Friday, September 06, 2013

Angus and Thomas More

Angus makes a fair point.  If the President is going to pledge war, perhaps we should have protested then. 

Well, I made a mistake then, because I thought the international community would respond.   And that was the "we" in question.  So, I'm protesting now, because the "we" can't be the U.S., acting alone.  And the reason is law.  From my good friend Chris Nelson, at Arizona, the suggestion that we check out "A Man for All Seasons," and the rule of law.

Just so you have the program, and know the players:  Assad is the devil here.  And Obama is considering cutting down the law to get at him... So, for Hutter, the scene from "A Man for All Seasons."


Pelsmin said...

Yeah, but. When it comes to "International Law," what's the governance? Who administers it? The fact is that once you get outside of sovereign nations, application and enforcement of international law is pretty murky. Is the UN the arbiter? Not enough space here, and no need really, to discount the UN as a valid, well-intentioned protector of human rights and enforcer of law.
You're just as well to use natural law and basic humanity when it comes to enforcing international law, and the US is the only option here. If a non-signatory to a chemical weapons ban uses them, you can turn to the UN and wait a year for a committee report blaming Israel for inventing the technology that created the chemicals, or you can do something to make it clear that this is unacceptable.
Realpolitik leads to the US unilaterally doing enough harm to the perpetrator to let them and others know that there is a high price to be paid for crossing that line.
It doesn't mean we want the "rebels" to win. There are bad guys on all sides. But the US is the world's policeman, like it or not, and we are the most benign of the superpowers (v. Russia, China) so we're the only ones who can be counted on.
The model is this: something awful happens, the US threatens to act unilaterally to address it, the world wrings its hands and condemns our arrogance, and then quietly thanks god we are there. As long as we know they don't really mean it, we're able to act.

Anonymous said...

But Pelsmin,
This is not the first time the U.S. and the U.N. have ignored a dictator's use of chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein used it against Iran in the 80's and then against the Kurds in the late 90's. Should the U.S. have intervened then? If not, then why should the U.S. intervene now? Why is it in our interests to intervene other then for Obama to save face? If this is about trying to get to the chemical weapons before the terrorist affiliated rebels do, why don't they make that case to the people? Shoot, why don't they make any case besides: Assad has killed lots of people? I think everyone believes that chemical weapons were used, but where's the strong evidence saying that it was Assad who did it? It seems likely that Assad did it, but it also seemed very likely that Saddam had a nuke program (even he thought he had one).

Pelsmin said...

Anon -
The right policy would be to slap anyone, anywhere, who uses chemical weapons. If we blew it under Bush, Clinton and Bush, we blew it. Doesn't mean we ought to again.
I like the idea of Obama being thwarted in general, but not if it comes at the expense of America. Our goal isn't to help the amateur in the White House save face, it's to maintain US credibility as an enforcer of certain basic norms, when they rise to the level of mass murder.
The only reason to strike is to send the message that no-one can use chemical weapons without consequences.
Now as to the question of whether he really DID use them, we need to be confident beyond reasonable doubt, and we need to trust the Obama administration to be competent and honest in that report -- two leaps, admittedly. But if the strike is aimed, say, to devastate the Syrian Airforce, which would hurt the Assad government, I don't think we have the same hurdle to clear as we would to nuke a city that we thought had just launched a nuke at us.

Captain Profit said...

Last I heard, the Syrian civil war has killed around 100,000 people. Of those, 1000 or so were killed with chemical weapons, meaning the other 99,000 were killed with the acceptable kind. Ever think that maybe y'aller getting redline fever over the wrong stuff? Just askin'...