Dialogue with the Alter Ego on Sec. Kerry’s case for war in Syria
A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. (…)An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.
Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of international justice can stand. The people of the United States could act upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle they are ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything they possess.
US President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Jan. 8, 1918 ( see: http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/President_Wilson%27s_Fourteen_Points)
Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): On August 30, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a press conference in the course of which he detailed the United States’ case for a military intervention in the Syrian civil war. His arguments were that there is pretty undisputed intelligence which evidences that chemical weapons have in deed been fired by the Assad regime, that this has happened several times by now, and that it is imperative for the world to finally send a message that such crimes against humanity won’t be tolerated endlessly. What does Noah denkt™ make of Mr. Kerry’s presentation.
Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Beyond what we have already said in this matter earlier it irks us most that the US isn’t even considering to get a UN Security Council mandate for subject intervention. In that, Mr. Kerry’s speech is worse than that given by former Secretary Powell in 2003 who at least tried to get UN support for a later intervention in Iraq.
AE: Why is it bothering you so much that the US isn’t going to take its case to the UN Security Council? After all, it isn’t too far fetched to persume that “guaranteed Russian obstructionism” (Kerry) won’t allow for any intervention mandate to be passed.
Nd: Well, the problem here is that by not even asking the UN, the US is undermining the credibility of any UN based collective security management so much that its questionable whether it can continue to operate from here on. In other words, it seems to us this could very well be a watershed moment in international relations and in international law since all meaningful international community based reasoning has effectively lost its foundation.
AE: But, come on. This is not the first time that the UN has been sidelined in matters of peace and war. Just think about the Russian intervention in Georgia in 2008. That use of force by a UN veto power didn’t have explicit Security Council backing either. And still, this didn’t mean the end of all collective security based politics.
Nd: The difference between a possible US intervention in Syria and anything that Russia does or does not do is that the United Nations were created due to US initiative. And that would imply that the US should demonstrate a greater sense of obligation towards the authority of subject institution than anyone else would be expected to feel.
AE: Okay, but neither the US interventions in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Kosovo (1999) Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) nor the cruise missile strikes in Sudan and Pakistan had UN backing. And all this didn’t destroy the international community based reasoning either. Why then would air strikes in Syria be so different?
Nd: Because for the first time ever, the US doesn’t have the moral support of Great Britain, the other great founding father of rule-of-law based thinking. That changes the perception of any US action in Syria dramatically. After all, Britain is the home of the concept of common law, of fair play, of the Magna Charta and of parliamentary politics to name just a few.
AE: And the moral and practical support which the US receives from France in this matter doesn’t make up for the lack of British backing? After all, France is another UN veto power. And do not forget that the Chinese character for Law equals that for France.
Nd: French support for the US-led action in Syria doesn’t change the fact that it is the first time ever, at least in our recollection, that the US is pressing ahead with a military intervention without having the tacit support of at least half of the veto powers in the Security Council. This is a serious first that could come back to haunt us all.