The conflict in Syria has been going on for over 2 years now. It is arguably the longest civil war resulting from the Arab spring that started in Tunisia. But Syria’s has metamorphosed into a complex war whose end will never be realised quickly if the current conditions prevail. There needs to be a concerted effort from world leaders to bring an end to this, and Britain is not an exception in this respect. The recent defeat of David Cameron in the Commons has more or less left Britain as an isolationist, and indifferent towards the affairs of the world.
When Britain was under Tony Blair joined forces with George Bush to invade Iraq in pursuit of WMD’s it seemed a wise decision until the supposed weapons were not found. The British citizen found such a reliance on faulty intelligence a gross misconduct on the PM. The extended stay of British forces in Iraq was found to be a waste of taxpayers’ money. Two years ago the House of Commons endorsed air strikes against Gaddafi’s regime as an attempt to incapacitate him and to give the rebels a fair chance in the Libyan civil war. This endeavour later went beyond the initial mandate, resulting in some citizens expressing reservations on British involvement in the conflict and particularly at a time when their economy was on the rocks. It is, therefore,discernable that strong public opinion against any military strike on Syria is as a result of the mistakes made in the past. Recently, the Chancellor warned that defeat of the PM can only be construed to mean a wane in British influence globally and a blow to the relationship between British and the US. Probably not, because majority of the general populace still believes in upholding of human rights and adopting a total isolationist policy is not in the offing.
Much talk has been about finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict. The Indian PM emphasised this recently in his talks with the US President Barack Obama and also at the UN General Assembly. This probably was one of the strongest indications that a military strike may not forestall the bloodshed. The growing complexity of the conflict with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah backing the government, and some of the key original revolutionists feeling their cause has been hijacked; only means that the war will go on and become more protracted if there is no general consensus on the need for a military solution.
Part of the reason why Cameron lost was the reasoning that British needs to wait for a report of the UN inspectors on the claim that Assad has a stockpile of chemical weapons. Connected to this was the uncertainty on who actually used these weapons, the rebels or the government. There was also the view that any military effort should be endorsed by the UN Security Council, an idea that remains unattainable. The PM still holds a prerogative for a military option under the Royal Prerogative, but such an undertaking in an environment of a divergent public opinion can be fatal.
There is still some way that Britain can help bring an end to the Syrian bloodshed. Going back to the Indian PM’s passionate appeal for a political solution; British finds an opportunity to help end the stalemate in Syria. The signs are good. Assad’s recent cooperation with the UN Inspectors and willingness to put his chemical weapons under international watch is an indication of a possible intent to negotiate.
This opens a window for the nations of the world to escalate dialogue, particularly the US, Russia, China and Iran. The latter having shown strong determination to emerge from its reclusive nature. British should join and even spearhead a new wave of negotiations that is transparent and fair. In the meantime its obligation to the world should be shown by increasing non-military aid to the citizens of Syria who have been the main victims in this conflict.
Rosen, Michael , Jonathan Wolff and Catriona Mackinnon. Political Thought. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.