Baroness Falkner on Syria and intervening abroad

I join Paddy Ashdown in feeling depressed about my country today.

In my near thirty years as a Liberal Democrat I have heard two tropes consistently from campaigners: that policy is irrelevant and that foreign policy is particularly irrelevant.  Yet it is foreign policy above all that shapes our party’s fortunes.

Take the SDP split over Europe – that got me into the party in ’85. Then came our opposition to the UK’s ban in letting in Hong Kong residents before the handover to China  – several of my friends joined too, and it put Paddy Ashdown on the map.  In the 90’s it was Bosnia and subsequently Kosovo that made us carry a uniquely and sometimes lonely flag for freedom and humanitarian intervention – last night the same isolationist Foreign Secretary of that period was arguing against doing anything in Syria – some things don’t change!  We subsequently made the right call on Iraq, and will shortly see the trial of Seif Gaddafy in Libya – who threatened to stamp out Libyan dissenters as cockroaches. Despite current troubles, on balance I am proud that we averted that.

But I feel deep shame as I realise this morning that the UK will play no part to save Syrian children from chemical weapons not to mention napalm.  They, and others in similar situation in the future will die in greater numbers unless the US acts, from now on.  For all his faults if you offered me Obama, Putin or Xi Jinping – it would be no contest!  Human Rights and freedom matter for all – not just for us at home.

So what went wrong last night?  A horrid miscalculation by our Prime Minister, but the fault is not Cameron’s alone.  There is a deeper constitutional problem here.  I have just finished serving on a Lords Constitution Select Committee enquiry on the Role of Parliament in the Use of Armed Force. Constitutionally, the Prime Minister exercises powers over the use of force as a Prerogative Power from the Crown.  There is no constitutional requirement to consult parliament, it is supposed to be a decision for the Cabinet.  It was Blair, perversely, who in the face of overwhelming public opposition – nor parliamentary – who turned to a relatively pliant Commons to endorse his Iraqi adventure, in a cynical attempt to garner legitimacy.

Since the coalition we have had Libya, and now Syria. Listening to the debate in the Lords last night – which is supposedly ‘better at foreign affairs’ than the Commons – it was evident how impossible it is for parliamentarians to make informed decisions without the full context.  Government’s legal advice cannot be published; intelligence cannot be disclosed; conversations with foreign governments are confidential; and people with very different expertise cannot be expected to have to analyse several hundred pages of briefing – it is much easier to turn newspapers and Wikipedia.

I found it curious that not a single Lib Dem MP who voted against their government had ever attended a weekly meeting of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, where Martin Horwood and I as Co-Chairs have discussed Syria almost every week since 2011, often with acknowledged experts.  The Committee was established in 2010 precisely to allow a broad input into foreign policy for the backbenchers, but they clearly did not feel the need to know more about a far off country of which they know… nothing.

If we are to change our constitutional framework in the UK, to give parliament more powers we need to do so in a deliberative and considered fashion.  Labour, ironically, submitted a draft bill for the use of a Prime Ministerial Resolution in 2008 to embed a system of consulting parliament before authorising force.  It would have put down a formal, sign-posted and constitutionally appropriate method for the public, media, courts, and parliament to know when, why and on what basis action was being authorised.  As with other reforms, Brown got distracted and never took it though.

It is now time for us Lib Dems to pick up that baton. We need to have an accountable, transparent and responsible system for assessing how to intervene abroad.  We need to fulfil our obligations to others in a more considered fashion so those who look to us to live up to our values and responsibilities are not let down again though sheer political miscalculation.

The Lords debate on Syria

* Kishwer Falkner, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, is a Liberal Democrat and a life peer and the party's lead Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords

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41 Comments

  • I am glad that this was voted down. I am dismayed that the Liberal Democrats in parliament are led by war hawks who think that military action is the solution to problems caused by past military action.

    As for the so-called humanitarian arguments – bombing and war is not the way to save children. War is mass murder, military intervention will kill children and adults. It will further destabalise our world for the foreign policy machinations of an elite.

