off in UK foreign policy). The anti-war movement has, I think, made some strides in asserting itself more obviously in British political life, particularly online.

    However Blair himself can't have all the 'blame' for this- lets not forget that Cameron voted for Iraq along with most of the Conservatives, and the usual cross-party consensus on foreign policy gives the public reason to be wary of both parties when it comes to international issues. The whole British establishment is to blame for the lack of trust people have in the intentions of their leaders.

    Also I don't agree that there's nothing we can do; most serious observers think you have to give diplomacy every chance it has. Furthermore a YouGov poll showed that 77% of the public believe Britain should send “food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies” to Syria. That's certainly something we can do.

    1. Just two points:

      1. my skepticism with respect to diplomacy is quite obvious. I, of course, hope it can work and to think it won't does not mean we shouldn't try, but I do think it is doomed to fail

      2. Of course humanitarian assistance is something we can do. The point, though, is that there is nothing we can do to stop Assad murdering his civilians - no amount of food or medicine stops this:

    2. You may be right about the futility of finding a solution but I think diplomacy has to be tried and tried seriously. Often seemingly intractable conflicts have eventually found diplomatic solutions- at the moment the Columbian government and FARC rebels seem to be close to a deal, and progress is being made with the Kurdish population in Turkey. I think there are a few things which the West could do to help efforts along, which I won't go into now. But it could be the sorry truth that the combination of Assad being too desperate to cling on to power at any cost and the opposition being unwilling to except anything except his downfall will render diplomacy futile.

    3. Add to those two Russia's support for Assad and I think you have the three reasons why diplomacy will be rendered, unfortunately, tragically and horrifically, futile.

  2. I think that MPs would have voted more independently on intervention in Syria had it not been for our mistakes in Iraq. By that, I mean that voting would have represented their own opinions more strongly than public opinion and consensus.

    The Iraq intervention has been strongly (and quite rightly so) condemned by the British public and I think that MPs are now much more keen to toe the public line, so to speak, and keep the public on side as much as possible.

    Also, I do agree that we cannot really do anything to help Syria out of the problem they have, as diplomatic efforts will not be successful from Britain - only Russia and China could have any significant influence. We must however keep up our humanitarian efforts, trying to give as much support and safety to Syrian civilians as we can. That's our duty.

  3. You say we cannot improve the situation but surely the proposed missile strikes would send a message to Assad and the rest of the world that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated? In my opinion the worst thing to do would to sit idly by and let such a horrific incident pass into the history books and become a precedent for further illegal attacks.

    What happens next is something of an issue; what if Assad ignores the strikes and continues using chemical weapons on civilians? What if he attacks Israel to blackmail the US into backing down as is feared might well happen?

    In the first case it is possible of descending down the slippery slope of using further force to deter him-then the question really is where do we draw the boundary between deterring a mad dictator and actually overthrowing and destroying the regime of a mad dictator..

    The second scenario is equally terrifying although I find it highly unlikely Assad or any of his allies would be so stupid to do so after the response so far from the international community.

    Either way I think that the main point is that the worse thing to do would be to appease Assad and do nothing-obviously further attempts at diplomacy and sending humanitarian aid should be done without question but the world needs to be shown that chemical weapons cannot be tolerated.

    NB: It is also a ridiculous hypocrisy that we condemn the murder of people by chemical weapons but we don't really care too much about the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people by rifles, tanks and aerial bombings...

    1. I can't help but agree with a lot of what you say, I must be honest. I wrestle with myself on this one, I really do.

      With respect to your last point, it is the most absurd hypocrisy as you say. Our silence before the chemical weapon use was deafening, our inaction now could be disastrous.

  4. yissss i agree


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