I am an internationalist, not an isolationist. The headlong rush to inaction is as bad as the headlong rush to war

by Stephen Tall on August 30, 2013

18 March 2003: I remember how I felt when the House of Commons voted to approve military action against Iraq. Sad. But not surprised. Sad because like millions of others, many of whom I marched with, I did not believe the case for war had been made and that we were rushing headlong into a conflict we were likely to make worse. But not surprised because with most Labour and almost all Conservative MPs four-square behind military action the vote was a formality.

29 August 2013: Today, following Parliament’s decision to rule out military action against Syria, I feel both sad and surprised. Sad because though I do not believe the case for intervention has yet been made and I think it quite likely that UK military intervention could make matters worse the option to get involved has been closed down. And surprised because MPs (on all sides) have voted for pre-emptive inaction.

At the start of this week I was dismayed by the headlong rush to war. I was relieved when on Wednesday it became clear that rush had been slowed. It looked like we were adopting the right approach: proceeding cautiously, awaiting the UN inspectors to report, working through our options, ruling nothing out.

I end this week even more dismayed. MPs last night voted to ignore whatever evidence may yet emerge, to turn away from intervening no matter what. I am an internationalist, not an isolationist. It was too soon to approve military action. But it was way too soon to reject it when so much is still unclear. Depressed and ashamed, says Paddy: me too.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.