Imaginary terror exposed

warThe decision by the House of Commons not to agree (even in principle) to Britain’s military intervention in Syria was surprising and uplifting.
There will be three immediate consequences.

1. We will not open yet another front on the war against terror by declaring war on the Syrian regime of President Assad
2. David Cameron and William Hague’s reputation as international statesmen will be diminished
3. Ed Milliband will emerge, for the first time as a credible leader.

The party political consequences will be put to one side; it will not be till 2015 that we will be able to assess whether this debacle has seriously impaired the Conservative’s chance of re-election. However, the confidence that this will give the Opposition in the short-term should make for an interesting 18 months for all three major parties and for those who enjoy proper political debate. Perhaps for the first time since New Labour, we have a credible Labour party and a credible Labour leader.

The credibility of the Cameron/Hague case was based on open-sourced evidence, primarily the kind of photo and video journalism that we are now used to. We can now source so much of this through social media streams that we seem to be looking at it maturely. Shocking as the photos and videos are, we seem to be viewing them in a wider context that accepts these are only fragments of a wider pattern of suffering.

In a brilliant vox-pop from Damascus on Radio 5 yesterday, I heard an eloquent Syrian reminding us that to be killed by a bullet or asphyxiated by a chemical agent is not much different if you are the victim. The emotional impact is on the viewer. He went on to point out that the horror of chemical weapons is that they are an immediate threat to anyone whereas the mass-slaughter that has been going on for two years in Syria, is a local problem.

For many, myelf included, it seemed that we were being asked to go to war for the selfish reason that we could not tolerate the threat of a chemical attack full stop. The Syrians seem united only in viewing Western interventionism as self-serving. It seems that the majority of MPs agreed. We may feel morally outraged by one atrocity after another but we are learning that we cannot console our consciounces by santioning violence against violence.

Which really gets me to why I am proud of the decision we took last night. For once we have not been bounced into a decision based on the terror or the imagination. Those who have used arguments that by not using weapons, we are legitimising brutality have been voted down. The red line that conveniently gets crossed to justify interventions has been questioned and ultimately found bogus.

What we will find, in our relationship with America, is not the weakness of not following but the strength of our moral conviction. I will be surprised if Obama acts unilaterally because I sense that America will listen to the House of Commons as we have.

Ultimately, Britain has shown itself to be a strong and thoughtful partner to America and has, in a dignified way, concluded that it is not right to intervene militarily. Let us hope that we will be able to use our influence beyond stopping American folly and get the likes of Saudi-Arabia and other local powers to get Assad to see sense.

The destruction he is wreaking on his people and on his nation’s infrastructure already mark him as unfit to rule. If the Middle East is ever going to sort out its problems, it needs to sort out the behaviour of Assad and similar tyrants before the havoc has begun.

I believe that the West has help it can give the fledgling democracies of Egypt, Iraq and Libya and that we can help a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine through our steady and determined adherence to a universal moral code that finds expressions in the various human rights conventions enacted by the UN and similar bodies.

We may ever, through the brave vote of parliament, go some way to bringing Russia back into the fold of democratic nations with our common purpose.

It was a good night for British democracy and I do indeed feel proud to be British on this day. It was a day when sense prevailed over terror and reason over the nightmares of imaginary fears.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Imaginary terror exposed

  1. Mike Atkin says:

    Mr T – I also felt a sense of elation on hearing the news. For too long our leaders have engaged in such escapades, more for their own reputation with the International Community, than for any benefit for our own or the target country (and all the time ignoring human disasters elsewhere with no political kudos attached). We need to establish a realistic position in the world order relative to what WE can both afford and truly influence for the better, which isn’t very much at the moment.

    • henry tapper says:

      Your points about what we can do/afford to do are well made!

      There is a lot of suffering that goes untold and you’re right- there’s something selective about all this

  2. Martin says:

    Some good points Henry but sadly more likely that there will be further atrocities in Syria leaving those who voted against the motion last night looking increasingly heartless. I do not want to live in a world where we let such dreadful behaviour go unchecked, even if in another country. There are no winners here and a pity to look at this as a UK centric political fight for credibility.

  3. Mike Atkin says:

    You are already living in a world where this dreadful behaviour goes unchecked. The reality is that, this dreadful behaviour, occurs somewhere in the world on a daily basis. Or are you suggesting we only react when its in the headlines and chemical weapons are used. The middle east will not be sorted out until the middle east sorts itself out. This will likely never happen because of the massive Jewish lobby in the USA which means that Israel will never have to get on with its neighbours and Palestinians will be ground down for decades to come (Sort that one out?)
    and its highly unlikely that the Shi’ites and Sunnis are going to be chums anytime soon.
    If not hundreds, then thousands of children die every day from disease and malnutrition and cruelty and abuse. What about them. Lets give over the GDP of the UK to everyone else to sort out their problems. Or maybe thats not a practical solution. We need to be realistic and we need to be able to trust the government to represent the wider view of their populous. I believe we made some progress on those fronts last night.
    Have a good weekend.

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