News / Europe

Britain Fears Being Sidelined As US, France Debate Syria Strikes

Britain Fears Being Sidelined As US, France Debate Syria Strikesi
X
September 09, 2013 9:05 PM
As the U.S. considers launching military strikes against Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use, there is much concern in Britain over the country's future role in the world after a parliamentary vote ruled out military action. In a country that has long prided itself on its ability to "punch above its weight," fears are growing that Britain’s global reputation is fading. More from Henry Ridgwell in London.
Henry Ridgwell
As the U.S. considers launching military strikes against Syria over alleged chemical weapons use, there is much concern in Britain over the country's future role in the world after a parliamentary vote ruled out military action. In a country that has long prided itself on its ability to "punch above its weight," fears are growing that Britain’s global reputation is fading.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated Britain’s support for military action against Syria when he hosted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in London Monday.

But Britain won’t take part itself after parliament voted against it late last month.

That shock result has prompted a period of soul-searching among politicians and media over whether Britain’s treasured "special relationship" with the U.S. is finished. Chris Brown is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“We care more about the special relationship than they do because we’re the junior partner. And we’re now even more junior than we were two weeks ago; I think that’s certainly true," said Brown.

Since the turn of the century, Britain has fought alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. Along with France, the allies worked together on the intervention in Libya in 2011.

Britain won’t take part in any strikes on Syria - but that doesn’t mean it’s doing nothing, says lawmaker Ben Wallace of the ruling coalition’s Conservative party.

“We are going to go and redouble our efforts in other ways - humanitarian, negotiated peace, and trying to get parties together. And I think Britain shouldn’t just think its power is derived from firing missiles. It has power all over the world in other areas. And, on the other side, Britain has tremendous intelligence capabilities," said Wallace.

Recent polls show only 1 in 5 British people support taking part in strikes on Syria. Parliament’s vote expressed the democratic will of the people - and that’s respected, says LSE's Chris Brown.
    
 “It did wonders, if you like, for Britain’s soft power. It may have hurt Britain’s hard power image, but in terms of Britain’s image within Western Europe at least, it didn’t do it any harm at all," he said.

But Brown says beyond Western Europe, military cutbacks and an apparent lack of appetite for intervention are affecting Britain’s reputation.

At the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg Friday, media reported that a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Britain as "just a small island." The spokesman denied making the remarks - but British Prime Minister David Cameron launched an impassioned defense.

“Yes, we are a small island, in fact a small group of islands. But I would challenge anyone to come up with a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart, with a greater resilience," said Cameron.

But Cameron - and future prime ministers - will find it increasingly difficult to get parliamentary backing, said Brown.

 “A precedent has been set. And I think it will be very difficult to get a House of Commons majority, in future, for this sort of action," he said.

With military action off the table, Britain says it is determined to take the lead on humanitarian relief - and has pledged to boost total spending on Syria to $628 million.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs