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Boris Johnson’s Foreign Policy in Syria Is Based on Wishful Thinking
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There is nothing surprising in Boris Johnson saying that it would be difficult for the UK not to join US military action in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to a chemical weapons attack. Since the Second World War British governments have been trying to strengthen the UK’s status as the most important military ally of the US. But after 9/11 this obeisance became more craven and knee-jerk, despite producing failed British military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the Trump administration in power in the US, these British efforts to prove to Washington the usefulness and reliability of its links to the UK have become ever more desperate. Britain’s departure from a major alliance like the EU, and likely confrontation with it over the terms of Brexit, is bound to make Britain less of a power in the world. It therefore needs to foster closer relations with Trump’s America along with an unsavoury list of countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

This may be a little more dangerous than it looks because nobody quite knows what the Trump foreign policy will amount to in Syria and Iraq. Is it, for instance, going to confront Iran and tear up the nuclear agreement with Tehran? Has it reverted to giving priority, at least nominally, to getting rid of Assad? These questions are worth thinking about, if only so as not to repeat the ill-thought-out flippancy with which British governments plunged into such dangerous places as Basra in southern Iraq in 2003 where it ended up signing a humiliating truce with the Mehdi Army Shia militia.

But the historic parallels are not exact, because the British role in the world has diminished since the high days of the Blair governments. Policy then may have been wrong-headed and frequently underestimated the military and political strength of the enemies they were about to take on. These days the gap between British threats and its ability to make them good is wider than ever and is mostly bravado.

Johnson spoke grandly of using “submarine-based cruise missiles in the Med” against Assad, but in fact Britain’s capacity to do anything militarily effective is very limited. This point was difficult to get across during the debate in 2015 about UK aircraft joining the US-led air campaign attacking Isis in Syria. Few on either side of the argument seemed to take on board that Britain simply did not have the capacity to launch more than a few symbolic strikes. The House of Commons Defence Committee eventually found out that Britain had launched just 65 airstrikes in Syria in the first nine months after the first attack.


The danger facing Britain is that so much of its foreign policy is based on wishful thinking and fantasy. This was true in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya after 2001 and is true again in Syria today. What is the purpose of bombing Assad? Is it to deter him from using chemical weapons, supposing he did, or to weaken and overthrow him? And if he is overthrown what is to prevent his regime being replaced by Isis and al-Qaeda-type groups who wholly dominate the armed opposition in Syria.

David Cameron was happy to pretend that the US and Britain would be aided by 70,000 “moderate” fighters in Syria willing to battle both Isis and Assad, though anybody with any experience on the ground in Syria knew that such a force did not exist.

The clamour over Johnson’s claim that the UK might join the US in strikes against the Syrian armed forces is based on a fiction. Both hawks and doves assume an effective British military capacity that is no longer there. Probably Johnson’s words will lead to nothing except a few headlines, but play-acting in a place as dangerous as the Middle East can be a risky business.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, Syria 
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  1. neutral says:

    the British role in the world has diminished since the high days of the Blair governments

    A strange thing to say, its almost as if he does not know the British empire existed.

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  2. Boris the buffoon wants to feel relevant in world affairs having forgotten that the empire does not exist any longer.

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  3. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    It’s not about thinking at all.

    It’s about obeying. Shabbies(shabbos goyim) must obey the GLOB.

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  4. The reality of Britain is that a Liberal Democratic candidate for parliament in the upcoming Westminister election was sacked by his leader because he made “anti-Semitic” comments that were nothing more than criticism of Israel. British policy is executed that is not merely subservient to the USA, but to Israel, and perhaps even more so in Israel’s case, although for Britain the military means to actually do anything substantive are now lacking.

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  5. 5371 says:

    Less poodle, more monkey.

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  6. the lion says:

    The so called Moderate Muslim Fighters that the US was training were in reality Al Nusra Front, but then the British were well aware that they were formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, and that many of their ranks had after American Training and outfitting deserted and joined the ranks of Al Nusra Fronts petulant child ISIS! The British are correct who will be in charge if Assad is Overthrown because one can be pretty sure it will be ISIS, and just like they had in Afghanistan in the 80′s given a country that in the so called interests of Democracy funded groups that were to form over zealous theocracy, and in effect make the citizens even less free. Just think under Assad one could be a Christian and go to Church, in fact the Churches there were up to two thousand years old, one could be a Sunni or a Shiite or a Kurd in fact any religion it was a secular state! Did it have problems, absolutely! However it wasn’t until the US funded their regime change that we saw millions leaving as refugees, and they didn’t flee until Al Nusra Front and its child ISIS started their wholesale murder of civilians, taking of little girls for sex slavery, that was the ISIS and Al Nusra Front insurgents that in the majority were American trained. Even the Chemical weapons charges are strange one doesn’t use chemical weaponry when the inspectors are watching, and you don’t tell the Americans you are going to bomb a building the day before if you are going to bomb it with Sarin Gas……..of course remember the footage, why were the rescuers not dying?……..Sarin would have killed them as well, they were not wearing protective suits!

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  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If you think just of the photo-op value, a bunch of cruise missiles would yield lots of bang for the buck—chest-thumping (some of it across the pond), imperial nostalgia, and nagging those barbarous Russians.

    In the meantime, Israelis watch everything from the Golan heights, pocket some oil revenues and smile.

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  8. Z-man says:

    I saw this funny poster held up by Lyndon Larouche supporters on 5th Ave the other day. A big picture of Boris with the heading ‘Product of Inbreeding’, LOL!!!

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  9. Wishful thinking. “I wish that I could be Prime Minister. I wish that I could be Prime Minister. I wish that I could be Prime Minister.” or Do something even more stupid than support Brexit and hope everyone forgets.

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