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  1. #1
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default Syria: The case for inaction

    (I) Illegality

    Charter of the United Nations
    signed by the U.S. president
    ratified by U.S. Congress
    supreme law of the land in the U.S. according to U.S. constitution

    Article 2
    The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

    The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
    All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
    All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
    All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
    The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
    Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.
    North Atlantic Treaty
    signed by the U.S. president
    ratified by U.S. Congress
    supreme law of the land in the United States according to the U.S. constitution

    Article 1

    The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
    Military action against is illegal so far because Syria does not attack another nation, is member of the UN itself and the UNSC did not give green light.
    Granted, a specific law of the U.S. Congress weighs heavier than a less specific one, so a U.S. law permitting an attack on Syria weighs heavier than the less specific UN Charter and North Atlantic Treaty. An attack would still be an illegal act and violation of both charter and treaty if looked at by other member countries, of course.
    An attack of Syria would basically be a violation of the duties as a NATO member. But that's nothing new to some members, of course.

    __________________________________

    (II) Illegitimacy

    Legitimacy (UN aside) can only be had if the action is a ceteris paribus improvement. It cannot be legitimate if it makes the crisis worse.

    Killing and destruction is clearly bad in itself, and requires to be outweighed by benefits.
    No such benefits have been laid out convincingly.
    __________________________________

    (III) Efficiency

    If civilian suffering is the issue, why not help civilians? Why add destruction, instead of humanitarian goods, to the mix? Compare the cost efficiency.
    __________________________________

    (IV) ...


    (More than enough arguments already in my opinion, so I'm not motivated to sum up all the others. Feel free to add them.
    This thread was created because I disliked the imbalance of having a "case for action" thread, but no "case for inaction" thread. The urge "to do something" is strong in humans, but this doesn't mean that action is better than inaction - especially when one can avoid involvement.)

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    Fuchs, you miss the point totally (either deliberately or inadvertently).

    This is about enforcing the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons which is especially important when a country which has refused to sign on to the convention uses these weapons on a repeated and escalating basis.




    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    (I) Illegality

    Charter of the United Nations
    signed by the U.S. president
    ratified by U.S. Congress
    supreme law of the land in the U.S. according to U.S. constitution

    Article 2


    North Atlantic Treaty
    signed by the U.S. president
    ratified by U.S. Congress
    supreme law of the land in the United States according to the U.S. constitution



    Military action against is illegal so far because Syria does not attack another nation, is member of the UN itself and the UNSC did not give green light.
    Granted, a specific law of the U.S. Congress weighs heavier than a less specific one, so a U.S. law permitting an attack on Syria weighs heavier than the less specific UN Charter and North Atlantic Treaty. An attack would still be an illegal act and violation of both charter and treaty if looked at by other member countries, of course.
    An attack of Syria would basically be a violation of the duties as a NATO member. But that's nothing new to some members, of course.

    __________________________________

    (II) Illegitimacy

    Legitimacy (UN aside) can only be had if the action is a ceteris paribus improvement. It cannot be legitimate if it makes the crisis worse.

    Killing and destruction is clearly bad in itself, and requires to be outweighed by benefits.
    No such benefits have been laid out convincingly.
    __________________________________

    (III) Efficiency

    If civilian suffering is the issue, why not help civilians? Why add destruction, instead of humanitarian goods, to the mix? Compare the cost efficiency.
    __________________________________

    (IV) ...


    (More than enough arguments already in my opinion, so I'm not motivated to sum up all the others. Feel free to add them.
    This thread was created because I disliked the imbalance of having a "case for action" thread, but no "case for inaction" thread. The urge "to do something" is strong in humans, but this doesn't mean that action is better than inaction - especially when one can avoid involvement.)

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    JMA,

    the legal situation is far from clear as the action of Assad's forces would not have been against another state actor but own population.

