THE BLOG
02/09/2013 10:21 BST | Updated 31/10/2013 05:12 GMT

Britain Has Failed the Citizens of Syria

On 29 August 2013, a historic result greeted the ears of those sitting in the House of Commons. The government, advising a watered-down motion of condemnation and possibly action on Syrian chemical weaponry, was defeated in a debate which it had orchestrated - on that most primal and tribalistic of political battlegrounds: war.

It was a historic defeat, in which earnest Mr. Cameron failed to recruit the majority in favour of his proposed cause. A defeat like this had not been felt for hundreds of years - and the last time, it was a resigning matter.

With the petty focus on domestic partisan buffoonery, it was quickly decided that luckless Miliband - whose speech was rambling and repetitive and whorish - was the hero of the hour. He had, after all, saved 'us' from another of those ghastly 'adventures' in the Middle East. That his own feeble amendment was also struck down was a minor inconvenience: he had stopped the awful man from Eton, and so deserved every bit of the inane praise which was so crudely heaped upon his shoulders.

But what had he stopped, and why? He put a halt to the first action in a sequence which may have led to military intervention in Syria - but he had done so in a way which decided to value cheap mass sentiment over Syrian lives, procrastinating over the guilt of the murderous regime, as if the Joint Intelligence Committee had not said that "there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility".

He stalled as if the United States had not released details of intercepted Syrian government phone calls, which presented no doubt in the mind of Secretary of State John Kerry that Assad was responsible.

As the Leader of the Opposition, he should and would have been briefed on these matters. His other demands were also time-wasting: including an unrealistic desire to work everything out at the UN (as if China and Russia would be even vaguely supportive of any move to rein in their proxy).

Sadly, his claims that he was just giving voice to the widespread isolationist viewpoint in Britain today are correct: there are an awful lot of selfish and callous Britons, who don't care much for the lives of a few Syrians.

So, we are left with this. The British people, in that closed minded way which is so particular to our little islands, have effectively severed themselves from the wider world. In doing so this nation has elected to stand by passively, when an evil autocrat brandishes his chosen Weapon of Mass Destruction, and dares the civilised portion of the globe to stand in his way.

As a country, we have shirked this challenge. We have ran and hid from that bully Assad, far away from his Sarin strikes, and his blatant disregard for both human life and the tenements of International Law. We should not be running scared, we have both the means and the morality to stop him in his evil re-conquest of a former fiefdom.

And yet we do not. The false impression of Iraq has soured the idea of internationalism in the collective memory of the UK. Remember how much better everything was in the former Yugoslav nations when the West deposed Milosevic? Remember the prosperity and development of a Kurdistan beyond the reaches of Saddam's gunships, enveloped in a protective shield comprising of Western aircraft? Remember the remarkable effect an intervention had in Sierra Leone at the turn of the millennium - even though it occurred during the premiership of that pariah Tony Blair?

Intervention has worked in the past. Of course, no one can forecast an easy victory for any Western forces if they do attempt to protect civilian life in Syria. The costs, though, (both financially and in terms of British lives) are likely to be minimal if the war is fought on a Libya-like airborne strategy.

We have seen trivial electoral fears cripple our democratic ability to protect the freedoms of those abroad. Ukip's crowd-pleasing stance on Syria was a major reason for Tory rebellion in the vote itself. If Cameron cared more about international justice and morality, he would have defied Parliament and merely acted, a la Jefferson, to do what he thought was right. His capitulation has effectively put an end to direct hopes of British intervention, and represents a betrayal of the Syrians he claimed motivated him.

I have written before in defence of our Prime Minister: commending his admirable propensity to do what was right over what was popular. In this most international of issues, he has disappointed me, and all of those who had him down as an internationalist.