    Foreign policy is important, and that is why I am glad about this outcome.

  • Little though I expect my wishes to be respected, I could ask never again to see an appeal to “save the children!” in a debate on the use of armed forces. I regard such appeals as being fundamentally calls to suspend one’s rational and critical faculties and go with a gut “protective” instinct — reminiscent of the Great War propaganda posters which illustrated a bloody-handed Hun clutching a limp British maid.

    The fact is that war is hell. War overturns both the rule of law and social conventions and opens the door to murder, theft, rape, vandalism, and all other sorts of atrocities. These things also affect children. Children are killed in war, children are gassed in war, children are raped and molested in war, children are beaten and starved in war. And if the UK were to launch air raids on Damascus in an attack on Syria, Syrian children would have their bones broken, their muscles shredded, their skin burnt, and their organs pulverised by the blast and fragments of exploding British bombs. This is inescapable, no matter how “smart” bombs ever get. Bombs do not discriminate between old and young, or guilty and innocent.

    There is therefore no reason to suppose that attacking Syria would “save the children,” or, indeed, do anything except murder more of them. If you are concerned about “the children” — or, more properly, about the Syrian populace as a whole, adults and children together — then you should be framing plans and proposals for nonmilitary measures and, above all, for a negotiated end to the prolonged Syrian civil war.

  • Tony Harwood 30th Aug '13 - 1:35pm

    I am astounded how out of touch some of our senior party figures are.

    To cite the recent bloody Libyan intervention as a foreign policy success stretches credulity to breaking point. A, by the standards of the region, progressive state with its fragile confederation of disparate peoples and cultures has been bombed into a chaos of tribal fiefdoms, with hard-won social advances plunged back into a brutal medieval anarchy.

    My Council (and I personally) worked closely with Libyan local government under the last regime to share best practice and hosted several visits by, their overwhelimingly young and idealistic, elected local representatives. This would now be inconceivable since the west miltary intervention left the country and its governance in (depleted uranium contaminated) ruins.

  • “But I feel deep shame as I realise this morning that the UK will play no part to save Syrian children from chemical weapons not to mention napalm. ”

    Where is your evidence that Napalm has been used (isn’t that the stuff the US used in Vietnam? – do we need to direct some cruise missiles towards them as well)? Where is your evidence that Assad had anything to do with the authorisation to use chemical weapons? How do you know that a military strike from a distance would prevent further chemical weapons attacks and not escalate the conflict?

    “It was Blair, perversely, who in the face of overwhelming public opposition –”.

    If I remember the polls correctly, Blair was supported by a majority of the public (but not by me), in sharp contrast to the proposed action in Syria.

    “It is now time for us Lib Dems to pick up that baton. We need to have an accountable, transparent and responsible system for assessing how to intervene abroad.”

    Agreed. That way we can make sure that hair-brained plans are always voted down.

  • Richard Dean 30th Aug '13 - 1:47pm

    An excellent article, thank you. I share the dismay at the outcome, and at the lack of foreign affairs knowedge of those who voted last night. Oddly enough, my impression from Miliband’s performance was that he actually wanted to lose, but Tory rebels thwarted that.

    We do indeed “need to have an >>informed<<, accountable … system for assessing how to intervene abroad". We need to rebuild our courage, knowledge, and humanity, and learn again how to fulfil our natural obligations to others, thereby creating a safer world for ourselves as a consequence.

  • A Social Liberal 30th Aug '13 - 1:50pm

    The thing is Tony, you cannot gauge the standards of a countries government by those of the surrounding nations.

    Imagine Gadaffis Libya being called progressive. A dictatorship that kills off its opponents progressive.

    Amazing

  • The noble Baroness seems to argue that the ‘fault ‘ of Cameron – and by implication as it was a ‘Government’ decsion also Nick Clegg,- was that they consulted parliament and allowed them to vote. It was something that the Goverment could just have decided ‘consitutionally ‘

    Matters of principle for the government to conduct an act of war decided just by the PM is ‘constitutional’ ? Where is my copy of the Constitution – oh sorry, we don’t have anything written down. How convenient.

