Great Britain became more European on Thursday, August 29th, when the parliament refused to give its Prime Minister the support he wanted (but did not need) for air strikes against Syria. Now David Cameron has been humiliated and a precedent for future war authorizations has been set.
The British public and the members of parliament are haunted by the Iraq war syndrome, tired of a decade of war, and concerned by a) lack of sufficient evidence that Syria’s military was responsible for the chemical attack, b) lack of legality and c) lack of strategy. The “special relationship” with the United States has been damaged heavily, although it must be said that its importance has been exaggerated in the past.
Britain is now more European. This could turn out to be more of a bad than a good thing, but I am optimistic as there could be more unity when strategic cultures are similar. Most other observers see this negatively, even describe Britain as turning into Switzerland or Germany. Yep, that’s supposed to be an insult.
Despite all the tons of legitimate criticism against Cameron and Miliband for how they organized the parliamentary debate, I do appreciate that the Members of Parliament returned from their vacation to debate Syria for some six hours. That's a sharp contrast to Germany’s parliamentarians. The country that first used chemical weapons on a massive scale in WWI and thus has some special responsibility.
Berlin should have started a diplomatic initiative to get Russia to help to secure the chemical weapons. Finding common ground with Moscow is not impossible. That’s different from the dominating approach of getting Russia to support whatever the West wants. Compromise and the art of the possible is what diplomacy is all about. See the Atlantic Memo Thinking Beyond Intervention: A Limited Transatlantic Policy Towards Syria, which we produced at my day job at atlantic-community.org in an Online Memo Workshop in June.
Unfortunately I did not manage to mention all this in the interview with "Inforadio", sort-of Berlin's equivalent to NPR. I was asked about the UK-US "special relationship", what happened yesterday and what will the US do now.
While I lack the time for regular blogging, I have been very active on Twitter, reaching now nearly 1,000 follower. Below and on Storify are are some of my tweets on Germany, the UK, France and the US in the context of Syria: