On both sides of the North Atlantic, an increasing number of often (but not exclusively) right-leaning pundits are lining up to bemoan the lack of involvement in the Syrian conflict. The usual narrative is that those who should be doing something – anything – are standing by while children are being gassed. That narrative then expands to blame Mil The Younger and Barack Obama.
Doesn't anybody remember this bloke?
And in both cases, that narrative is misguided and wrong. Because the lack of appetite for intervention – among both the public and their representatives in Parliament and Congress – is not dictated by the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, nor by the 44th President of the United States. It has endured throughout the decade that has passed since the public last trusted their leaders on the Middle East.
In the UK, this fact cannot be taken on board by pundits such as Dan Hodges and David Aaronovitch, who instead allow their longstanding dislike of Miliband to override reality, resulting in irrational, and in Aaronovitch’s case, utterly unworthy outbursts where that dislike is explained away by inventing a narrative leading back to last week’s Commons vote that suits their prejudice.
Likewise, Washington watchers such as the terminally stupid Nile “Chauncey” Gardiner, stuck fast in his rut of prejudice, reel off a series of sniping accusations telling that the President deferring to Congress is a sign of weakness, that his Presidency is somehow in trouble, and – of course – that Dubya Bush was so much more wonderful, and had a much bigger coalition.
This is accompanied by the armchair idiocy typified by former Tory MP Louise Mensch, now representing the distant constituency of Manhattan Upmarket, who is signed up to running down both Miliband and Obama. They all carp and bluster. But none of these pundits gets it. So let me put them straight, aided by the ability of MSNBC’s top rated host Rachel Maddow to plainly state the obvious.
Dubya Bush and his hangers-on, aided and abetted by Tone, poisoned the well of public opinion in the run-up to the Iraq war. Dishonesty was peddled on an industrial scale. The voters were sold a pup, and they now know it. So when the successors to those politicians tell their people that they’d like to go and stick their bugle into someone else’s scrap, the people don’t want to know.
And the presence of those who sold that pup last time is not helping: as Maddow puts it, “If you’re an architect or a conspirator or one of the primary actors in the Iraq War–in arguably the grandest and most craven foreign policy disaster in American history, your opinion is no longer required on matters of war and peace”. The public doesn’t want to know. Miliband and Obama changing tack won’t stop that.
That, pundits, is what you can’t get your collective heads around. Your problem.