Britain’s vote not to cooperate with the U.S.

Today is Saturday, August 31, 2013. When I first heard that Parliament had voted against cooperating with the U.S. and participating in a potential military strike against Syria, my reaction was a simple, ‘hmm.’   As I mulled this over, however, it dawned on me that this was important.  I began reading different blogs and opinions about it that suggest there is a credibility problem with the U.S. that ultimately goes back to 2003 with Colin Powell’s U.N. presentation to begin the Iraq War.

But thinking about that, something doesn’t quite ring true for me. The U.S. should have a credibility problem that goes back at least to August of 1964 when the Gulf of Tonkin Incident led to the Marines landing at China Beach, Vietnam the following spring of 1965. LBJ’s lie about those events ultimately led to the deaths of some 56,000 young American men, and how many Australians and South Koreans?  Then Nixon and his not-so-secret war in Cambodia and Laos?  Then Reagan and his Iran-Contra scandal? How about beginning in 1985 Reagan’s courting of Saddam Hussein, who was known to have and use chemical weapons?  And it took Britain until the Bush Administration ostensibly lied to them to sense a credibility gap? There could be some younger minds who don’t remember the credibility history of the U.S., but I’m not buying it.  There is something else at play here in the geopolitics of war.

I might be going out on a limb here, but could it not be that the Brits, and I dare say we Americans, just don’t have the stomach for more war? Seriously, I know some hard core Obama supporters and they are beside themselves over the possibility that Obama could attack Syria. It’s my opinion that to do so would seriously erode Obama’s support base both at home and abroad. Given that there are no good outcomes from an attack, no matter how ‘surgical’, it boggles the mind that Obama would allow his military advisers to convince him that Assad has crossed the ‘line in the sand’ and the U.S. must react or lose credibility.  Ironic, isn’t it?

What seems to be at play here is a misplaced macho middle school mentality that dictates a physical blow to any perceived affront to the ego. Obama said he would not tolerate any use of chemical weapons. So, now we have a nerve gas attack and Obama must respond or ‘lose face’. That’s the theory anyway. How old are these people who come up with this stuff, 13?  The White House can’t come up with a more creative, sophisticated response? Is ‘losing face’ really an issue when we’re facing a military strike against another country that could lead to a catastrophe larger than what is currently happening?

So, in the end, I’m thinking this is not about a credibility gap. The Brits did the right thing in rejecting cooperation and participation in any military action against Syria because they no longer feel their alliance with the U.S. necessarily requires rubber-stamping U.S. policy. It is a sane and healthy turn of events in the U.S. relationship with Britain. The American people should ask the government to stop rattling swords and beating the drums as well.  I still think isolating Syria both politically and economically and creating a safety net for the massive movement of refugees that would result is a much better approach than any ‘narrow’ military strike against Syria’s military infrastructure. The risk is too great and the British people understand that.

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