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Peace in our time?

I hope the Special Relationship with the US has not been irrevocably harmed by last night’s events in the House of Commons, but I fear there will be some collateral damage.

Either way, the defeat for the British government over action against Syria was a shaming moment that we could soon come to regret.

Although I’m proud of the roles the UK military has played in modern history, I’m also realistic enough to accept we are not the power we once were. Any military strike against Syria would have been a US mission. But we should have been standing proud alongside our closest allies.

Instead, my country has decided it is not going to be part of a coalition prepared to fight to uphold international law, and for that I am ashamed.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour opposition, has a lot to answer for. On the one hand, he did what Opposition leaders should do – he opposed. He was quite right to put pressure on David Cameron over such an important issue.

But if there were ever any doubt that Miliband was simply playing party politics, his real motives have been exposed by his subsequent comments.

Miliband made it clear during the debate that he was not opposed to intervention per se – he was simply against the so-called rush to war. But after the drama in parliament, he changed his tune and said: “I think military intervention is now off the agenda for Britain, because the prime minister tried to go for an artificial political timetable for intervention.”

In other words, although Miliband initially claimed the vote was about the prime minister’s handling of the situation, he’s now using it as cover to prevent ANY action at ANY time.

The main argument seems to be that we should let the wretched UN sort this out. Yet anyone with even half a brain cell will tell you that the Russians are not about to abandon Syria – their closest Middle Eastern ally.

The idea that the UN should lead on this issue is tantamount to saying that any ally of Russia (or China, for that matter) can act with impunity from now on.

Using this argument, Hitler (who was an ally of Russia at the start of the second world war) would have gone unpunished for his gassing of millions had there been a UN back then, and had we not already been at war with him.

There are arguments to be made about why we should not intervene in Syria – the Al Qaeda link, further civilian deaths, mission creep etc – but blaming a lack of respect for the UN is not one of them.

The majority of my fellow Britons do not support intervention. However, while I don’t usually hold Paddy Ashdown up as a role model, he hit the nail on this head this morning when he said: “When Neville Chamberlain returned to Britain after Munich with the piece of paper in his hand saying ‘peace in our time’, he was the most popular prime minister we have ever had, for a brief period, and Churchill was deeply unpopular. Which of those two was right?”

To the US and our other allies, please be assured that we are not all roast-beef-eating surrender monkeys. And to the poor men, women and children in Syria (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-23892594), sorry.

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