September 3, 2013 9:16 pm

UK can now concentrate on diplomacy

From Mr Giles Dixon.

Sir, You are unduly pessimistic in your assessment of the consequences of the UK parliament’s vote on Syria (“Isolationism is beneath Britain”, editorial, August 31). As a close ally of the US that has decided not to adopt a military option, Britain is now in a unique position to open a dialogue with Iran and other key players and work for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

More generally, the decision offers the government an opportunity to reposition our role in the world by concentrating on our diplomatic strengths. As a former imperial power, we have more influence around the world than most countries as well as experience in high-level negotiation. Instead of pretending to a military strength that we no longer possess and cannot afford, we should exercise that influence for peace, both in working to resolve conflicts and to see that there really is an international body to enforce treaties and deter dictators. The UN has 193 member states, quite enough to create a military force, with or without the UK’s participation.

Moreover, in spite of the rhetoric of some government ministers, such an approach is more consistent with their recent decision to make a substantial cut in our armed forces than with a continuing role as one of the world’s self-appointed policemen.

Of course, there is a downside, especially for today’s breed of professional politician: international negotiations are slow and usually take place behind closed doors so they do not offer the same headline-grabbing opportunities as military intervention. But the long-term rewards can be far more valuable and avoid the risks of collateral damage.

Giles Dixon, Richmond, Surrey, UK

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