    Actions against own population are from a more legal point of view very complex. They are according to an expert in this field not allowed, however, only could be punished under current legislation with UN mandate, which is of course in this case blocked by Russia and China.

    http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/...013A54_slr.pdf

    (sorry, article is in German)

    So the ugly conclusion of the author is that without Russian and Chinese cooperation there is no firm legal ground to support punitive actions against Assad.

    BTW, before such action I would prefer hard evidence and a clear statement what "we" would do if rebels were the culprits, a case that would open another can of legal worms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulenspiegel View Post

    BTW, before such action I would prefer hard evidence and a clear statement what "we" would do if rebels were the culprits, a case that would open another can of legal worms.
    Not a good idea.

    We have just seen Obama get embarrassed by the 'red line' that he drew. Any card player will know never to show your hand.

    Identifying which rebel group or faction were responsible and then know exactly who they are and where to find them is sure to embarrass all the intelligence agencies. The best plan of course would be to 'misdirect' a few cruise missiles onto AQ supporting rebel positions

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    Default International Law is NOT US domestic law...

    Gentlemen--

    Under US law a treaty ( and the UN Charter is a treaty) has the same status as a statute passed by Congress and signed by the President. It is superceeded by the next law on the subject. An authorization for the use of force passed by Congress, a use of force under the War Powers Act, use of force under the inherent powers of Article II of the US Constitution all override the UN Charter for the US and therefore are legal under US law.

    More important, a law that is not enforceable is not a law - at least in analytical terms. International law is never enforceable without the the express consent of the states concerned (even if after the fact of military defeat). Of international institutions, only the UN Security Council has the authority to enforce international law (plus the power to do so) with the caveat that it must not have the formal opposition of a permanent member of the UNSC and it must have a total of 9 positive votes. If this does not happen then the UNSC is unable to act. It does not make action by others impossible but only without UN sanction. is such action illegal? I am sure that many international lawyers would argue it is. But I return to the point I made in the first sentence of this paragraph: A law that cannot be enforced is not a law. Liewise, a law that is not enforced is not a law.

    As far as chemical weapons are concerned we have the Geneva Convention (Protocol?) of 1925 banning them and the more recent chemical weapons convention. These are the relevant "laws" on the books. If neither the UNSC nor any state or group of states chooses to enforce them, then they are no longer law and we are back to the international anarchy among states of 1648 - which we really never left, only mitigated.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Gentlemen--

    But I return to the point I made in the first sentence of this paragraph: A law that cannot be enforced is not a law. Liewise, a law that is not enforced is not a law.
    Excellent statement.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I find it odd that a tribunal ruling is weighted so heavily in this document. The criminal tribunal about war crimes in Bosnia was hardly set up and empowered to settle differing interpretations of international law.

    The Nurembourg trials get similar respect elsewhere, even though their rulings' standards - if applied to later conflicts - demand the incarceration or execution many, many never incarcerated Western politicians, such as the entire Neocon gang.
    In effect, such rulings only seem to carry much weight if the court was set up to rule on the IL question itself, not too rule on actions.

  8. #8
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    This is about enforcing the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons which is especially important when a country which has refused to sign on to the convention uses these weapons on a repeated and escalating basis.
    Oh, so violation of a treaty (which wasn't even ratified) outlaws a country and means others are entitled to bomb it without UNSC approval? This was news to me.

    United States: Welcome, you're now the free fire zone for all NATO members. You have violated the North Atlantic Treaty repeatedly, brazenly, arrogantly, and you need to be taught a lesson.

    United States: Welcome, you're now the free fire zone for all countries in the world. You have violated the United Nations charter repeatedly, brazenly, arrogantly, and you need to be taught a lesson.



    Treaties don't become universally relevant only because most countries signed them. A whopping 56 countries did not sign the 1925 treaty.
    Now if treaties became universally relevant once most instead of all countries sign and ratify, and if this would mean a violation would entitle other countries to bomb the offender, then the United States would need to agree that it not extraditing a suspect to the International Criminal Court authorizes Venezuela to bomb the United States, right?


