LONDON - If the British commentariat are to be believed, the last time a prime minister was defeated on a war motion put forward to Parliament was in 1782, when MPs voted to stop fighting the American War of Independence.
Prime Minister David Cameron's defeat in Parliament late Thursday over a potential military strike and intervention in Syria may not, when all is said and done and the dust settles, be in the same league as that vote, but it is a huge blow to his foreign policy credibility nonetheless.
Cameron's longtime friend and political wingman, finance minister George Osborne, told the BBC on Friday that, "There will be a national soul-searching about our role in the world and whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system."
The feeling is that this was not just a defeat for what Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime may or may not have gotten up to with chemical weapons, but a reflection of the United Kingdom's diminished and confused stature on the world stage.
Further, there is worry that this extraordinary development will inject new tension into the U.K.'s relationship with the United States, an alliance routinely referred to here as "special," and which is, as Osborne noted in his interview today, "a very old one, very deep and operates on many layers" - economic, cultural, political, militarily.
President Obama has yet to decide on the timing or scope of U.S. action on Syria, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that Washington will still be talking to the U.K. about "ways forward" for Syria despite the vote's outcome, but when he does there will, ultimately - for the time being anyway - be one less layer to bond over.