The US strikes against Syria haven’t started yet. President Obama’s Rose Garden statement and the fact Congressional leaders are being briefed on the intelligence tomorrow suggest that there’ll be no strikes today. (Update, 19.00: Obama has now said he’s going to seek authorisation from Congress before acting, meaning they’ll be no strikes until both chambers have voted in favour).
When assessing the consequences for the ‘special relationship’ of Britain not being involved, we need to remember why the Americans are acting. They’re doing so largely because Obama declared that chemical weapons use by Assad was a red line. For the sake of America’s credibility in the world, he has to show that crossing the red lines he imposes has consequences.
This means that the US-led strikes will be limited. One consequence of this is that Britain sitting on the sidelines matters less. If the Americans were intent on regime change and boots on the ground, they would mind this country’s absence from the fight a lot more.
The ‘special relationship’ has been through far worse than this and survived, Harold Wilson’s refusal to send troops to Vietnam really did infuriate Washington. But the question is whether the Syria vote shows a Britain moving away from a global role, as Crispin Blunt and Matthew Parris hope, or whether it was just the rejection of a not brilliantly made case for involvement in strikes whose purpose is not clear.Tags: Barack Obama, President Obama, Special Relationship, Syria