    Humanitarian action yes – military action….hold your horseman of the apocalypse.

  • Baroness Falkner writes, “it was evident how impossible it is for parliamentarians to make informed decisions without the full context. Government’s legal advice cannot be published; intelligence cannot be disclosed; conversations with foreign governments are confidential; and people with very different expertise cannot be expected to have to analyse several hundred pages of briefing”

    She also writes, “If we are to change our constitutional framework in the UK, to give parliament more powers we need to do so in a deliberative and considered fashion. … It would have put down a formal, sign-posted and constitutionally appropriate method for the public, media, courts, and parliament to know when, why and on what basis action was being authorised. … We need to have an accountable, transparent and responsible system for assessing how to intervene abroad.”

    I would say these views are contradictory. Firstly she writes members of Parliament can’t or won’t be properly informed and then she states let us pass a law so these ill-informed members of Parliament make the decision. Of course I may have misunderstand and what she really wants is the Cabinet to make the decision rather than the Executive having to convince Parliament that it is the right decision.

    It seems to me that Cameron and Clegg made a huge mistake in recalling Parliament. The Government could have worked in the UN to get general agreement that it was the Syrian government that used chemical weapons. However there is a possibility that chemicals were used as a weapon and were not delivered by a weapons system and if this is true then the case against the Syrian government is weakened. Cameron and Clegg didn’t have enough evidence to convince people that the Syrian government was responsible and so I believe this is why they failed to get Parliament’s agreement.

    Maybe both Cameron and Clegg should resign as leaders of their parties following this massive failure.

  • Tony Harwood 30th Aug '13 - 2:05pm

    Re. the Libya and murdering political opponents point: Yes, sadly state’s kill their opponents (and any one else who has the misfortue to get in the way). What do you think our Reaper drones (controlled out of RAF Waddington) are doing in the skies of Afghanistan today?

  • At the European Council on Foreign Relations site, there’s a discussion on “Eight Things to Consider Before Intervening in Syria” (http://www.ecfr.eu/content/entry/commentary_eight_things_to_consider_before_intervening_in_syria) which is lucid, thorough, unbeset by a partisan agenda, and much less overwrought than some of the commentary I’ve seen on this site and elsewhere — even though there are signficant parts of it with which I disagree.

    I earlier suggested that a consideration of consequences and an exploration of different approaches would be wiser than an unthinking drum-beat rush toward war. This is one such consideration, and might be the foundation for a more productive discussion than what I have seen.

  • Richard Dean 30th Aug '13 - 2:15pm

    I do hope that “Dave” will read Wikipedia, and apologize to all of us for his remark about the “type”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kishwer_Falkner,_Baroness_Falkner_of_Margravine

  • “But I feel deep shame as I realise this morning that the UK will play no part to save Syrian children from chemical weapons not to mention napalm.”

    The question is how the civilian population could be protected by the kind of military action that has been discussed. If they are going to condemn us by implication as people who are happy to see children injured and killed, I think the people supporting military intervention should at least have the grace to answer that question.

    And if they won’t, I think we are entitled to say that we are relieved that Syrian children are not going to be killed, at least by British weapons.

  • “Government’s legal advice cannot be published;”

    Why? That it isn’t is a matter of custom and practice. That can be changed

    “But I feel deep shame as I realise this morning that the UK will play no part to save Syrian children from chemical weapons not to mention napalm. ”

    Last night’s motion said nothing about action to prevent or in response to napalm attacks.

  • I hope this comment is not censored like the one I made yesterday, for using a very mild adjective about Clegg and Gilmore.
    The evidence for Bombing Syria (notice avoidance of the term “Action”), is so weak, that it is beyond belief.
    Has anyone in the leadership of the Party, seen the interview with Carla Del Ponte, the UN Envoy to Syria.
    Her Investigation showed that there was overwhelming evidence that some of the Alqaeda linked Rebels, were the ones using Chemical Weapons.
    No one supports Assad, but it defies logic that in a “Civil War” (it is not really a civil war, because there are so many Jihaad’s from Saudi Arabia, Yemen etc), that he is winning, he would invite UN Weapons Inspectors into the Country.
    And then to use Chemical Weapons, a few miles away from where they were stationed.
    Does anyone really buy this?
    The only evidence put forward to the Public, has been the intercept passed from Israeli Intelligence to the Americans,
    Qui bono???

