aside There Is A Downside To Bombing Syria Due To Its Recent Chemical Attacks On Civilians

The republican President Donald J. Trump has already announced that the US will conduct air strikes against Syria for its government’s usage of chemical weapons against its own peoples.  Personally, I agree with this plan of action but there are many who disagree with my thinking. Below is a Lawfare article which argues against the bombing as a retaliation tactic.

Most of us have understandably reacted with horror to the devastating pictures of the chemical weapons attack on children and women. There is the inevitable reaction: We must do something. But acting on this impulse can do and has done harm in the past.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday (4/11/18) that 500 people have been affected by the latest chemical attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7 and more than 70 people have died, per the BBC.

Russia and Syrian officials have been denying their involvement but after Russia just voted down a UN resolution to allow for an independent investigation, their denials carry no weight.

As per a 4/10/18 Axios report, Russia has vetoed a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would further investigate and determine responsibility for the chemical attack in Syria over the weekend. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, told the Council that “Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.”

“The bottom line: This is not the first time Russia, which backs the Assad regime, has stood in the way of investigations into chemical attacks in Syria. But it comes as President Trump is considering strikes to retaliate over the attack, which would escalate tensions with Russia.”

But, in a statement, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on 4/10/18 that a fact-finding mission was “preparing to deploy to Syria shortly,” though it did not give a more precise timetable on when the inspectors would arrive.

UPDATE ON 4/12/18: NBC reported on Thursday “that two U.S. officials said that blood and urine samples from victims of the chemical attack in Syria over the weekend tested positive for a nerve agent and chlorine gas.”

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian soldier loyal to President Bashar al Assad is seen outside eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, SFebruary 28, 2018.
PHOTO: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS

Here is the rest of the story…

On April 10, 2018, Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway of the Lawfare blog penned the following report, “The Downsides of Bombing Syria”

Excerpts:

“The U.S. government seems on a set path toward intervening in Syria with military force (probably air strikes of some sort) in response to the recent a chemical weapons attack allegedly sponsored by the Syrian government. We think a few brief points are worth keeping in mind.”

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1. A unilateral use of force here by the president, without congressional authorization, would be premised on an astonishingly broad conception of the president’s Article II powers. The domestic legal rationale for any strike would almost certainly be grounded in  on which the Obama administration relied for its asserted authority to strike in Syria in 2013, and on which the Trump administration relied on for its similar strike last year: that Article II authorizes the president to use military force short of ground troops to uphold regional stability and important international norms when he finds that doing so is in the national interest. As one of us (Goldsmith)  of this theory when Barack Obama was considering it in 2013:

Its main problem is that it places no limit at all on the president’s ability to use significant military force unilaterally. Future presidents will easily be able to invoke regional stability and the need to protect important international norms whenever they want to intervene abroad with strikes like the one expected against Syria.

Bottom line: If you support the coming airstrike in Syria, you are supporting a rationale that allows the president to use air power unilaterally basically whenever he sees fit.”

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2. “The coming airstrike will violate international law. The United Nations Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” This most important of international laws has three exceptions, none of which are implicated here: First, Syria has not consented to the strikes; second, the U.N. Security Council has not authorized the strikes; and third, the United States is not acting in self-defense.”

“Some will describe the U.S. and allied intervention as a fulfillment of the “responsibility to protect.” As one of us (Hathaway)  in similar circumstances in 2013, that doctrine was not crafted as an exception to the demands of the U.N. Charter, and it expressly permits intervention only in accordance with the U.N. Charter rules described above.”

A child receiving oxygen through respirators following the alleged poison gas attack. Picture: AP
AP

3. It is far from clear that an airstrike intervention will improve the situation on the ground for Syrian civilians. Past U.S. actions have provoked reactions from supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the threatened intervention likely will as well. Every time the U.S. has stepped up its activities in Syria, other countries—particularly Russia and Iran—have blunted the impact by increasing their support for Assad. This dynamic of punch-counterpunch is precisely why civil wars with foreign sponsors are  and more .

4. Unless we are willing to stay and help rebuild, there’s no guarantee that life will be better for the Syrian people even if we succeed in ridding Syria of Assad. Bombs from above have the power to destroy, but not to rebuild. The most recent such humanitarian intervention—the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011 in which the U.S. participated—has not achieved what many hoped. After NATO intervened, local forces killed the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and his government fell to pieces. The result was chaos and disorder. Even though the action was Security Council-approved, there was little international appetite to help rebuild the country. Post-Gaddafi Libya remains  by civil war and has become a breeding ground for the Islamic State.”

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5. “Lastly, and perhaps most dangerously, the coming airstrikes raise the foreseeable possibility of sparking a much larger and more dangerous conflict with Russia or Iran or both. Indeed, in February, a U.S. strike killed a number of “” in Syria. Russia did little in response, but there’s no guarantee that it would similarly remain quiet if there is a repeat performance—or if strikes hit the Russian military forces working closely with Assad and his military.

“A recent Israeli strike in Syria  killed four Iranian military personnel. Stepped-up strikes by the US on Syrian government targets hold out the serious possibility of doing the same. So striking Syria could bring the U.S. to war with not one, but possibly three, foreign states: Syria, Russia and Iran. Before the president of the United States acts in ways that might provoke this larger conflict, he should inform the American people of his plans and garner congressional consent.”

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“But the dangers posed by such intervention are immense, and the prospect that such airstrikes would bring real improvements on the ground are not supported by historical experience. Perhaps there is a justification for a larger military push now in Syria; perhaps the United States must eventually confront Russia over the fate of Assad. But given the enormous stakes, that is not a decision that the president alone should be making for the United States, or that the US and a few allies should be making for the world.”

