30 August, 2013

Useful Idiots

I don't have much time for Ed Miliband, and don't think he is the right man even for his own party, but there is no doubt he has played a blinder on the Syria debate.

First, he said that we should wait a couple of days for the UN Inspectors' report. Cameron had been ready to attack without seeing it. I don't know if you remember this with Iraq a decade ago, but there was never any time for the weapons inspectors; we had to go in now, now now, and Hans Blix was pulled out. I smelled a rat then and I smell one here.

So the debate, no longer being about authorising the Government to unleash tons of sophisticated ordnance on an already terrorised people, was about the principle of our fighting in Syria, and Miliband's Labour Party together with 39 coalition rebels voted it down.

There is much talk of this being a heavy defeat for Cameron, and Nick Robinson, the BBC politics editor, said it showed he was not on top of the foreign policy of his own party. In my opinion he will get over this fairly quickly.

What this has been about is Britain's place in the world. Many of us were getting fed up with the idea that we have to join every war. The spurious logic inflicted on us appears to be that we have to have a huge military because of our international role, and then, given we have a huge military, we have to use it. At the time of the Gulf War the Conservative Opposition, led by Ian Duncan Smith, followed unquestioningly the rather dodgy antics of Tony Blair, taking the attitude that 'if there's a fight, we're up for it'. And it's better if the whole thing is near some oil, have you noticed?

Many people don't want this. We never seem to use our superb military for humanitarian reasons; we didn't intervene in Rwanda, we didn't help Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, a former colony, we didn't stir a muscle when Mugabe was starving his own people in Zimbabwe, another former colony. But anything America decides is strategic and we're sharpening the blades on our bayonets.

Another thing I must mention is that it makes even less sense slavishly following Obama than it did Bush. Dubya genuinely liked and respected us. Obama hates Britain, and as discussed in these pages, has gone out of his way to show it. We would have been nothing more in this adventure than what Lenin called 'useful idiots'.

In my view it is not too much to say that the burden borne on British backs since colonial times has suddenly been lifted, and the British people can look forward this morning to a bright new future as an independently minded nation.

And, remarkably, it is largely due to Ed Miliband.

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