  • Tony Greaves 30th Aug '13 - 2:53pm

    I was not alone on our benches in being disappointed and embarrassed by the contribution made from our benches, in the Lords debates yesterday, by Kishwer Falkner, our lead member on foreign affairs. She does not speak for the substantial majority of our party in the Lords on issues like this. She was joined yesterday by Alex Carlile and Paddy Ashdown.

    The other LD speakers had rather different takes – Shirley Williams, Bob Maclennan, Sue Miller, Martin Thomas, Andrew Phillips, myself, Alan Watson, John Shipley, together with Jenny Tonge.

    The balance of views across the 76 speakers inthe Lords yesterday was very heavily against what the government was proposing to do, led on the Tory side by Grandees such a Douglas Hurd, Paddy Mayhew, Tom King, the Marquess of Lothian, David Howell, Michael Forsyth. Oh yes, and Norman Tebbitt, who at one memorable moment heckled Paddy!

    Kishwer’s article here is really quite disgraceful. Our “values and responsibilities”? They were upheld last night in a brilliant way by a parliament which in both Houses refused to kow-tow to the establishment’s mad rush to arms. A real victory for Liberalism in spite of the rather unsatisfactory actions of some of our leaders.

    Tony

  • Tony Greaves 30th Aug '13 - 2:54pm

    “the Marquess of Lothian”

    sorry – Michael Ancram!

  • paul barker 30th Aug '13 - 2:57pm

    I am not sure that last nights vote was the result of miscalculation. Dan Hodges for example beleives that Labour/Milliband simply tricked The Government by implying they would vote with them if a serious of concessions were made. The concessions were given & Labour voted against anyway.
    That sort of trick is no doubt very “clever” in the short run but in the long run it damages Labour & Milliband as much as it damages Politics & Britain.

  • Kishwer Falkner 30th Aug '13 - 3:14pm

    I read the comments with interest but will not respond further other than with this post. The point I am trying to make is that the use of force is too important to be allowed to rest on hasty miscalculations – even if they are miscalculations based on the wrong judgment on votes, or poorly thought through motions. I am calling for a new method for the Commons (only they matter in terms of agreement) to determine the use of force, rather than a PM to decide on the basis of Early Day Motions or media headlines that he/she should or should not give a debate to MPs. In my book we need a constitutional change to agree a PM’s Resolution, or indeed a War Powers Act to enshrine why, how and when we do what.

  • “The point I am trying to make is that the use of force is too important to be allowed to rest on hasty miscalculations – even if they are miscalculations based on the wrong judgment on votes, or poorly thought through motions.”

    Surely better a miscalculation to do nothing – which does allow you to do something if new information causes you to revise your judgement. Than to rush to do somthing, making it impossible to reverse that if you realise you’ve made a miscalculation.

  • I must say that I am impressed that Baroness Falkner read *any* of the comments!

  • paul barker

    Dan Hodges hates Miliband and I would take anything he says with a very big pinch of salt.

    This is also highly unlikely unless you are really calling into question his integrity which is poor form without evidence.

    I doubt very much whether Labour will be hurt by this – it is the hope of people like you but has no evidence in fact.

    The big losers are your party’s leadership and Tony Greaves eloquently explained why above

    Remember also Labour cannot win anything of their own – they need help so what is your view on those LD who voted against – did they hoodwink the Govenment as well? Should they be deselected?

  • @ David

    Thank you for the link to the European Council on Foreign Relations site. After reading the article I am even less keen on the UK intervening.

