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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs