Mr Obama has shown wisdom in asking Congress for approval of any military strike against Syria. His words were well chosen. Correctly identifying the American public, like the British public, as war weary, he ascribed to them a good motive. He said they understood the USA cannot resolve the deep and ancient conflicts of Syria by bombing.
That is exactly the main point some of us were making in the Commons on Thursday. Far from marginalising the UK or rewriting the UK’s future role as a non power, our debate has clearly sparked some new thinking in the Oval Office. The President referred to our vote. He either wants the US Congress to do the same, to get him off the hook, or for the US Congress to explain and define a military action he could take that could unite the American people again behind such intervention.
I think the US Congress will find it difficult to overcome well based war weariness by the American people. It is now their shared political challenge with the President, who understands in a democracy you need broad support if you are to visit death and destruction on other countries, however evil their governments.
Those of us who did not support limited cruise missile attacks on Syria did so for the best of reasons. Such attacks can kill the innocent as well as the guilty, they can harden the resolve of bad men, and they can get in the way of the eventual political process needed to resolve Syria’s internal conflicts. Sometimes you have to tell your “closest ally” just that, and sometimes he is wise enough to listen.