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David Cameron will sleep well tonight

Humiliated? As a prime minister and party leader, yes. But there are compensations.

To President Obama he can say, “Sorry guv, tried to help, but the boys just wouldn’t let me. We are going to remain neutral”. And then sotto voce he can add, “Neutral like you are ‘in terms of the Maldives or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term is'”

To Parliament, and through Parliament to the voters, he can say, with great ceremony “I respect your decision” and get all sorts of strange new respect from anti-war people while not losing the respect of those who thought British support for US military action against Assad was necessary, because, after all, he did try.

To Syria he can say all the right things without having to do anything. Given that it is damned difficult to know what to do, or even what is happening over there, that is a silver lining for him. In that link, Jim Miller says, “we need an explanation for the attack — whoever is responsible — that includes a motive.” Assad was winning. Why jeopardize that? A member of my family suggested that Assad might have said to his henchmen something equivalent to Henry II’s “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” “Destroy those rebels in Ghouta, and I don’t care how you do it.” Bashar Assad is an evil man, which does not make his enemies good.

Was this vote a good thing or a bad thing to happen? I do not know.

It is a generator of ironies, and not just for Cameron.

32 comments to David Cameron will sleep well tonight

  • Regional

    The Wun will do nothing.

  • Laird

    I certainly hope that’s true.

  • mike

    I wonder why the Telegraph story of Cameron’s defeat in the commons is listed in the Personal Finance>Pensions section…

    On the vote itself: one intervention in Syria would probably require another, and then another and another with godawful mistakes made along the way. So the vote will be a good thing in the sense that it’s now less likely that more British soldiers will end up dying needlessly again and again and again in some godforsaken rathole in the middle east.

  • Vinegar Joe

    “Neutral like you are ‘in terms of the Maldives or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term is’”

    Funny. I spent a lot of time at Ft Bragg, NC during the Falklands War loading assorted military gear including maps for shipment to UK forces. Your SAS would have serious problems monitoring Argentine air bases without those maps. And speaking of neutrality, during the Vietnam War, UK cargo ships were in and out of Haiphong Harbor while BOAC flights(carrying various left-wing British supporters and “intellectuals”) were landing in Hanoi several times a week.

    Neutrality is a funny thing, ain’t it?

  • Regional

    The Strayan Forren Minister who’s about to be sacked next Saturday backs the Wun using military force against Syria but is adamant the Second Iraq war was about Seppoland securing oil supplies, the Iraqis have a very healthy trade surplus with the Great Satan.

  • Mr Ed

    Vinegar Joe, I think Ntalie is referring to the current attitude of the PotUS, not Reagan, but for the record, it was Caspar Weinberger who moved mountains (of bureaucrats and materiél) to help the UK in 1982. Kirkpatrick was downright hostile, Haig hmmmm…

    Anyway, the Sidewinders and Stingers got real-life trials, and performed excellently, and lots was learnt about ship defence.

    As for North Vietnam, it was US policy to fight not to win, we couldn’t lawfully stop UK citizens going there, we don’t do travel bans, perhaps they were Jane Fonda fans, and in my book, a naval blockade would have been legitimate, even if done by the South ‘alone’.

  • Mr Ed

    Natalie, I fear Cameron will do none of the ‘good’ things that he might, for the simple reason that, like his predecessor Major, he has the sort of political judgment that blocks lavatories.

  • the other rob

    Vinegar Joe: If we’re going to bring up Vietnam, it’s only fair to mention that most of the aviation fuel shipped there for use by US forces was brought by the British Merchant Navy, due to the US Navy deeming it too dangerous to do so.

  • A good thing all around*, IMO. It may have been different in the beginning, but right now it is just one group of bad people fighting another group of equally bad people. Sure, there are always innocents caught in the middle, but I’m afraid that intervention would also cost innocent lives.

    *What Regional said – although I said it first:-)

  • Lee Moore

    I’m really not convinced that Syria is as complicated as all that.

    There are some conflicts (eg Iraq v Iran, Nazi Germany v Soviet Union) where the interests of third parties, eg the UK, are clearly that the conflict go on as long as possible and waste the strength of each side as much as possible. Where we are rooting for both sides to lose, slowly. Syria is not such a conflict. Neither side threatens us much, except in respect of the Syria-Iran alliance. Where it is not in our interests to have a Syria allied with Iran. A Syria run by al Qaeda but hostile to Iran would be a marked improvement.

