How the United Kingdom and France have handled the reaction from their domestic critics in the wake of Syrian airstrikes is a tale of two narratives.
France made the first move, by immediately reporting after a phone call with American President Donald Trump, that they had convinced him to stay in Syria. The White House has downplayed the optics, but the rumor is that the President was furious at the French claim.
#BREAKING Macron says France has convinced Trump to "stay in Syria long-term"
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 15, 2018
It’s hard to blame the French for wanting to get out in front of this to avoid being labeled as doing Trump’s bidding. However, if they want Trump to stay in Syria, appearing to bully him into it is the worst possible approach to this situation. It is only a matter of time before President Trump goes off script and tells his version of how the conversation between French and American leadership went. Will this end French and American cooperation? No, it makes it more difficult.
In contrast, the British Prime Minister Theresa May handled the pressure from her opposition masterfully. She went to the British Parliament and argued her case with some help from her party.
Helen Whately: The Leader of the Opposition is at risk of becoming a voice for our countries enemies. pic.twitter.com/ChkCp8plcD
— Ben (@Jamin2g) April 16, 2018
Important intervention from @jessphillips:
– Would have voted in favour of the strikes against Asad if asked beforehand
– Against politicking by both sides; the matter at hand is the use of poison gas against civilians
– What more can Britain do to help Syrian civil society? pic.twitter.com/rvkWn7MOJC
— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) April 16, 2018
The most powerful intervention of the day: Mike Gapes reminds Jeremy Corbyn what Labour governments used to do; pic.twitter.com/EO6aVe0rzy
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) April 16, 2018
These Members of Parliament spoke passionately and bravely about the plight of Syrians under Bashar al-Assad. Frankly, they put the American Congress to shame. But the United States Congress will get its chance to debate the merits of the action moving forward against Assad and his benefactors Iran soon enough.
American lawmakers would be wise to follow Britain’s example and ignore France’s media showboating. Syria has been politicized enough.