Are the British Putting the Brakes on the Syria War Train?

How It Works
Aug. 28 2013 7:00 PM

Are the British Putting the Brakes on the Syria War Train?

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street in London on June 26, 2013, to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons following a Cabinet meeting.

Photo by Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images

Of all the names expected to be pivotal in the run-up to a possible international intervention in Syria, British Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband probably wasn’t one of them. But tonight,the New York Times reports that the Prime Minister David Cameron is now taking a more cautious line on Syria after an uproar from Parliament:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The British signal that it would not rush to military action came late Wednesday when the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, aware of the sensitivities created by the rush to war in Iraq a decade ago, altered the language of a motion to be voted on by Parliament on Thursday so that a separate vote on military action would be required. That vote may not take place until next week.


George Eaton of the New Statesman gives some background on Miliband’s moves today:

He announced on Twitter that the party would table an amendment to the government's (then non-existent) motion requiring Cameron to return to the Commons to consult MPs after the UN team had reported on the Ghouta massacre. He added: "Parliament must tomorrow agree criteria for action, not write a blank cheque." Labour sources subsequently briefed that were the amendment not accepted, the party would vote against the motion.

After initially ruling out a second vote, Cameron appears to have blinked after seeing signs of an “incipient rebellion on the Tory backbenches.”

Meanwhile, in a transparent bid to keep the weapons inspectors on the ground as long as possible, the Syrian government has suddenly discovered three previously unreported chemical weapons sites for them to visit.

It would be hard to imagine the White House ordering strikes without the support of the British—in essence going into battle without even the Bush administration’s coalition of the willing on board. But it also seems like it will only get harder for the Obama administration to sell the moral and legal case for this operation the farther we get from last week’s atrocities.

Today’s events at Westminster are also a reminder of why Congress isn’t going to be asked for its input on Syria any time soon.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s  Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
Sept. 22 2014 12:07 PM Divestment Isn’t the Answer To destroy demand for fossil fuels, universities can do a lot better than just selling some stocks.
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 12:00 PM Dear Prudence Live Chat For September 22, 2014.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 11:32 AM South Park Takes on Washington’s NFL Team and Its Terrible Name
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 11:23 AM Robot Plants Are the Latest in a Long Line of Robot Thingies
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 11:23 AM Two Impacts, One Landslide… on Mercury
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.