Friday, 30 August 2013

More responses to the Syria votes

The truth is rarely pure and never simple (Wilde). Guido and some media commentators are presenting the defeat of the government's motion last night as a clear challenge to Cameron's leadership. To be sure, there are pretenders to the throne in the list of Tory rebels, but I detect various other strands. There are those Conservatives who object on principle to military adventures where there is no measurable gain to our own interests. There were also many who could see missile strikes doing more harm than good, which is my view.

When an Israeli commander used an internationally-deprecated incendiary chemical on civilians in Gaza, there were no calls to use military means to discourage Israel from deploying white phosphorus shells in future - nor should there have been. (Though there was a good case for impeaching those responsible as war criminals, and I was disappointed that the government moved to give immunity in the UK to such dubious visitors.) World opinion, following an international judicial inquiry, succeeded, albeit over three years later. The key to stopping the oppression in Syria is the Russian government. They have shown that their support for Bashar al-Assad is not unconditional, and the West should work upon that.

We should also double our efforts on the humanitarian front.

The entire ministerial team at the Department for International Development seems to have absented itself from the votes. They tackle the humanitarian issues of conflict day-to-day and also have to keep channels open to administrations throughout the world. I believe that to be seen to be endorsing military action in the middle east would hamper their work, and that they therefore took a practical and ethical decision, not a party political one.

There are calls for the prime minister to sack Justine Greening. This is unlikely because, to be consistent, he would also have to remove coalition members Steve Webb at DWP and deputy government whip Jenny Willott, who also were absent from the vote. Both are doing good jobs.

No comments: