Barack Obama is president now because he opposed a war, from the start. I imagine Ed Miliband knows this. I think he also knows that his Labour colleague Tony Blair is among the most reviled people in Great Britain, a nation that really knows how to revile. So Miliband, the leader of the U.K. opposition, blocked a vote in the House of Commons on using military force against Syria, enraging Prime Minister David Cameron and likely pleasing the majority of Britons who are opposed to action.
Cameron, or at least a Cameron spokesman, called Miliband a bunch of very mean names, but he should perhaps direct his wrath at Blair and George W. Bush. If the Western liberal interventionists can’t get their nice little humanitarian bombing mission through the democratic process, well, who do you suppose they have to blame? Maybe don’t spend a decade incompetently trying to remake Iraq and Afghanistan through force and then leaving both nations in shambles if you still want everyone to be gung-ho about military intervention. This is, all in all, a good argument for a parliamentary system — two presidential system nations now plan to go ahead with a strike without the support of the elected representatives of the will of the whole people — but just about everything in American politics over the last decade has been a good argument for a different system.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that if this were the 1990s, the entire Western community (Western Europe and us) would already be bombing by now, likely without much public or political outcry. But the Iraq nightmare, from the cooked intelligence to the shifting rationales to the horrific occupation to the inevitable slinking away in defeat, ruined the whole game. It’s a lot harder now to pretend that dropping bombs on far-off lands can ever be neat, “surgical” and strictly “humanitarian.” (And dear U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, this is not helping your case much.) Now the U.K.’s out, and if (when) the U.S. and France go at it, it will likely be without the approval of the United States Congress….