Posted on | August 29, 2013 | 29 Comments
Could be the most unintentionally funny headline of the year: “Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal”
There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to do just that on Monday, when he said of the use of chemical weapons, “This international norm cannot be violated without consequences.” His use of the word “norm,” instead of “law,” is telling.
Syria is a party to neither the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 nor the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, and even if it were, the treaties rely on the United Nations Security Council to enforce them — a major flaw. Syria is a party to the Geneva Protocol, a 1925 treaty that bans the use of toxic gases in wars. But this treaty was designed after World War I with international war in mind, not internal conflicts.
‘Rodeo clown’ is the new cowboy, no? After around 6 years of anti-Bush Adventurism arguments (and the bulk of a year spent in Afghanistan helping carry out one of Obama’s rare promises kept) the skepticism has kind of settled in. Also, one cannot possibly fathom what strategic interest the U.S. even has in the Levant. Maybe standing by our ally, Israel. It is a cheery thing to see the occasional greeting on YouTube from Bibi Netanyahu. But is the refreshment of hearing from an actual leader of the non-rodeo-clown variety of sufficient value to justify throwing blood and treasure at Damascus?
Of course ethics, not only laws, should guide policy decisions. Since the Rwandan genocide and the Balkan mass killings of the 1990s, a movement has emerged in support of adding humanitarian intervention as a third category of lawful war, under the concept of the “responsibility to protect.” It is widely accepted by the United Nations and most governments. It is not, however, in the charter, and it lacks the force of law.
Morality, or ethics? I’d argue, against the dictionary, that the two are not synonymous. There really isn’t any moral case in favor of disregarding law. Law is a human product, and therefore may be incomplete, or out of sync with the times. There could be ethical reasons for disregarding a law. I wish the author, Hurd, had provided a link to this famous movement, though. Maybe the “humanitarian intervention” community could help us track down the elusive anti-war movement that flourishes during Republican administrations, whenever those corporatists are out to drive up profits. Perhaps the anti-war movement is cryogenically suspended in Jane Fonda’s basement.
I’ve got to emphasize this closing bit:
Since Russia and China won’t help, Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.
This would be popular in many quarters, and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.
Anybody who thinks that Russia isn’t fomenting unrest to drive up oil prices is clueless. President Rodeo Clown should know that peace, prosperity, and a Keystone XL pipeline are the best ways to stick it to the Russian bear. At least in DC, no one uses the phrase “it’s the right thing to do” without a disdainful eye roll. In DC it means: sure, we’re jacked up to high heaven, but isn’t everything else, too?
Rush’s brother David considered afflicting the Syrians with ObamaCare,
— Smitty, Ex-streamist (@smitty_one_each) August 29, 2013