WHATEVER may be our view of Britain's contemporary role and leadership in international affairs as a fading colonial power, there is no denying that President Barack Obama's decision last week to seek Congressional approval and international support for his proposed military action against Syrian "strategic targets" in response to Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people, is a direct consequence of the renewed force of democratic vigour in the British Parliament.
From all reports out of Britain and elsewhere last week, Prime Minister David Cameron was wallowing in defeat and embarrassment after the British Parliament voted against military action against Syria, which had his full support.
But the leader of the Con-Lib coalition government in the Mother country need not have suffered the agony of despair, because on closer examination his defeat vindicated the kind of democracy he had hoped seven years before would one day exist in contemporary Britain.
As far back as 2006, the Conservative party leader is on record as saying:
"If elected, I am determined to lead this country as a democratically accountable prime minister and to abandon the personal, presidential style that has taken hold under new Labour... Giving Parliament a greater role in the exercise of these powers would be an important and tangible way of making government more accountable."
As such, what the British Parliament did last week was to test in the most vigorous way the strength of the argument for war against Syria. In so doing, Prime Minister Cameron has, for now, broken the mould of British prime ministers blindly supporting American global military adventurism.
For lest we forget, in the recent past, President Bill Clinton had Britain's support when he bypassed Congressional approval and gave NATO authorisation to use American forces to bomb Kosovo. So too did President Ronald Reagan when he supported the Contras in Nicaragua's civil war and sent troops on the ground in Grenada. And as far as my memory serves me, President Truman's "police action" in Korea followed the same pattern.
This time around, however, President Obama has chosen to acquiesce in the face of the surprising strength of British democratic sovereignty under a leader, who, like himself, had promised to exercise the highest ideals of modern leadership when they sought election to lead their respective countries.
So even though House Speaker John Boehner, Republican lawmaker Scott Rigell, bipartisan members of the War Powers Committee of the Constitution Project, and a host of legal scholars all attempted to pressure Obama from behind the scenes to first seek Congressional authorisation before launching an offensive against Syria, what finally persuaded him to do so was the British Parliament's courage in demonstrating to the world that it is still able to craft Britain's foreign policy based on that country's own values and interests.
Following the vote, and as a kind of confirmation of this new-found sense of parliamentary democratic vigour, President Obama said that those asking him to recall Congress were "undoubtedly... impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the prime minister supported taking action".
Refreshingly, in his speech in the Rose Garden, delivered with all the expertise of a seasoned global political icon, Obama hinted that he will not rush the vote, and will patiently await the reconvening of the Congress, while he launches a charm offensive domestically and internationally.
"My Administration stands ready to provide every member (of Congress) with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America's national security. And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote," the president said.
Yet, the more I reflect on the crisis in Syria in the context of President Obama's current panic mode and the fact that fewer than 30 per cent of Americans are in favour of a missile strike in Damascus, the more I am convinced of the failure of the Obama Administration's non-interventionist "red line" policy and the extreme difficulty of the decision to intervene.
So far, the proposed intervention in Syria has been justified by Britain, France and America as a necessary response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people by Bashar al-Assad in Ghouta; and the response of these three superpowers and their allies is that the world cannot allow states to use chemical weapons with impunity.
The problem with this argument, however, is that even if we assume the Assad regime was responsible for the attack, there is no conceivable reason to believe that missile strikes would ultimately dissuade it from carrying out further massacres. For this reason, and more, regime change may well be the long-term objective of the contemplated coalition against Syria.
But, as I have argued in this column before, arming the rebels will only guarantee further deaths. And a rebel victory could in fact boost al-Qaeda and simply usher in a new phase of war, with brutal sectarian reprisals.
And to complicate matters, while reports of upwards of 1,800 allegedly killed by sarin gas are, quite frankly, grotesquely chilling, missile strikes against the regime from US navy ships may just end up demonstrating weakness rather than strength against the offending regime. The Taliban, I recall, lived to fight another day when Bill Clinton's Administration ordered the release of missiles into Afghanistan in 1998 in retaliation for an attack on American embassies.
What is even more contentious -- and worthy of further debate beyond this column -- is the fact that military intervention in Syria, even if carried out from an unmanned cruise missile from US navy ships, would constitute an act of war, which the 1973 War Powers Resolution authorises the president to exercise in self-defence to an armed attack or imminent armed attack.
But President Obama is proposing to respond to an attack allegedly ordered and carried out by the Assad regime on its own citizens, and not on the United States as a country, or on American citizens.
This paradox, as a consequence, will ultimately require some explanation free from constitutional legalese and in a language that the ordinary citizens of the world will understand. Especially in light of what Obama said in an interview in The New York Times in his first bid for the presidency of the United States.
"The president," he said then, "does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
In my view, although Prime Minister David Cameron and his colleagues on both sides of the House of Commons may well harbour perception of Britain as a post-colonial empire that seeks to shape the world, the fact is that it is increasingly being shaped by it. This is not to say that Britain's influence in international affairs is dead.
Quite the contrary. The Parliamentary vote demonstrated to the global community the extent to which British democracy has grown. For even from this distance in the Commonwealth Caribbean, it is very difficult to grasp how a coalition military intervention without the resolute support of the United Nations and a well worked out post-Assad road map for Syria will avert further uses of chemical weapons, let alone put an end to the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by the Government and rebels alike.
What is clearer now, however, is that the British Parliamentary vote not to support a missile strike against Bashar al-Assad has created the historic opportunity for the Government of Britain to play a much stronger and more decisive role on the stage of international diplomacy in resolving the debilitating humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The world economy, including our own, would reap positive benefits from the aversion of war in Syria. For this reason, Britain should act accordingly and without delay in helping to keep the lines open for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
In addition, it should now lend its weight in support of a peace conference involving the Russians and which Assad would be forced to attend.
This is a great opportunity for the resurgence of British influence in the world, and I sincerely hope Prime Minister Cameron will seize the moment. Britain, after all, now has the credibility to do so.