    Hypocrisy stinks, but the fact that people cannot even recognize it is ever-amazing to me.


    JMA: Syria has a right to sovereignty, and this has been recognised plenty times. It did not give up its right to sovereignty or its right to not face aggression by its accession to the 1925 Geneva Convention. Feel free to look at the text, but I tell you in advance: No country signs off such a clause except when it lost a war or is about to do so.

    ------------------------------------

    Let's face it: The Syria attack thing is not about enforcing international law. The United States are almost the very last country in the world with any kind of credibility with regards to international law.
    The U.S. Congress doesn't want to pass laws or confirm nominees, so Obama can't do much domestically. U.S.presidents have some freedom of action in foreign policy and the use of the military, though. So he looked to the distance and saw a conflict where he could pose a bit. This is all about meddling, nothing about enforcing rules.
    If it was about rules, the United States would have allowed the UNSC to condemn and punish Israel for air attacks on Syria months ago, for this was an actually illegal aggression under the Charter of the United Nations. Same for air attacks on Sudan.
    No, they waited till they have a cover story for violently meddling against someone they dislike anyway and being rather disingenuous and lacking domestic support, they could think of little more than bombardment.

    ------------------------------------

    By the way; I've seen some website keeping track of what congress members signalled, and it seems Obama is not going to get green light from congress.

    ------------------------------------

    John T Fishel:

    The convention does not include any clause about its own enforcement and thus lends no legitimacy to its enforcement if said enforcement is in violation with any other obligation.
    http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc/keytext/genprot.htm
    http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Bi...s_Protocol.pdf
    Last edited by Fuchs; 09-07-2013 at 03:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Fuchs, you miss the point totally (either deliberately or inadvertently).

    This is about enforcing the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons which is especially important when a country which has refused to sign on to the convention uses these weapons on a repeated and escalating basis.
    And who exactly, has used them? That chemical weapons were deployed has been proven. WHO deployed them has not. Jumping the gun as usual, JMA.

    Recently John Kerry used Kosovo as a precedent. Given that the response by NATO was exactly what the KLA wanted when they initiated their pseudo-operations is often forgotten (as is the fact that Kosovo is now run by said criminals); specifically the targeting of civilians by the KLA to prod the Serbs (who by then had become "bad guy #1" in the Western imaginary). This connection is rather fitting becuae there are now reports that some of the Syrian insurgents (yes, [Assad's] Syria proper is fighting a counter-insurgency) were trained by the KLA. Poetic no?

    Before that our esteemed political wise men were "willingly" duped over Bosnia too. See also here for the lamentable manner in which sloppy "western" journalists were co-opted by their largely Muslim translators, the corporate media machine and the psuedo-neutral UN.

    This whole affair smells a lot like a giant steaming pile of hugger-mugger, confused "interests" (loosely defined as usually nothing more than domestic egoism cloaked in "moral outrage") and downright stupidity......

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Meanwhile in Moscow & St Petersburg

    I was surprised no-one at the G20 Summit asked their host did Russia go to the UNSC before it attacked Georgia? Ah well it was diplomacy in action, so such questions are not asked, even thought of.

    Since 1945 I am sure the vast majority of nation-state coercive actions against other nation-states have not gone to the UNSC. Yes, the UNSC has often got involved,with diplomacy and sometimes a 'peacekeeping' fog, sorry role has commenced.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    And who exactly, has used them? That chemical weapons were deployed has been proven. WHO deployed them has not. Jumping the gun as usual, JMA.
    5 days ago I posted this:

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...0&postcount=34

    Listen son, the rule is if you want to take a cheap shot at least get your facts straight.