    Syria has been allied with Iran for a long time, so pretty much any change of government would be an improvement. A new government might stay allied with Iran, or it might not. That would be a draw and a win respectively. Assad is not the rock on which the regime is founded, he’s just a figurehead. The obvious policy is to try to kill him. That might leave the current government in power under a new figurehead or it might cause a change of government. But either way, whoever the next leader is, friendly (unlikely) or unfriendly (very likely) he will have absorbed the message – we killed him and we can kill you too, if you irritate us enough. Even then he might still be determined to stick with the Iran alliance, but even if he did, that would still just be a draw, not a loss.

  • Regional

    During WW2 the Brits began planning to assassinate Hitler till it was pointed out that Hitler was the Allies best general and he could be replaced by some one competent.

  • Vinegar Joe & Mr Ed,

    Yes, if you click the link you will see the remark by President Obama to which I was referring. At the time of the Falklands War I was irritated by Reagan and General Haig’s attitude of studied neutrality. Reagan was faking it, not sure about Haig. I later became aware that Caspar Weinberger had done a lot to support Britain despite being anxious to downplay it. Sidewinder missiles and intelligence sharing.

    I’ll tell you who else was a staunch ally of Britain though it is often forgotten now – the first socialist president of the Fifth Republic, Francois Mitterrand. At the time he had four Communists in his cabinet. Mind you, it was thanks to a French technical team from Dassault continuing to work in Argentina that the Argentines were able to repair several broken Exocet missiles that were used against us. But that was in violation of Mitterrand’s embargo.

    And now the French under a socialist president are Obama’s only allies as he prepares his missiles. I said that this affair was a generator of ironies.

  • Lee, with respect, I’m afraid that your reading of the ME alliances is too simplistic – see, for example, Iran supporting Hamas. That said, it may well play out that an AQ-run Syria will present an opposition to Iran, with the backing of Turkey and so on. That still does not mean that the West will be wise to support any party in this conflict. To make a rather blunt paraphrase, ‘let them kill each other first, sort them out later’. Some times doing nothing is the best option – this is true in foreign policy as well as in domestic matters.

  • Lee Moore

    Alisa, I agree that the West shouldn’t support anyone in the Syria conflict. Assassinating a leader of one side, who is hostile to us, isn’t taking sides – especially in a case like Syria where the target isn’t a pillar of strength of one side, but just a figurehead. It’s just a message to all potential replacement leaders, on any side – you can pay a price if you piss us off too much. It’s just microeconomics at work. If you want to influence behaviour, consider the incentive structure. But aside from worrying about international law and all that swaddling, assassination as a policy is not favoured by Western political leaders for obvious reasons. More microeconomics – assassination as a policy may be in the interests of Western voters, but it is not in the interests of their leaders.

  • Jacob

    Funny these wars, ain’t they?
    A lot of irony, comedy, theatre of the absurd.
    Sarah Palin said it best: let Allah sort it out!

  • Trofim

    Only a bounder would gas people. Any decent gentleman with a shred of conscience would stick to blowing them to smithereens.

  • Mr Ed

    Natalie, the French provided combat training for the Sea Harriers vs Mirages as well as information on the Exocets, but I cannot help thinking that they also saw the war as a shop window for the Exocet. New Zealand lent a frigate to the Armilla patrol to free one up, and Chile gave great help to the UK the full extent of which is unclear but it included allowing a radar to observe Argentine bases, and possibly flights by Nimrod and Canberra of the RAF. I have seen an interview with General Frei of the Chilean Air Force, who said he did ‘whatever he could’ to ensure that Argentina lost the War. They knew that they would be next if Argentina won. Every month I buy some Chilean and NZ wine as a little thank-you.

    France’s motives in Syria? Perhaps it is ‘fashionable’ amongst the socialists to intervene. After all, they all think that they know best.

    At least Thatcher only went to war in response to aggression, Gulf I being clear aggression albeit to a friendly state, not an ally, I think that she would have pursued it had she not resigned.

  • Sam Duncan

    Mr Ed: In terms of political judgement, Cameron makes Major look like Blair. Major at least won an election outright, with the highest popular vote in British history. More luck there than judgement, you might say, but still.

