From Robert Stacey Stacy McCain’s blog sidekick Smitty:
Posted on | August 29, 2013 | 1 Comment
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?
More at the link.
The writer, Ian Hurd, continues to state that ethics and not just the law ought to guide policy. That’s a reasonable argument, and it is one I not only accept but support, but it immediately makes a mockery of any of the claims of our friends on the left that President Bush’s policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong: it was the ethics of the situation — that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man who needed to be deposed — which justified President Bush’s actions, and if you happen to disagree with his ethical judgement, well, he was the man elected as our President, so he was the one whose ethics mattered.
Smitty wrote, in part, “one cannot possibly fathom what strategic interest the U.S. even has in the Levant,” excepting perhaps siding with Israel. In that, I disagree: our economy is so large and our corporations so worldwide, our commitments so broad, and our need for the free flow of oil at reasonable prices so great that there is virtually nowhere in the world that is not of strategic interest to the United States. We are so big that anything that happens, anywhere in the world, could touch on our economic or defense interests. The problems in Syria aren’t a problem of identifying whether the region counts as part of our strategic interest, but in determining what outcomes are the best, or at least the least bad, for the United States.
And that’s the problem when it comes to the Syrian civil war; there are no good guys involved, and none of the various factions fighting — including the government — should we want to see emerge victorious. Determining which faction would be the least bad is like trying to decide between peas, lima beans and asparagus; they’re all nasty.
And that is a sad fact which is being obscured here. Bashar al-Assad and his regime are bad, bad, bad. But the fact that they were evil enough to use poison gas1 does not somehow make the rebels a better choice. If we don’t have anybody we want to see win, if we don’t have a long-range policy and plan for Syria after the civil war that we can influence, we shouldn’t get involved by shooting cruise missiles into the place.
- I accept, for the sake of argument, that it almost certainly was the government which used poison gas. ↩