UK foreign policy

James Blitz

David Cameron

David Cameron addresses the House of Commons during a debate on Syria. Press Association

How much has Britain’s standing in the world been damaged by the House of Commons decision last month to rule out military action against Syria? As the crisis has gone through its numerous twists and turns over the last few weeks, the verdict seems to be constantly changing.

At first, the judgment of many people was that the Commons vote on the night of August 29 was a serious blow for David Cameron’s government. The Commons had overturned the will of the PM. The UK was not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with its US ally. Britain looked like it had badly damaged the much cherished “special relationship” with America. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
In 1899 Rudyard Kipling, the pre-eminent poet of British imperialism, addressed some stanzas to America. “Take up the white man’s burden,” he urged, “The savage wars of peace/ Fill full the mouth of famine/ And bid the sickness cease.” These days America has a black president and no public intellectual would dare to use the imperialist language of a Kipling. But the idea that the US bears a special burden in policing the world is very much alive. The notion was there in Barack Obama’s call for military action over Syria: “We are the United States,” declared the president – outlining his nation’s special role in creating and defending the post-1945 global order.