The day after the defeat of his motion in the House of Commons on the principle of military action against Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would continue to seek a “robust response” to the Syrian crisis.
The day-long debate on Thursday followed by the vote in which 285 voted against military intervention and 272 for, with several Tory parliamentarians switching sides, is being seen as a measure of how out-of-touch Mr. Cameron has been with the anti-war mood of the nation. This was reflected not just in the vote, but also in the soul-searching debate that preceded it, in which an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians, including significant numbers from Mr. Cameron’s own party and from the Liberal Democrats, spoke with revulsion on the prospect of the U.K.’s involvement in a war.
Mr. Cameron later acknowledged that the Commons vote “reflected the great skepticism of the British people”, who were unwilling to get involved in another war in West Asia. He, however, said he would continue to work with his allies to bring “maximum pressure on the regime” through non-military means.
Thursday’s session was to get the Lower House’s approval on the principle of taking military action as a humanitarian gesture towards the Syrian people, to be followed by a second vote of approval before an actual strike. Whether concrete evidence of the Assad regime’s hand in the chemical weapons attack will win more support for Mr. Cameron remains to be seen, though this will mean going before Parliament again, a course of action that Mr. Cameron may be reluctant to take after what happened on Wednesday.
The ghost of the 2003 Iraq War hung over the Commons debate with members recalling the costs of a war made on the false premise that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. There were several references to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s ill-conceived and hasty decision to send British troops in.
The absence of compelling evidence on the involvement of the Bashar-al-Assad regime in the chemical weapons attack was a misgiving shared by many members. That due process had not been followed with respect to getting Security Council support for military intervention was another deeply-troubling aspect of Mr. Cameron’s strategy for many members.