British parliamentarians have voted for the security of their country and the rest of the free world by authorising military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria. One argument for the case against air strikes - that they would make Britain vulnerable to terrorist retaliation - was weak because it is in terror's crosshairs already, Britain's security services having foiled seven plots since November last year.
What the parliamentary vote does is to make Britain a credible ally of countries that are in peril of being attacked by the international brigands who go by the collective name of ISIS. The German Parliament, too, has voted for military action against the terrorist group.
Much of the credit for the overwhelming British vote in favour of air strikes - 397 to 223 - goes to Prime Minister David Cameron, who made an impassioned and convincing case for tackling the ISIS evil at root. He urged action against the "woman-raping, Muslim-murdering, mediaeval monsters" of ISIS who, he pointed out, were "plotting to kill us and to radicalise our children right now".
Mr Cameron's reference to "our children" is an eloquent statement that he considers misguided young British Muslims who join ISIS to be the children of the country as much as anyone else. His description of the ISIS hordes as killers of Muslims is a salutary reminder of the anti-Muslim nature of the terrorist organisation.
Britain has made it clear that the war against ISIS, much like the preceding struggle against Al-Qaeda, is not against Islam. On the contrary, the war is to protect both Muslims and non-Muslims from murderous fascists who manipulate religious teachings.
Britain's decision to join the anti-ISIS international coalition may not immediately increase its military capabilities significantly. There is also no doubt that the war will involve combatants for the long haul. However, the political and diplomatic import of the parliamentary vote cannot be overestimated.
As a country in which recourse to military force is contested keenly - and rightly so - Britain has sent a signal to ISIS that it is capable of coming together to meet a threat to its very way of life. In the process, Britain has made common cause with France in particular after the horrific attacks in Paris. The United States, which leads Operation Inherent Resolve, has secured a valuable partner in a military offensive that should be a global effort.
Even Russia, whose own strikes against ISIS reflect support for the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and put it at odds with Western political objectives in the Middle East, might welcome quietly the potential difference made by greater European participation in the anti-terrorist war. As leading European powers, Britain, France and Germany should carry a share of the global burden of stopping ISIS.
This article was first published on December 7, 2015.
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