Time was when we intervened militarily we were defending a trade route to India or seeking to keep open the Suez Canal. Those interventions had mixed outcomes, but at least there was a defined UK purpose for them. Today we intervene because we think we should back some factions in a civil war, or because we do not like the autocrat in charge, without there being any express UK interest in change, and without any guarantee that the replacement will be better than what has gone before.
The Foreign Office seems to believe that we need to operate alongside the US for fear of losing the special relationship. The relationship has always been more special to the UK than to the US. After all, the US did not rush to our side during the 1939-40 crsis, when the future of democratic self government in these islands was directly threatened. It took Pearl Harbour to make us brothers in arms.
Nor did the UK’s sensible refusal to join the Viet Nam War end all military and diplomatic co-operation between the UK and the US thereafter. The US came to accept that Viet Nam was a war too far for us, and in due course for the US as well.
The Foreign Office also seems to think that to keep our place on the UN Security Council we need to be seen to be fighting wars on a regular basis. Yet Russia keeps her seat on the Security Council when she takes a very different view to the majority or to the US view. The only threat to the UK’s seat on the UN is the EU, not our war fighting practices. There has been no diplomatic movement within the UN to set the UK a war fighting target to stay on the top table. Many UN countries would be happy if we joined in fewer wars.
The UK’s stature in world diplomacy would surely rise if we did not automatically back the US, and if we fought fewer wars with greater moral purpose and more obvious military success. The Falklands was a successful campaign in a just cause which was worth fighting. Our Middle Eastern activities are altogether more problematic.
PS There is a move led by Andrew Bridgen MP and Julian Lewis MP to make sure there would be a Parliamentary debate and vote prior to any supply of arms to Syria. There may be around 100 Conservative MPs, and possibly the Labour party, who take this view.