Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria: Is Labour Really Opposed to Military Action ?

The Labour opposition is not realistically going to be able to prevent a military strike if Washington decides upon it.

Ed Miliband's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is a fervent believer in Atlanticism. Alexander studied in the USA, worked for a Democratic Senator in Washington DC and remains a staunch Blairite in principle if not practice. They look to Obama for vision and inspiration.

And Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband supported the disastrous Libya campaign. They are posturing solely in order to distance themselves from the bad dent Iraq had on Blair's fortunes and Labour's election loss. Both are craven and self serving career politicians without integrity.

They are substantially no different from Clegg or Cameron or Hague. The opposition has to be seen to be 'reflecting' the 'public concern'. This does not mean Labour has taken a substantially different line as the amendment makes clear.

The reality is that Miliband needed a boost in his profile and popularity after his 'leadership' was criticised for being indecisive and lame throughout the summer Since the US is prepared to give time for the inspectors, Labour can pose as 'responsible' should any military strikes go badly wrong.

But it can only do that if it is, ultimately, prepared to defy Washington with enough rebel MPs from other parties. It is very difficult to see how enough in Parliament are loyal to their country which does not want war rather than their careers.

The voting on military action has been carefully staged by Cameron and Hague. The first motion is worded carefully so as to contain reference to the house being willing to support a military action should the evidence of the UN inspectors prove sufficient for a case for it to be spun before a second motion.

The test will come if the US pushes on and Cameron tries to browbeat Parliament. Labour is unlikely go against that if the spin can spun prove Assad definitely carried out intentional chemical attacks and some sort of dodgy legal pretext can be cobbled together before a second vote in Parliament happens.

As no vote is legally binding, Cameron and Hague would be able to proceed anyway but will get enough MPs to be whipped into supporting the government line because not enough of them are going actively oppose the government should the US decide that strikes are necessary and legal.

Can anyone imagine Miliband having the backbone to forthrightly condemn Washington and any military action completely ?

Brian Milne.

I agree on what Alexander and Miliband are, but I somehow suspect that they are reflecting the will/opinion of the people. That is two things in one. Firstly, they do get a bit more support for the 2015 election out of this, but secondly it is a reflection of public opinion which is the last thing Cameron and Clegg ever take into account.

Also, it may just be that they have looked at the situation and see that the chemical weapons may not have been the government's doing but of one of the groups attempting to bring Assad's regime down. Perhaps they have also paid attention to the possibility that if the USA rushes in and bombs the place into all round submission, the aftermath will be an encroachment by a radical Islamic regime that will add to the woes of the west. It is that much closer to both Egypt and Turkey that are getting closer and closer to the 'precipice'. As we can see, Egypt is now a mess and can the west afford Turkey becoming hard line Islamic instead of moderate and within the EU?

Karl Naylor.

The Labour amendment only echoes the government motion with further demands that the UN weapons inspectors have the 'necessary opportunity' to report to the security council on their findings. But nobody has denied that the UN inspectors would not be given the opportunity.

The USA has not indicated that the UN inspectors would not be given the opportunity to present their findings. All of the 'conditions' laid down by Labour could be met easily enough if Washington decides military strikes have a 'legal basis in international law.

Apart from Iraq, and even then international law was invoked to justify it, all Britain's wars have been justified by upholding international law in some way. The wording of the Labour amendment is twaddle. They are calling for 'a legal basis' for an action and that could be provided easily enough.

The real argument is not really only about a possible 'legal basis in international law; but about the power political consequences of any military strike. Ultimately, the Labour leaders, in my opinion, will not vote against a military strike if Washington can spin a plausible case.

Attempting to intervene in Syria in accordance with a 'legal basis' shows the absurdity of the way politicians have tended to leave out a discussion of the real politics which is briefly referenced in part six of the Labour amendment,

'action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region'.

The point here is that even if, the 'legal basis' for intervention can be tacked together and Assad is clearly beyond doubt held to have intentionally launched a rocket strike with chemical weapons to kill civilians, any military strike can only be judged on that basis.

Yet there have been no arguments from the Labour opposition on that basis at all so far. This is not the debate either they or the government want. They both prefer wrangling over words and framing devices in presenting any case for military action.

Yet there is no doubt that the debate between the British government and the opposition is about the correct manner in which to proceed and not any deeper discussion as to what the aims of any military strike would be beyond the supposed primacy given to that of chemical weapons.

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