5 Great Implications From The UK’s Vote Against Intervening in Syria

To say that David Cameron was surprised when Parliament stood on its hind legs, bit him on the snout, and refused to follow the Iraq and Afghanistan balls-ups with another one is a vast understatement. Even more impressive was his deference to the people’s will as embodied in its elected representatives. Despite having the power to declare war unilaterally, Cameron has solidified a constitutional convention whereby the Prime Minister must seek Parliament’s approval before declaring war, thereby…

1. Halting the “Runaway Executive”

Constraining the Executive–grown bloated as it menaces a diminished Legislature in both the US and the UK thanks to the War on Terror–is a clear and obvious way to achieve the libertarian goal of making the state less warlike. Instead of the will of just one man, many hundreds of people of contrasting political views and backgrounds must be persuaded. Even better, Cameron’s example has forced Obama to consult his country’s legislature. If we are lucky, Congress will emulate the House of Commons.

2. Watching Chickenhawks Get Called Out

It is seldom seemly to gloat when people mired in a very deep hole continue to dig, but watching the likes of Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer get chopped to pieces in the tournament of public debate is delicious. This head-chopping job by Reason’s Nick Gillespie is particularly notable, but there are plenty of other tasty morsels to be had.

3.  Wanting More Data for WMDs

Libertarians weren’t the only ones wondering aloud why a chemical weapons attack that killed perhaps a thousand people was such a game-changer when 100,000 people were already dead. Few people realize that most of the nasties labelled “Weapons of Mass Destruction” are neither effective when deployed en masse nor particularly destructive. Indeed, the prohibition on chemical weapons is particularly irrational: it exists largely because Hitler refused to use them, despite Germany having extensive stockpiles of the stuff. His reason? Hitler was the victim of a gas attack during WWI and nearly lost what his fellow soldiers acknowledged to be a beautiful and melodious speaking voice. Chemical weapons became stigmatized as “the weapon even Hitler wouldn’t use.” Obama’s “red line” is thus pretty meaningless.

4. Taking Some Time Out of the “Special Relationship”

It didn’t take long for Facebook to sprout memes featuring David Cameron and Barack Obama’s new “it’s complicated” relationship. However, the relationship isn’t Cameron’s, but that of the House of Commons and the people it represents. And the two countries remain close: what the Commons vote shows is a Britain unwilling to be America’s poodle, while also protecting a future US president from the sort of glib charm that made Tony Blair such an effective advocate for the 2003 Iraq invasion. Blair was far cleverer and more charismatic than his US counterpart.

5. Dear Middle East: You Have No Insurance

All our interventions in this region have bought us is hatred. Not only are our soldiers and aid workers killed in some corner of a foreign field that is not, alas, forever England, but religious wingnuts also seek to blow us up at home. This then allows our overmighty governments to piss everyone’s civil liberties down the drain. It’s time for a bit of national responsibility (call it a foreign policy version of “personal responsibility”): the countries of the Middle East have to sort their sectarian hatreds and wars of religion themselves. We cannot do it for them.