    @ Kishwer Falkner

    Thank you for replying. I think all article writers should do so, but am disgusted that most of our spokespersons / ministers / MPs do not do so. Therefore a special thank you is in order. However I am disappointed that you haven’t engaged in debating most of the points made and have said you will not respond further. This is particularly disappointing in a democrat.

  • “I read the comments with interest but will not respond further other than with this post.”

    That’s a shame, because the supporters of military action have left so many questions unanswered,

    Another one I’d like answered is why – if it were simply a question of Russian intransigence – a UN mandate should not be sought through the General Assembly under resolution 377A.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Aug '13 - 4:27pm

    I think the politicians are paying the price for a number of badly thought through wars. They would have trouble selling military intervention of any sort. Who would believe them? The price of spin is high.

    I opposed the war in Iraq. I originally supported intervention in Afghanistan, but since they have made such a mess of it , I now think it would have been better if they had left it alone. I object to regime-change type of projects. It is easy to destroy societies, much harder to put them back together again.I have serious reservations about the involvement in Libya.I worry about Turkey. I am pleased that the democratically elected government in Egypt has been removed. I am a secularist. Church and State must be separated. It is difficult to see how a democracy can function otherwise. I am wary of any military projects involving Americans. They seem to be of the opinion that bombs and bullets will solve the problems. They destroy things and could well make problems worse.
    So much for my personal convictions.

    However, chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

    I find Labour’s position ridiculous. A country had no chemical weapons, and the attacked it. Someone used chemical weapons in Syria, and they are not prepared to consider military intervention. What criteria do they use?

    When the Nazis gassed people, it was generally considered an horrific crime. People were gassed in Syria, and now it is apparently OK. At least not sufficient grounds to consider military intervention. What is going on?

    I will admit that the situation in Syria is complicated and all may not be what it seems. Hence, I would certainly not rush into any military intervention. Better to try and determine what is going on and then contain it. Hopefully eliminating the use of chemical weapons. I generally agree with the letter sent to us by Nick Clegg.

    People should not let past experiences and ill feeling towards politicians (which to some degree I sympathize with) cloud their judgement.

  • Richard Dean 30th Aug '13 - 4:53pm

    I agree with Nom de Plume. Last night’s vote was not about Syria at all. It was about power and shame.

    Power because Labour wants to be in on the further decision-making. This does make some sense – with no party having a majority, a national-unity approach might have been better than asking the Commons to hand sole power to a split government.

    Shame because Labour cannot get over its past mistakes.

    But the real shame is that we have now appeared to abandon ordinary Syrian people on all sides of that conflict. Let’s hope our politicians find a way to reverse this appearance, and give substance to the reversal.

  • paul barker 30th Aug '13 - 5:29pm

    @bcrombie
    I think you are wrong about Dan Hodges, he has always been fanatically loyal to his Party & whoever led it. In my view he bent over backwards to see the good side of Milliband & heaped praise on him when he did things Hodges thought were for the good of The Party. I was very surprised when Hodges resigned.
    I too have put a lot of effort into defending Milliband but not any more.

  • Ed Shepherd 30th Aug '13 - 5:45pm

    I am very proud of my country after last night’s vote. For once a slim majority of our MPs went along with what I have no doubt is the majority opinion of the public which did not want Britain to get involved in attacks on another country at this stage. We have no idea who would suffer as a result of our attacks, we have no idea what the outcome of such attacks would be for the people of Syria and we have no idea what would be the outcome of such attacks for the wider world. I was impressed by the arguments that I heard from at least two ex-military officers that we should not enter into a conflict unless we have a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve and how to achieve it. The idea that people who oppose military attacks are not condemnatory of the gas attacks is insulting. Many atrocities against non-combatants get committed every year and we do not always decide that the best response is to launch cruise missiles. Did Britain attack the USA when it dropped atom bombs on Japanese civilians and napalm on Vietnamese civilians? In every such eventuality, we must decide what is the most appropriate response and like the (I suspect) majority of the British people at present, I do not think that attacks on Syrian targets are the appropriate response to these gas attacks.

