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A vote by Parliament against “shaping events”

This is the beginning of a piece by Tony Blair that Guido linked to a few days ago. The rest of it is behind the Times paywall. But I think the basic folly that MPs were voting against, and which Blair presumably goes on to enthuse about, is actually quite well described:

The announcement of the summit in Jordan this week, after the use of chemical weapons in Syria, is very welcome. Western policy is at a crossroads: commentary or action; shaping events or reacting to them. After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil, to watch but not to intervene, to ratchet up language but not to engage in the hard, even harsh business of changing reality on the ground. But we have collectively to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work.

But what is now collectively understood is that the consequence of this determination to be for ever “shaping events” and “changing reality on the ground” in the Muslim world only seems to be futile wars which expend much treasure and blood but accomplish very little. That, I think, is what MPs were voting against, egged on by just about all their voters. Where, ask the voters, is the British national interest in all this proposed action? What on earth is so wrong with reacting to events?

However, Blair’s claim that the choice is between ratcheting up language and taking action is surely wrong. The idea of all the verbal ratcheting of recent days has been to hustle MPs into voting for action. If the idea of action is now set aside, the verbals will be dialled down again.

29 comments to A vote by Parliament against “shaping events”

  • I think the main issue from the viewpoint of the British voters – which is also my own view – is this:

    “Okay, Britain could and should intervene militarily in places for a number of reasons, one of which is to remove nasty dictators from bringing about humanitarian disasters. But not every time, and especially when it is pretty much only us and the Americans who rise to the challenge over and over again, while the rest of the world just sits back and criticises. Sorry, but we’ve fought two major wars on this basis in the last decade. Nobody can say we didn’t do our bit or we don’t care. We do care, but not enough to embark on a third such war. We’re tired of fighting, we’ve done enough of it, it’s somebody else’s turn.”

    It really is somebody else’s turn to start dealing with this stuff.

  • RAB

    It really is somebody else’s turn to start dealing with this stuff.

    Yep, let China have a go. It will be a pleasure to see another neo-colonialist having their ass kicked.

  • Regional

    Who gives a rats?

  • Laird

    Why are the only alternatives “shaping events or reacting to them”? How about simply ignoring them when they don’t affect you?

    I agree with Regional. And it pleased me to see Parliament vote against UK intervention. I only hope that the US Congress gets a similar opportunity, and acts equally rationally. But from all appearances Obama seems determined to act on his own. That would be one more impeachable offense.

  • Paul Marks

    As with Afghanistan and Iraq there has been no real thinking about what sort of regime should be supported in Syria.

    Instead we are offered platitudes about how “the local people should decide”.

    If intervention is not going to mean Western rule (aimed at supporting Western civilisation) or even support of a known pro Western regime, then it is thoughtless.

    Saying “Assad is a murdering socialist scumbag” is perfectly true – but it is not good enough, if one has no clear alternative to his regime.

    And (again) “democracy” or “the people will decide” will not do as a clear alternative.

  • Regional

    The adults out number the idiots by 13.

  • Westerlyman

    It does not matter how many times the USA and UK intervene in the middle east, nothing will ever really change until the majority of the people who live there change their attitudes and beliefs and that is not going to happen in my lifetime.

    Islam is the perfect religion for dictators to thrive as it is all about submission and non questioning of authority. Until the slaves wake up and free themselves anyone in the west is wasting their time trying to change anything. You cannot free slaves, only they can do that. It is a matter of mental attitude and too many people living in the middle east simply do not think in the way the average European does.

    All we do by intervening in these conflicts is waste lives and money.

  • Julie near Chicago

    This is not “the U.S. and the U.K.” intervening in the Middle East. This is the Comrade-in-Chief throwing his weight around (such as it is) and trying to look Presidential. Tough job when you resemble a cross between Alfred E. Newman and the Serpent.

    All that so-and-so ever accomplishes is to give all of us a bad name.

    That, of course, is the point.

  • Vinegar Joe

    @RAB “Yep, let China have a go. It will be a pleasure to see another neo-colonialist having their ass kicked.”

    I seriously doubt the Chinese would give a rat’s ass about Muslim sensitivities. Pyramids of skulls is more their style.

  • Yesterday I saw a vehicle with placard driving down King’s Road calling for non-intervention.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “All we do by intervening in these conflicts is waste lives and money.”

    Hear! Hear!

    And also – make the Arabs and the Islamists hate us even more than they do already.

    But it’s slightly worrying that the vote was so close, is it not?

  • […] Parliament against “shaping events” – Brian Micklethwait […]

  • Antoine Clarke

    Beef-eating surrender monkeys.

  • I think Obama’s heart wasn’t in it to begin with, and he is now going to fold tent, citing lack of “international consensus” or something.

  • Midwesterner

    On the other hand Alisa, maybe “Oh look! A squirrel!!”

  • bloke in spain

    Doozy of an interview today had Paddy ̶P̶a̶n̶t̶s̶Ashdown on how ashamed he was the British people don’t support intervention. For a man’s made a lucrative career out of interfering in for’n parts by shooting their inhabitants, quelle surprise!

  • Mr Ed

    Indeed Bloke, funny, but perhaps not surprising, that Pants, who said it was the most ashamed he’d been of Britain in 50 years, wasn’t more ashamed of the invasion of the Falklands by Argentina. A world with no job for his like would be a better World, and get better by not having such jobs.

