As yesterday’s parliamentary intrigue developed, I became more and more convinced that the eventual outcome of the vote was the right one. On this issue, the split in not right-left, and not entirely internationalist-isloationalist. I found myself closer, bizarrely, to some of those who favoured military invention to many of those vehemently opposed.
I support liberal intervention because I think we have a duty to protect the world’s citizens where can, and I think our country should strive to promote liberal democratic values around the world.
I deplore the automatic anti-Americanism and naive pacifism of the Left: George Galloway in his thundering speech in parliament yesterday asked why we have more right to feel part of the international community than Russia and China. We should not shy away from saying we do have more moral authority than the authoritarian Russian and Chinese governments. Their presence on the UN Security Council somewhat diminishes it’s authority, and makes the veto issue less relevant. Galloway and others also cry hypocrisy or selectivity: why not condemn Israel? Why not intervene in Egypt? Why not attack Bahrain? The mentality that we can’t/aren’t doing everything therefore we shouldn’t no anything is still prevalent.
On the other side, the selfish little Englandism of the right is also depressing. The Mail said “If MPs have the slightest suspicion that attacking Syria will cause more suffering than it can prevent they have a fundamental duty to vote ‘No’.” Inaction is a decision and I am not sure whether the burden of proof for intervention should be that much higher, if it should be higher at all, than the burden of proof for doing nothing. Daniel Hannan asked “I haven’t heard anyone convincingly explain why it is up to Britain – as opposed to Bangladesh or Bhutan or Botswana – to intervene in Syria, a country where we have no particular responsibilities.” Well, if intervention would work, we have a duty because we can do something, unlike I imagine Bangladesh, Bhutan or Botswana. We have ‘responsibilities’ to the Syrian people just because we have the power to do something.
Yet I remain to be convinced how we will improve things by attacking Assad: whether simply as a ‘punishment’ for using chemical weapons or as an attempt to instigate regime change. I am no expert, but it seems that there are too many variables involving Assad and the worse elements of the rebels, which makes the outcome of our intervention entirely unpredictable. If situations change and if there is a convincing plan put forward, this might change my mind. For now, I am pleased parliament acted as a check on a overly hasty attempt at intervention.
I also think the fact that the red line is the use of chemical weapons is arbitrary. How people are dying in the civil war in Syria is surely less relevant than the number of them dying, and Assad has been killing them for a long time. If the case for intervention is stronger than the case for not intervening now, I imagine it would have been stronger a while ago as well.