  • With respect to the Baroness, its hard to. agree to pour scorn upon mp’s who fail to show up to meetings to discuss foreign affairs. The point remains a failure to persuade or convince the ordinary public that it is not only right to act but also to act now.

    I think part of the problem should be accepting that the Government should not be in this predicament. Those who had knowledge about the deteriorating situation were raising concerns about chemical weapons being used for a long time. It was more important to act way before to ensure chemical weapons were put beyond use.

    Those supporting íntervention were not saying it is adequate to fire missiles on another sovereign territory to deter anyone from using chemical weapons. They were arguing for buffer zones to be established for refugees and the chemical weapóns placed beyond the use of anyone in the civil war. This last point has to be the true objective rather than suspicion of tiptoes into military engagement with the first step being these strikes under the figleaf of humanitarian protection.

    I think its now too late to argue that a military strike is sufficient to deter regimes from deploying chemical weapons. It may now be used again in the world but we do know the threshold has been set here beyond how much use is tolerable. In the last few years, other notable countries are also alleged to have used chemical weapons yet no sanction was sought.

    Unilateral military action needs the crystal clear objective of putting chemical weapons beyond use. I’m just not sure this is possible through naval strikes but v dangerous via air strikes. The only people who may be capable of achÍeving properly the Government’s real objectives adequately are the syrian’s themselves, by way of which I mean appropriately trained ground troops supported by US/UK firepower. It is right to be sceptical because the objective isn’t credible and therefore neither will be the exit strategy.

    Syria is very different from Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone. What is being witheld is an acknowledgement of the full consequences which could mean the real risk of the UK declaring war by the end of the yeàr . If the UK or the US struck against syrian territory, then Syria cold plausibly counterstrike but there are ramifications anywhere it does so.

    The middle east would become a turbulent place if jordan or israel were attacked by syria or its backers. But if instead, syria was provoked into making a counterattack on Turkish territory to target those being trained for warfare involving chemical weapons, we then face the NATO pact being invoked as turkey is a NATO ally. This is an example of how this situation can escalate and impact on the UK which is why any MP either informed or not should be wary.

    The problem for those frustrated about the vote in the Commons is that it failed to persuade because it failed to convince on the risks of acting but pressed upon the risk of not acting – an unbalanced argument with suspicion that the truth was less than forthcomi. This will continue to be a sad indictment of our own domestic politics irrespective of the parliamentary procedure employed next time this issue is revisited.

  • Regardless of the rights and wrongs of intervention, the vote shows that Clegg and Cameron have a great deal in common in terms of being out of touch.

  • Peter Hayes 30th Aug '13 - 8:48pm

    I was disappointed that so many LibDem MPs including my own Martin Horwood voted with the government. The one thing that is clear from other interventions in the region is that the law of un intended consequences applies. If one red line is crossed and we respond then what happens after a second line is crossed as it was even whilst the debates were going on with the napalm(?) bombing of a school. If we go for regime change, or even to reduce their strength, there will be chaos as now is happening in Egypt and Libya because the various religious, tribal and political factions fight for their own people and views. Some times it is better not to stir the pot even though the short term results are bad, support for MSF and others will in the long term get us more brownie points.

  • Peter Hayes 30th Aug '13 - 8:52pm
  • Tony Dawson 30th Aug '13 - 9:08pm

    @Kishwer Falkner:

    “The point I am trying to make is that the use of force is too important to be allowed to rest on hasty miscalculations ”

    No. That was your second point. Your first point was that you wished that we had made a specific hasty miscalculation. Since we (Parliament) did not do what you wished for, you made your second somewhat contradictory point.