  • bloke in spain

    I think you may have misread me on the undergarment challenged one. Having unemployed defenders ensures continued unemployment for defenders. But looks to me as if he’s got said undergarments on back to front. They go to for’n parts to shoot for’ners in British interests. Not other for’ners’ interests.

  • Mr Ed

    Bloke, I was thinking of his later career as Gauleiter for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  • bloke in spain

    Ah, then we were in accord. Twas what prompted the original comment. I think he may also have used the word “morality”. I do find anyone using the word morality is selling you something you probably don’t want to buy.

  • Eric Tavenner

    Support both sides, provide weapons and ammunition to both sides, giving more to the sidw that’s getting beaten. Wait untill noth sides are hammered to a bloody pulp. Then maybe go in and mop up the few survivors.

  • Paul Marks

    Well Antoine – Syria was a French mandate (not a British one) and French rule was probably the best period in Syrian history.

    If the plan was to install a French Governor I might think about it.

    Sadly the plan appears to be to “let the Syrian people decide”.

    Does that not mean the Black Flag of AQ?

    Perhaps the least worst option for Syria would be partisan.

    An area (the coastal area) for Assad’s sect.

    A Kurdish area.

    And the rest to the Sunni (can some non Black Flag Sunni be found?).

    The Christians are already mostly dead (or fled) – so the Christians need not have an area of Syria.

    The destruction of Middle Eastern Christians (one of the principle consequences of Mr Obama’s beloved “Arab Spring”) has been treated by the world with as much indifference as the destruction of Middle Eastern Jewish communities – communities that were thousands of years old and are now not just gone, but also forgotten.

    By the way – in his latest speech Mr Obama has just said it will take “many years” for the consequences of the Arab Spring to work themselves out.

    So if the consequences seem terrible – do not be down hearted!

    In “many years” time things will be fine.

    Or “I will be out of office by then – so it does not matter”.

  • Paul Marks

    partition – not partisan.

    Yes partition may well be the least bad option.

  • Rich Rostrom

    the consequence of this determination to be for ever “shaping events” and “changing reality on the ground” in the Muslim world only seems to be futile wars which expend much treasure and blood but accomplish very little.

    The operative word here is “seems”. In fact a great deal has been accomplished. The perception that “nothing has been accomplished” is an artifact of leftist advocacy (massively entrenched in the news media), to serve the leftist conviction that nothing good can ever be accomplished by Western military action.

    Saddam Hussein is gone. Qaddafi is gone. Is that “very little”?

    Unfortunately, instead of building on these achievements, the Left has recoiled. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sabotaged from the beginning by leftists eager to discredit them. When the people of Iran were prepared to rise up against the ayatollahs, the U.S. ostentatiously refused to act. When the Syrian people rose against Assad, the U.S. refused to act.

    They want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and claim they were right all along.

    They want to send a message, and the message is “Submission to tyrants is the only safety.” That’s not what they want to say, but it’s the objective meaning.

  • Rich Rostrom

    the consequence of this determination to be for ever “shaping events” and “changing reality on the ground” in the Muslim world only seems to be futile wars which expend much treasure and blood but accomplish very little.

    Sorry about unclosed tag.

    The operative word here is “seems”. In fact a great deal has been accomplished. The perception that “nothing has been accomplished” is an artifact of leftist advocacy (massively entrenched in the news media), to serve the leftist conviction that nothing good can ever be accomplished by Western military action.

    Saddam Hussein is gone. Qaddafi is gone. Is that “very little”?

    Unfortunately, instead of building on these achievements, the Left has recoiled. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sabotaged from the beginning by leftists eager to discredit them. When the people of Iran were prepared to rise up against the ayatollahs, the U.S. ostentatiously refused to act. When the Syrian people rose against Assad, the U.S. refused to act.

    They want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and claim they were right all along.

    They want to send a message, and the message is “Submission to tyrants is the only safety.” That’s not what they want to say, but it’s the objective meaning.

  • Paul Marks

    Afghanistan might have gone better had there been some thought as to who we would back – who we were for (not just who we were against).

    Iraq is the same story – although I suspect sectarianism would always have destroyed the project (full disclosure – my “Uncle Bill” served in this area before World War II, from his accounts, which I heard in my childhood, and my own research I always believed that Iraq was hopeless).

    Iran – yes Iran in 2009.

    Yes good point R.R.

    That was a real chance – unlike now (the so called moderate new President, was actually the Supreme Leader security adviser for many years and was hand picked THE WEST FALLS FOR EVEN THE MOST BASIC TRICKS).

    Iran in 2009 was a real chance.

    And it was missed.

    Now the place will have to be bombed.

    And seriously bombed – those nuke bases are buried deep (and often in civilian areas).

  • Mr Ed

    WIth Mr Obama seeking Congressional approval before strikes, perhaps the UK Parliament has helped the reassertion of Constitutional principles in the US in a small way, although the Senate Minority leader appears to ignore the principle, by appearing grateful or the C-i-C’s indulgence.

  • On the contrary – Mr Obama is seeking Congressional disapproval

  • Paul Marks

    At least (whatever his motives) Mr Obama is putting the matter to Congress – as the Constitution (unlike the Wall Street Journal and so on) say he should.

    If Mr Obama had not done this – I would have attacked him.

    So, as he has done it, I must praise him for so doing (again whatever his motives).

    I can not have it both ways – I can not attack the man regardless of what he does.