17 comments

  1. There are no easy or short answers to this one. There are about one hundred years of unsolved issues racked up here
    Missile strikes as part of a complex political initiative would be an option for a team of finely tuned and experienced minds, and even then the collective talents would be taxed to the limits.
    Who do the USA have.
    Trump & Bolton?
    A Laurel & Hardy style team could do better.

    • Dear Roger,

      There’s the rub. If he’s smart he’ll leave this to the Generals but unfortunately, he’s not. With Laurel and Hardy at the helm, what could possibly go wrong? Let me count the ways.

      Hugs, Gronda

      • Yes, at this stage a president would normally go into discussion with Military and State to discuss options and ramifications….
        There must be some in The Whitehouse who wish they could pull same stunt as in the film ‘Dave’…

  2. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Upon hearing of the chemical attacks in Syria, my first instinct was that I would support a retaliatory move. I have since had second thoughts, especially in light of the fact that such a move has the potential to dramatically increase U.S.-Russian tensions. Our friend Gronda has put forth some things to think about, some reasons why perhaps, just perhaps, another form of retaliation ought to be considered before air strikes. Please take a few minutes to read and think about these things. Many thanks, Gronda!

    • Dear Jill,

      I saw those horrifying photos of children with gas masks, etc, and I was ready to go beat up President Assad myself. What I wanted to do to him and Russian officials who allegedly allowed for this, is not describable.

      Fortunately cooler heads are prevailing. The Defense Secretary James Mattis is waiting for the results of an independent investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before taking any action.

      Unfortunately, we can’t count on US Congressional representatives to step up to the plate to do their part by debating and voting on this issue.

      Thanks a million times over for all of your support and for this reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

      • I know, my friend. It’s natural to see those pictures and want to DO something. But whatever we do will have global and long-term effects, so it’s good that somebody, whether it was Mattis or somebody else, has reined Trump in just a bit until the real experts have a chance to figure out the best approach. We could end up making things harder for the very people who have already been hurt. Hugs!!!

  3. Gronda, I think action is necessary, but two things bother me. We could do without the childish false bravado being tweeted. The other is I would like Congress to say grace. It is important to show a united front both within our country and with our allies. Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      I couldn’t agree more. I would also like the generals to let the president know that he is not to tweet about what the US plans are regarding Syria..

      Hugs, Gronda

  4. Dear John Fioravanti,

    There are no easy answers to this dilemma. In this case, there is the Secretary of Defense General Mattis who is a grown-up at the helm.

    He is waiting for the results of the fact finding mission by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before taking action.

    The reason for this is to verify the claims that chemical/ nerve gas was used by Syrian government on civilians. There are ways to determine origin.

    President Putin has been denying that Russia or Syria are responsible..We need to do the verification because admittedly this was such a stupid act by President Assad that one has to question it.

    US had announced that US military would be leaving asap. President Assad, Russia, Iran, Turkey were in the drivers’ seat. Why would President Assad be so stupid as to wave a red flag in front of USA by gassing his peoples on 4/7/18 to keep us in the game. The countries that stood to gain by keeping the USA in Syria are Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel.

    If President Assad was so stupid, Russia should shoot him. He is an animal.

    In short, General Mattis will not take action until there is more definitive verification.

    Hugs, Gronda

  5. “Russia has vetoed a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would further investigate and determine responsibility for the chemical attack in Syria over the weekend.”

    For very good reason, President Putin feels the UN is rigged/ stacked with Russophobic countries and pro-western forces, so Russia would not get a fair shake. The investigation could easily be faked, results manipulated to look like Assad did it with Putin’s approval. Putin simply doesn’t trust the UN. Like you said, ideally we should get an independent investigator that both parties agree to. Not sure if that would ever happen.

    Assad keeps gassing his own ppl makes absolutely no sense, he’s not the psychopathic moronic killer that the western press makes him out to be. Why would he keep gassing citizens over and over and over, to give Western countries an excuse to depose him? I think not.

  6. Oh Gronda, this is all terrible, it ends in tears. That clown of a president (tweets) pre-emptively the considerations of generals and persons with a modicum of sanity. Perhaps it would be better to just bomb the white house, start afresh… I understand your compassion for the civilians of Syria, but the whole thing is beyond dead, dying and suffering persons. It is white man game set, it is unintelligent. It is the precursor to unintended consequence. If Assad is the problem (take him out)… politically incorrect hey. My heart and soul is for the impoverished, hungry, casualties of this game.
    My heart and soul is for the Mothers, Fathers, Children, in the middle… this is how impotent love really is. How in my lifetime (once again) Dickheads with bombs try to ruin my world view. I am so sorry for all of them. America, Russia, Syria, Britain, France, Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey, Kurds, and I hate my impotence. Sometimes I wish I was from another time… imagine the future of all this.

    • Dear Gary J,

      Fortunately there are those dealing with this who are thinking like you.I noticed the president has walked back a bit on his tweets.

      I suspect that the Defense Secretary Mattis who is a thoughtful General, very well read and who thinks these things through, is not letting the president anywhere near this. It looks like that he has made the decision not to put his foot down with the president except in these most serious cases. I bet the general has said a few words about the president not using his twitter finger on this subject.

      He is waiting on the findings gathered by an independent credible group of experts to determine what actually happened on the ground before action is taken.

      Hugs Mate, Gronda

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