Summary: I’ve received many incisive questions about Syria, covering the key points of the this extraordinary debate that so clearly highlights the changing nature of America’s political regime — and our role in it. Here are my responses; post your questions and answers in the comments.
Expect push-back to these global cops
- Q&A on the basics of the proposal for war
- An extraordinary aspect of the Syria debate
- The most extraordinary aspect of the Syria debate
- For More Information
- Our Policy is quite easy to understand
(1) Q&A on the basics of the proposal for war
Q: Do you think then the US/international community should leave Assad alone? There’s no international law prohibiting killing your own people. But there is a law forbidding the use of chemical weapons. There’s also no law that says the Sunnis and Shia can’t annihilate one another bringing chaos to the Middle East.
So what should we do? Doing nothing no strategy at all.
We could degrade Assad’s capabilities, a better option than giving arms to the jihadists — or negotiating with Putin for some kind of modus vivendi in the region.
This aptly summarizes one form of the case for intervention. It is almost entirely wrong.
(1) Has Syria violated laws about use of chemical weapons? No, on several levels.
(a) The UN has not determined that the Syrian government used chemical weapons (in fact, the US government seems indifferent to the UN’s verdict). Syria’s government had no logical reason for such a strike; the rebels had strong motives to run a false flag attack that would gain them both aid and sympathy.
(b) Syria’s use of chemical weapons would not violate its treat obligations.
- The 1925 Geneva Protocol (see Wikipedia) does not prohibit internal use of chemical weapons, or use against nations not party to the treaty.
- Syria has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and hence is not bound by it. Neither has authorized the US to act in accordance with these treaties.
- Neither the UN nor the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has found Syria guilty of using chemical weapons.
(c) Neither the UN Charter nor the Convention authorizes the US to attack Syria.
(d) Describing careful responses as “no strategy” is insane war-mongering.
- Prudence and respect for international opinion recommends waiting for results of the UN investigation (unlike the policy of the US now and before the Iraq invasion).
- Prudence, US law, and respect for the international order that we built recommends following the procedures of the UN Charter and Chemical Weapons Convention.
- Common sense recommends care, rather than the idiotic use of force that has characterized US foreign policy since 9-11, which has resulted in massive expensive defeats in Iraq and (in progress) Afghanistan.
(e) Degrading the strength of Syria’s government is mad if done as Obama proposes, without an understanding of the end state sought for Syria — and how a strike will further that goal.
History since WW2 provides a massive body of “experiments” about foreign military interventions. Analysis by experts shows the modes of intervention which might work. Unfortunately no US official advocates one of these for Syria due to their high cost and equally high risk. Nor would they be likely to get sufficiently broad international approval.
Ignoring this experience in a surge of do-goodism to go kill people will almost certainly just add another sad chapter to this bloody history.