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    Default Correct - as far as you go, Ulenspiegel...

    but you don't go far enough IMO. In a situation of international anarchy norms - not laws - will be enforced by those who can and have the will. If they are not enforced, the norms lose their status as norms (incidentally one of the few times I agree with my President even though I don't believe he has any intent or will to enofrce the norms he verbally champions). If the norm not to use chemical weapons is upheld by the US - not very likely at the moment - then it will be a long time before a state or leader is tempted to risk the consequenses by using them again and by extension other WMD. If, on the other hand, there is little or no cost to Assad for using chmical weapons he will likely use them again and others will be tempted to push against the limits of other treaties like the NPT and, perhaps use other unacceptable weapons.

    Let me return to the prior point: All international law is ultimately consensual and enforceable only by the strong in coalition or alone. the highest legitimacy in enforceing IL against a transgressor is gained if the UNSC is able to act - that is the Great Powers agree and are joined by enogh lesser powers on the UNSC. Then, and only then, is the "law" enforced. Otherwise, a norm is enforced by one or a coalition of powers.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    "very long"? Sorry, but this sounds like fairy tale to me.
    Only ten years ago Americans invaded a neighbour of Syria under the pretence of WMDs, and still don't leave that neighbour fully alone. Syria knew this fully well and still there's now this Sarin incident.

    Face it; the U.S. is not the super cop who can make all baddies cower in fear if he's just ruthless and violent enough.
    That's merely the story as fed by warmongers.
    ---------------------------
    And one power or a coalition there of cannot enforce a norm. It can only go rogue and violate a couple norms while doing so, all the while pretending to uphold some specific norm.
    Vigilantism doesn't enforce laws.
    ---------------------------
    The problem is that the United States want it both ways; it wants others to obey IL and itself not be restricted by it.

    Its veto right in the UNSC is welcome when it serves U.S. policy, but when others veto a UNSC action this just gets disrespected and the weasel lawyers in Washington DC make some BS up about how blatant violation of rules is legal under some BS doctrine they just pulled out of their seat cushion.
    The most natural consequence of such immature behaviour is a perpetual conflict, disrespect and hostility in the world.

    There was a time when the United States helped construct IL and establish the rule of law internationally, thus helping to tame the savage wars which crippled the Western civilisation twice.
    Sometime during the Cold War, this was thrown overboard, and post -'91 it became increasingly obvious that the political and cultural forces in the U.S. which disrespect obligations, rules, other countries, the UN and generally the rule of law dominated U.S. foreign policy and UK foreign policy.

    It's hideous and ridiculous that the obvious pro-rule of force faction still makes up BS legal justifications for its actions.


    There will be backlash again and again as long as the US/UK punish others for not obeying IL while violating it themselves at will, usually even in the act.
    It's a grand strategy worthy of an eight year old school yard bully.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Listen son, the rule is if you want to take a cheap shot at least get your facts straight.
    Had I been your son I wouldn't have been for long.


    Debunking Obama’s Chemical Weapons Case Against the Syrian Government

    Syrians from the town of Ghouta – the site of the chemical attack – tell a very different story from the one being told by the US government. Residents provide very credible testimony that “certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.” What makes such testimony even more compelling is that it comes from anti-Assad Syrians, many of whom have seen their children die fighting Assad’s forces. One of the Ghouta residents described his conversations with his son, a fighter tasked with carrying the chemical weapons for the Nusra Front jihadi group, who spoke of Saudi-supplied weapons being unloaded and transported. His son later was killed, along with 12 other rebels, inside a tunnel used to store weapons.

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    I don't find this story particularly credible, for a whole raft of reasons. Official accounts certainly deserve skepticism, but the multiplicity of unofficial accounts deserve at least equal skepticism.

    I also don't find the legal arguments to be terribly persuasive. Maybe I'm just an American neanderthal, but we all know the UNSC is inutile and "international law" is unenforceable and thus too abstract to be of any real utility. I'd have no issues at all with action without UN authorization IF there was a truly compelling US interest at stake, if the goal was clear, practical, and achievable, if there was a clear plan in place for controlling escalation when the other side calls the bluff, and if the risk/reward and cost/benefit equations justified action.

    My problem with the whole proposal is that I don't see any of these criteria being met.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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