By Dr. Harold Pease
With the Russians coming forth with a possible brokered agreement with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for him to give up his chemical weapons in exchange for America not attacking him, America’s military threat has dissipated for the moment. But issues still need discussed. Is an attack warranted under international law and, if not, would we not be viewed by the world as an aggressor nation? A giant irony is that we would have punished Syria for violating international law by our also violating international law. Who says two wrongs do not make a right?
Consider the following United Nations Charter violations of the United States had we attacked Syria: Article 2, Sec. 4, “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….” Even our threat of the use of force is a violation. The only exception to the use of force is self-defense as stipulated in Art. 51. “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
Obama has yet to make a case to the United Nations for wanting to attack the sovereign country of Syria. He has not, and will not, because he would have to justify such action on the basis that Syria had first shown actual aggression toward us necessitating our responding in self-defense. This he cannot do. Were U. S. citizens gassed we could respond in self-defense but we were not. Such acts of aggression justifying self defense must immediately be provided to the UN Security Council who then decide “such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
Other United Nation Charter rules also would have had to be satisfied. Article 39 stipulates that “the Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Even before this takes place Article 40 must be satisfied which reads: “In order to prevent an aggravation of the situation, the Security Council may, before making the recommendations or deciding upon the measures provided for in Article 39, call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable. Such provisional measures shall be without prejudice to the rights, claims, or position of the parties concerned. The Security Council shall duly take account of failure to comply with such provisional measures.” So we see that in order for a state to use force in self-defense, it or some other state must have suffered an armed attack. Such has not been demonstrated.
There exists other complications; even had the UN ruled Syria an aggressor nation, which it has not, and sanctioned a coalition force against Syria, the President was unsuccessful in getting any other country to bomb with him. Nobody agrees with him enough to commit armed forces. The Syrian offense had already occurred so the mission was to punish the perpetrator, clearly not self-defense. Syria had signed only one of two treaties prohibiting the use of gas and it contained no enforcement provisions and no one made the United States the policeman of the world. Finally, although there is no doubt that chemical weapons were used on Syrians, the source of such, although presumed, has not been definitively proved. Everyone remembers the “proof” presented to the United Nations by Colin Powel, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when it did not. Assad maintains that his own men were gassed as well.
The Assad regime may well have gassed her own people, which Assad aggressively denies, but she has not attacked another country. We, on the other hand, would have done just that, had we bombed Syria. I think it likely that had the U.S. attacked, Russia, China or even Syria would have ask the United Nations to define the United States as the aggressor nation and Obama as a war criminal. That could have been followed by a “call upon the parities concerned,” the United States especially, “to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable,” which could include economic sanctions as has been used on other nations. Did we think when we signed the Charter, creating the “world government,” that the rules did not apply to us, that we could just bomb whomever, whenever, and wherever we wished as with our drone strikes. Unfortunately for President Obama, but fortunately for us, the U N Charter does not allow a military attack on a sovereign nation for punishment.
Apparently the Russians will be brokering, at least with Assad, the mess that we created for ourselves by not using the United Nations. The “slouch, looking kid in the back of the classroom,” as Obama recently referred to Vladimir Putin, has ironically saved the president from his own ignorance of international law.