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.”
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”
“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.”
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 the same rationale 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) said 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.”
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) explained 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.”
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 longer and more brutal.
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 torn by civil war and has become a breeding ground for the Islamic State.”
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 “Russian mercenaries” 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 reportedly 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.”
“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.”