    Mind you, in my book, a lack of political skill doesn’t exactly count against a man. But it’s something of a disadvantage if he’s trying to be Prime Minister.

  • The Pedant-General

    I think you mean “Malvinas”
    Pls delete once done. 🙂

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)


    I think He did mean “Malvinas”.
    But even He cannot delete the internet.

  • Adam Maas

    Actually, in terms of which side is more beneficial to the west, it’s Assad remaining in power. No Alawite will ever sit easily in the Presidential Palace in Damascus and an Iran-allied Alawite-run Syria will always be concerned enough over internal unrest that it will be hesitant in its foreign policy in every regard except Israel and Lebanon.

    An Al-Qaeda-run Syria however will enjoy broad support & a measure of stability allowing it to be significantly more actively hostile in its foreign policy, irregardless of its lack of iranian support.

  • CaptDMO

    Humiliated? As a prime minister and party leader, yes perhaps.(I STILL can’t quite fully grasp GB/Canadian politics) But there are compensations.

    One, he’s not NEARLY as rightfully humiliated as the POTUS who’s now FORCED to actually accept
    his Constitutional limitations establishing balance of power in the democratically elected Republic.

    However, if our Supreme Court folk can get away from “presiding” over special weddings, deciding what special taxes are, or otherwise being smart and wise, they MAY discover some special “interpretation” protecting the POTUS from special “hate” speech including words like impeach treason consequences if he oversteps his clear and present Constitutional boundaries. Hopefully, there’ll be no need for THAT subject to arise.

  • Jason

    Debating the finer points of UK support – or the lack of it – for pointless and unwinnable US military action in the 1960s, in the context of UK support – or the lack of it – for pointless and unwinnable US military action in 2013?

    Now that’s what I call irony!

  • david

    Adam – Assad backed Al-Qaeda in Iraq enthusiastically when it was in his interests to do so. The idea his survival would be in any way beneficial to Western interests is laughable. He also of course has backed Hamas, Hezbollah, the PKK and various other Palestinian groups and is an enthusiastic ally of the Iranians. In 2007 he was building a nuclear bomb factory with North Korean help when the Israelis blew it up, thank goodness. Not much sign of worry about foreign policy adventures there, is there ? As for Al Qaeda in Syria enjoying broad support – really, from whom ? I am possibly unique on this website in having actually been to Syria and I don’t think I’ve met a more pro-Western population in any Arab country I’ve been to (the natural reaction to having an anti-Western dictator running things, of course). We may be squandering that goodwill fast, but the only way AQ would be able to rule in Syria is by pure terror – and without foreign support, that wouldn’t last. Our best outcome in Syria is to see Assad and his family hanging from the nearest suitable trees.

  • Jason

    Adam, I heard about that purported Israeli airstrike on a nuclear facility as well, but from an uncorroborated source (I think I followed a link from here) – may I ask where you got your information from?

  • Jason


    Couldn’t find it anywhere else apart from the site linked to

  • Jason, it has not been officially corroborated by anyone, but it is pretty much accepted by most that Israel was behind it.

  • Jason

    I don’t doubt it at all Alisa, (apologies, I put the word ‘purported’ in the wrong part of the sentence above). I’m just rather surprised that an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian nuclear facility wasn’t more widely reported than just the one speculative article in the WSJ and was wondering if anyone had seen any others.

  • Well, it was extensively covered by the Israeli press, and I think also by foreign networks such as CNN, FOX and others – but truth be told, I have not been following those closely enough to say for sure.

  • Mr Ed

    I recall seeing extensive coverage of the airstrike and discussion of the unusual silence around it. I also recall reading about a North Korean ship coming to Tartus and concerns about a Scud being on board. (Presumably the long-range, parachute delivered, re-usable Scud is not yet in Kim’s armoury).

    It seems to be something that everyone would prefer not to think about.

    Here is a prescient article from nearly 2 years ago. Maj-Gen Eisenberg of the IDF.


    And note how lean that Israeli General looks compared to a British General.


    My money is on the British General sitting out a siege for longer, unless someone puts some Pringles outside his castle.

  • Jason

    I absolutely take it back.

    Difficult to say how much of this is reliable but it is pretty long on detail: