Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Best Case Yet for Not Bombing Syria

I'm conflicted on this sort of thing. I regard myself as a pacifist and have since Vietnam, was against Iraq but not against Afghanistan, other than how the war was prosecuted, believing we should have engaged in a police action to root out the bad guys no matter how long it took without waging all-out war.

I agreed with Clinton's actions in Bosnia and Kosovo, not so much because no Americans were lost in combat but because we took a limited action that was launched in great measure against genocide. That's why I originally favored knocking Syria, Assad, and his forces back as hard as Barack Obama felt like doing. We don't cotton to genocide, and we don't allow chemical weapons.

However, arguments are being made against any action, and some have been persuasive, none more so than Slate business blogger Matthew Yglesias in his post, "The Case for Doing Nothing in Syria:"
Except, in this case, it’s total nonsense [that there are no good options]. Obama has an excellent option. It’s called “don’t bomb Syria.” Don’t fire cruise missiles at Syria either. Or in any other way conduct acts of war. Condemn Assad’s violations of international humanitarian law. If rebels violate international humanitarian law, condemn them, too.
Work at the United Nations to get wrongdoing punished. Insofar as geopolitically driven Russian and Chinese intransigence prevents that from happening, accept alliance politics as a fact of life. The government of Bahrain has killed dozens of protesters since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, and America has done nothing. We haven’t cut aid to Egypt despite massacres there, and while it’s at least imaginable that we might cut aid at some point, we certainly won’t be greenlighting any cross-border attacks on the Egyptian military. We don’t have to like it when our friends in Beijing and Moscow block our schemes, but there’s no need to be self-righteous about it.
Obama’s good option would be to reread his administration’s official National Security Strategy, which sagely argues that “[a]s we did after World War II, we must pursue a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests.”
In this case, the relevant rules are in Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which  states that all countries have an “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense” in the case of an armed attack. Bombing Syria would not be an act of U.S. self-defense. Nor would it be an act of collective self-defense in which the United States comes to the aid of an ally. Beyond individual and collective self-defense, military action may be legally undertaken at the direction of the Security Council. In this case, direction will not be forthcoming, which is what makes Obama’s choice easy. He needs to stick with the pursuit of a rules-based international system by, in this case, playing by the rules.
This is a good option.
This is very persuasive indeed. We didn't stop genocide in Rwanda, we aren't stopping it in Congo, and we haven't stopped aid to the Egyptian Army despite obvious deadly force inflicted on Egypt's own people: We pick and choose based on our national interests, don't we?

Yglesias is also right to point out that there are established channels to follow to invoke the Geneva Protocols. It's called going to the U.N. If Russia and China refuse to pass a resolution to punish Syria for war crimes, shame on them. The world will know who stands up against chemical weapons and who doesn't.

And, finally, deciding to blow stuff up in a "limited, targeted" way is fraught with difficulty and often just as likely to cause civilian deaths as doing nothing. In some cases, it raises civilian casualties.

Let's get the whole world against Syria and its vile actions. Then see what action, if any, should be taken.

Remember these guys? They decided "screw the U.N." How well did that work out?

   Paul Wolfowitz   "Scooter" Libby
        Elliot Abrams     

      Richard Perle  Donald Rumsfeld
     Richard Cheney
Er, uh, or not.

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