    The first casualty of all wars is ‘truth’. I do not believe a word of this:

    http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_08_30/Syrian-rebels-take-responsibility-for-the-chemical-attack-admitting-the-weapons-were-provided-by-Saudis-1203/?from=menu

    – but then neither do I believe a word of any other propaganda on this issue. The government, in their haste to embed us with Al-Queada against Assad, have swallowed the line which may well be right, but was presented to parliament as “likely to be right” in ‘intelligence’ terms. We do not permit a person to be sentenced to life imprisonment these days, let alone to execution, on the basis of a burden of proof lower than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Yet these gung-ho lot would have us massacre hundreds/thousands/who knows how many in collateral damage as a result of an unannounced level if intervention in an unannounced manner for an unannounced purpose. We are expected to authorise this without a clue as to the likely consequences in terms of escalation/intervention of other parties over and above the casualty levels.

    “But we have a right to expect that what the JIC feel is ‘probably right’ is correct,” they say. We had a right to expect that our Prime Minister Tony Blair would tell us the truth, didn’t we? The Americans are even worse. The 50 year rule stuff on agent orange in Vietnam and the removal of the democratic regime in Iran are cases in point.

    Of course we know that the entire Labour volte-face was face-saving by Miliband by displacing the Green/Nationalist amendment which the Speaker would have otherwise called and upon which his Party would have split on underneath him had he not moved an amendment. Bit this pales somewhat into significance compared to the failure by both Tories and Lib Dems to communicate with and understand their parliamentary parties before giving Obama the nod that “Saturday will be fine.”

    Who ever nominated Kishwer Falkner to the Lords? Why was this? For whom does she feel she speaks? I have considerably more faith in the judgement of the latest recruits to our local Lib Dem council group.

    Why were we having such a narrow debate at all? Surely, we need to recognise that unforseeable miracles aside, this civil war is not going to be won by anyone for an awfully long time. Hence we need to try our best to force people to the negotiating tablet. Gesture missile attacks on their own are hardly going to do this or, therefore, help to save thousands of civilian casualties and disruption of society for decades.

  • Richard Dean 30th Aug '13 - 9:49pm

    The law of unintended consequences applies as much to inaction as it does to action.

  • @Richard Dean – and so so ipso facto to vice versa.

  • Dear Kishwer, your points are telling. I had not thought about the negative consequences of ill-informed MPs making life and death decisions about war and foreign policy.

    Your point that “I found it curious that not a single Lib Dem MP who voted against their government had ever attended a weekly meeting of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, where Martin Horwood and I as Co-Chairs have discussed Syria almost every week since 2011, often with acknowledged experts. The Committee was established in 2010 precisely to allow a broad input into foreign policy for the backbenchers, but they clearly did not feel the need to know more about a far off country of which they know… nothing.” is telling. Hopefully attendance will be much increased now … may be make attendance compulsory?? For the record, I would have voted for the government motion … a position which I know is not very popular here on LDV.

  • daft ha'p'orth 31st Aug '13 - 1:44pm

    Not a great article and the rhetoric is frankly embarrassing. Others have commented on that so I’ll leave it be, although it really would be best to moderate it as this tends to polarise opinion in unhelpful ways.

    Generally, though, all this airing of dirty laundry, all this in-fighting, carping about committee attendance of all things, it’s just not at all helpful. If you have this unique perspective and knowledge you should be able to point out exactly where and how you attempted to share that information – not through ‘weekly committee meetings’, because it seems likely that most politicians are invited to a lot of committees and it is obvious from what you say that you have known for some time that this dissemination strategy had failed, but through timely provision of well-founded, accurate, concise information in whatever format works for the audience. I suspect that lack of background knowledge from ‘acknowledged experts’ was not the sticking point and it’s a little presumptuous to assume that it is. But still, in order to help the general public help you and in the interest of transparent government, please do feel free to share any pointers to declassified relevant information resources (such as any papers the committee has produced?) with the general public so that we can discuss those with our MPs and ensure that they become better informed. Thanks.

  • So Kisher you don’t feel shame about all the children elsewhere in the world that the UK is also playing no part in saving from conflict?

    >We need to have an accountable, transparent and responsible system for assessing how to intervene abroad.
    That is provided today by the United Nations and potentially in a few years the need for a Westminster vote on such matters will have been rendered unnecessary by further EU integration…

  • Apologies for my typo “Kisher” should of been ” Kishwer”.

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