British parliament came back from a recess today to approve, with a huge majority, Prime Minister David Cameron’s request to join the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State in Iraq. The final vote came to 524–43 in the emergency session, although lawmakers stopped short of approving air strikes in Syria or the use of ground troops. Cameron, already on tenuous political ground, said he wouldn’t even try it. “This is not 2003, but we must not use past mistakes as an excuse for inaction,” he said.
“This is not the stuff of fantasy — it is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it,” said Cameron to parliament. Echoing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, he warned that the campaign against ISIS could take “not months but years.”
“Let me be frank: we should not expect this to happen quickly,” he said. “The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe.”
In what may include a touch of wishful thinking, a former Conservative cabinet minister told the New York Times that Britain’s involvement will be “almost symbolic.” Almost.