UK Ditches US on Syria: Bye Special Relationship!

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/30/2013 11:44:00 AM
In 2010 I wrote about the UK Parliament publishing documents about how it should have a foreign policy more independent from that of the US, special relationship be damned. This, of course, came a few years after Tony Blair was portrayed in British media as Bush's poodle. At the time, few believed that the UK was striking out more on its own and thought the publication did not mean much of anything. These folks included my then-boss Michael Cox who is considered one of the most prominent British experts on US foreign policy.

However, the first big litmus test for UK foreign policy independence--hastily convening Parliament during the summer break to decide on British participation in planned US air strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons--went against America. It was not quite a thumping defeat at 285-272, but it was a defeat nonetheless. This time Labour had no intention of Blairing things up, while enough renegade Tories sunk their own leader's please to tag along with Sammy on yet another (foolhardy) caper.

So, what are the implications now that the Americans cannot get their erstwhile sidekicks to play along?
  1. The United States has lost the support of its staunchest ally even for what promises to be a very limited intervention. Unlike what several warmongers and pacifists believe, the US action will likely involve a bombing campaign and no "boots on the ground." Still, war fatigue looks to have set in with the British public as their lawmakers turned down this vote. To paraphrase the Yanks, what kind of persuasion does the Lone Ranger--and it increasingly looks like one--if it can't get Tonto to tag along?
  2. The United States helped Saddam gas the Iranians and is now poised to bomb the Syrians over using similar weapons. The easiest thing in the world to do is demonstrate American hypocrisy since it is so easy. Recently, Foreign Policy published a feature which strongly suggests the US guided then-ally Saddam as to where its Iranian foes would be. Knowing full well that Iraq used chemical weapons, it provided this information that resulted in Iraq again deploying said weapons. When it comes to chemical weapons, then, the US is highly vulnerable to accusations that it discriminates against Shi'ite regimes. Not only did it effectively coordinate Saddam's chemical attacks against Iranians, but it is now contemplating conventional attacks against the Shi-ite-led regime still nominally heading Syria. 
In its own way, Syria is a problem with no easy solutions. After all, there are good reasons why actions is only being contemplated now. However, that the world's so-called superpower must go it alone does show its declining influence even on those who were stalwart allies in years gone by.

The special relationship is well and truly dead, my friend. Goodbye and good riddance to all that. The United States' misadventures and wild goose chases it can keep for itself.