UK Syria vote leaves US asking 'what's so special?'

Protesters outside the White House against military intervention in Syria Americans have shown scant interest in intervention in Syria

The vote of British MPs against military intervention in Syria is likely to send shock waves through the Obama administration. Britain has tended to march in lockstep with the US and this rejection of President Barack Obama's argument will leave bruises.

Before the vote the administration was fairly sanguine about David Cameron's difficulties and the delay in the UK joining any action.

It may be a different story now that it is clear Britain, so often cast as America's poodle, won't take part at all.

A senior administration official has told the BBC that they will continue to consult with the UK government, whom they call "one of our closest allies and friends".

But the official adds: "President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the US. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the US and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable."

In other words, America could go it alone.

But that is uncomfortable. There is no question that it has the military might, though that is hardly the point.

Mr Obama has always made a point of seeking the widest possible international support.

To be abandoned by such a close ally leaves him looking particularly exposed.

My guess is that there will be renewed emphasis on the role of the French, the Turks and perhaps others. It will strengthen the hand of those in Congress who argue they should have their own vote.

It undermines the effort of the president to sell action to his own people, who seem to be deeply unimpressed by his arguments so far (the last opinion poll I saw had just 9% backing intervention).

I imagine there will be a lot of apologetic British officials in Washington trying to reassure their American counterparts that this is a one-off and won't affect the special relationship.

But that relationship is only to an extent about culture and history and language - it is about the military and intelligence relationship above all.

If Britain can't deliver, it will leave some in the US asking "what's so special?"

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    Countries that violate international norms ....... such as having no regard for international law..... need to be held accountable.
    Most international lawyers say that bombing Syria without UN approval would be against international law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Despite what Marcus Draftdodger and his ilk say, the US-UK relationship is still strong. You may well see a repeat of the Commons vote in Congress assuming Obama has the balls to call it. We would not be much of a friend if we did not have the spine to tell you when you are about to help your enemy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    Parliament has shown its teeth and said no. I suspect we will have another vote after the UN report issues if it shows that Assad was indeed using chemical weapons. And I am sure that it will be a "yes" if so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    I have and continue to hold the relationship between our two nations (USA & UK) in high regard but what has happened to the roar of the mighty British lion? Instead I hear this mewing from Parliament. Has the great British resolve been lost in the sands of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan? Perhaps this is why you were able to burn down the White House in 1814 but unable to move into it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    Lets hope that wise heads will win the day at the St Petersburg conference.Surely we have it within ourselves through modern communications between the G8 to put pressure on all sides to stop fighting in Syria and have a political solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    1002. McJakome

    At least we agree on something! Ref post #917.

    However, I no longer believe my school books that claimed that colonial envy was the prime cause of WW1 - serious books written in the last 10-15 years focus on Austro-Hungarian internal politics and hawkish A-H politicians and soldiers determined to galvanise their own flagging empire with a quick morale-boosting win over Serbia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    The whole thing rests on those two words uttered by Obama in his rhetorical ebullience - RED LINE.The words will haunt him for the rest of his life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    999. Hicky I suggest you actually read a history book, and look for subtitles like "Scramble for Africa" and Boer War, and pay attention to German colonies blocking the Cape to Cairo RR. Even looking at a series of maps of Africa would help cure your vast ignorance. Today's problems come from UK/French dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after WWI. {FYI that includes Syria & Iraq}.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    958 Velvet

    "only being reported by minority sites, not mainstream media?

    Maybe it doesn't fit their agenda. Also inexperienced trainees man the desks at weekends

    980 Hobo

    "vote in England for war - they had Scotland, N. Ireland & Wales to keep them in check"

    Odd how national characteristics still appear after thousands of years - aggressive english v pragmatic celts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    990. MajorKozak
    The major reason was unrestricted German submarine attacks on shipping. Wilson was inclined to help Britain but German and Irish Americans outnumbered British. St. Albans raid was held against Canada & UK. Grudges against England had to be overcome. The Zimmerman Telegram helped. You seem to have a very one-sided knowledge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    987 - I don't know what wonderful educational establishment endowed you with your knowledge but if as a result of it you are under the mistaken belief that either wwI or II were a result of colonial rivalry I suggest you sue them for incompetence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Dear Mr Thomas Moore
    Yes, I can imagine. And I have seen images of comparable horror. Elsewhere.
    You do not say who is responsible.
    And you do not say what YOU are doing about it.
    You do not say what You want me,the reader to do about it.
    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Imagine children playing in the street, on the way home, clutching dolls or toys, suddenly afraid, running home to their mothers, but gasping for breath. Dolls and toys fall as they cover their eyes, their mouths. The children are trying to call their mothers, but there is no sound, and they fall in the dirt of the street. Can you visualize this?

    Now ... imagine the children are British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    Western interest in the Middle East - oil and Israel. Fracking gives the US energy independence for an extra few decades so freeing the ability to act or not. Syria isn't an oil issue but is a difficult Israel one - Assad no interest in directly threatening Israel but supports Hezbollah. The opposition are no friends of Hezbollah but could be a greater long term threat to Israel if Jordan is next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    980, nothing to do with various parts of the UK. What did in Cameron was that 30 of his own Conservative MP's voted against. He could come back, now the UN mission is over, with more data about what went on in Syria but if he lost again his position as Prime Minister would be under threat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    The people arguing about what did/did not happen in WW1/2, etc. are, without exception, missing the point and are probably all idiots.

    Attacking Syria has no benefit for the UK whatsoever; saying we should go for humanitarian reasons is hypocrisy considering we do nothing for those killed in concentration camps in North Korea.

    The US set the 'red line' on chemical weapons; let them defend it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    @990. MajorKozak I learn about a lot of things in history. You ask what US student learn, being a journalist in London seven years, I have to ask the same of UK students.

    I have been a journalist for some 40 years in five countries, a writer, actor and zoologist. Yes there are a lot of ignorant Americans. But no ignorant British? I have studied history, including WW1 and WW2. You sir are a snob.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Americans are not issues but Americans War Stories are a Big Big Bore
    Politician Pollution Corruption PPC on BBC
    Maybe US is more PCP than PC

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    A lot of anti-American sentiment. Okay, that's your choice. "We did not support you on the Falklands". BS. "We would have staved off Hitler without the Yanks." Okay, believe what you want to.

    Suez Crisis? The US and France tried to find a peaceful solution (and did). But the British were Gung-Ho. WW1 and WW2, the US were latecomers, but they certainly helped. And you burned Washington DC


  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    The prime reason for US entry to WW1 was to set itself up as the decision maker of the post-war settlement. At Versailles Wilson played this role to the full. Having done so, the US declined to enter the League of Nations (a Wilson construct), rendering it toothless when faced with Abyssinia, the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Don't US students learn about this?


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