Douglas Carswell

15 SEP 2016

Libya shows why military action needs Parliamentary approval

I abstained in the vote on military action in Libya because I felt the aims weren't clear enough. Five years on, the Foreign Affairs Committee has shown just how inadequate the government's planning was. This is why military action needs Parliamentary approval and scrutiny.

Two years after Libya, David Cameron requested the backing of MPs for another round of regime change in Syria. He didn't get it.

I voted for military action against Assad. But, for those who voted against, I suspect the unfolding disaster in Libya informed their decision.

Had it not been for Parliament, Britain and the US would probably have removed Assad from power. That would have got rid of a tyrant – and struck a blow against the expansionist ambitions of Russia and Iran.

But it's very possible that IS and other Islamist groups would have become stronger and more dangerous if Syria had become a totally ungoverned space like Libya.

Of course, David Cameron did get Parliamentary approval to go to war in Libya, just as Tony Blair did for war in Iraq. The House of Commons is not a fool-proof failsafe against poorly thought out military action. But it's still is a necessary check on the executive.

The fear of losing a vote on military action, as Cameron did in 2013, will force future prime ministers to think harder about going to war – and come up with action plans that stand up to scrutiny.

Arguably, it already has. Cameron's 2015 plan to attack IS was much narrower in scope than the previous proposal for military action in Syria. Its goals were better defined. That's why I was comfortable voting for it – and perhaps why, on that occasion, a majority of MPs approved it.

One lesson of the committee's report five years after the fact is that, in future, we need better legislative scrutiny before going to war.

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