Should the Commons vote again on Syria strikes?
No, says Joe Turnbull, who obtained a first class in Politics from the University of Manchester. Since graduating, Joe has been the subeditor of two emerging culture and opinion magazines Novel and Gorilla Film. Joe currently writes for Frieze, Garageland and The Upcoming amongst others.
“It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.” So said prime minister David Cameron in response to the Commons vote on potential intervention in Syria. I can hardly think of a more unequivocal statement, so in the interests of accountability it is imperative that Cameron stays true to his word.
Cameron hit the nail on the head in saying that parliament is supposed to represent the views of the British public, not manipulate them; parliament has spoken, it would be undemocratic to make them vote again on the same issue so soon.
The defeat – the first on an issue of war by a sitting government since 1782 – has become a political embarrassment for the Government, and I believe a re-vote would have more to do with political point-scoring than on helping the people of Syria.
Undoubtedly, parliament has reflected what polls show is the resounding response of the British public. YouGov’s latest polling shows only 25% of people would support the use of missiles in Syria, whilst only 9% would support sending troops.
Even less extreme measures have meagre support, just 10% favour sending military supplies to anti-Assad forces. Interestingly, YouGov has found that support for military action in Syria has actually deteriorated over the past few months, even in light of the alleged use of chemical weapons.
This sentiment is the result of the shadow cast by Afghanistan and Iraq, which it is estimated claimed over a million lives. In times of austerity does it make sense to spend money on war? Afghanistan alone cost the UK taxpayer £37 billion. In the words of Tony Benn: “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”
Maybe, says Ludovic Caritey, journalism graduate, current affairs writer at The Upcoming and French alternative newspaper Actualutte.
Recent events have shown that the political establishment is as torn as many of us about an intervention in Syria.
It is the first time in hundreds of years that a British government has been blocked from executing a military deployment and it highlights the deep mistrust of official intelligence in the wake of the Iraq war.
Although I am, for the most part, against the UK and US acting as the world’s policemen, this vote was about authorising the possibility of strikes against military targets and not about regime change.
The parliament was clearly scared of acting against public opinion with the Labour party unwilling to support the government after its ill-fated decision to champion the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But the situation in Syria is different. The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is a serious threat to the population and there are strong humanitarian grounds to intervene.
Many people will be thinking “why now?”. The answer is that the gassing of men, women and children is a particularly horrendous crime, and a breach of a ban that has been intact since the 1920s.
If Assad were to use chemical weapons again on a big scale, no doubt that public opinion could shift but do we want another massacre of innocent Syrian families before acting?
There is obviously no guarantee that strikes against military targets will work, but there is every certainty that if nothing is done to punish the use of chemical warfare, it will encourage the Syrian regime to pursue those actions. The installation of a no fly zone would prevent the population from being bombed indiscriminately and it would also show Assad and his supporters that he truly is vulnerable.
The international community is now awaiting the result of tests carried out by UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria, and David Cameron has emphasised the need for new information before another vote.
If unequivocal evidence was to be found, the parliament should be asked to vote a second time. The government should also include an amendment stipulating that no British troops will ever be sent in on the ground.
Yes, says Aastha Gill, freelance journalist, page designer and photographer and current affairs writer at The Upcoming.
If voting again by British parliamentarians can stop “another Hitler in making”, then yes, the Commons should vote again.
It’s a shame that prime minister David Cameron lost a symbolic but important parliamentary vote by 285 to 272 and Britain today must stand aside watching innocent people being killed in Syria.
MP’s sheer rejection to take part in military action against Syria whilst considering the UK’s involvement in recent conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq should not stop the UK intervening in countries and conflicts abroad on humanitarian grounds.
Parliament should think again, or, as our prime minister righteously said: “Our past mistakes should not paralyse our ability to stand up for what is right.”
President Bashar al-Assad and his government have blatantly violated international laws and treaties to which Syria is a signatory by gassing its own civilian population in Damascus. It would be pusillanimous if the world and especially the UK did not raise its voice, as otherwise it would give the dictators and fundamental regimes of the world a free hand with no fear of reprisal.
To me, not acting is not an option. The world would be a much more dangerous place without moderators, as it is today in Syria. Without any deterrence, we could be looking at the same situation tomorrow in North Korea, Iran or even Russia.
However, full evidence should precede any action taken, once the UN reports reveal enough evidence that chemical weapons were used by Assad’s government on 21 August, Mr Cameron should recall parliament.
A vote supporting the people of Syria and against use of any violence against civilians by authoritarian regimes, would not only send the right message to the world but would also help re-instate Britain’s reputation as beacon of freedom and fundamental human rights.