Monday, September 02, 2013

Syria. What to do?

Politics is not just the art of the possible, it is also about choices.

The choice is whether to bomb Damascus because Assad probably may (but possibly may not) have used chemical weapons on rebels.
The choice has been passed by Cameron, Obama and Hollande to the peoples representatives.

This is really good.

It is interesting that Parliament narrowly rejected the military option, whereas the people resoundingly reject it. In general, the idea of going to war is more appealing to some than others. My guess is that war is most welcomed by tabloid editors, then in descending order, by presidents and prime ministers, elected representatives, of whom the right is more eager to fight than the left, then come the people, with men being keener than women. Least welcoming of all, I would imagine, are veterans who have actually been through it, people who know that the phrase "surprisingly light casualty" actually means, "only one human being was transformed into disparate lumps of quivering meat and blood". People like Harry Patch.

So - what if the Peoples' representatives listen to the people?
What if editors and leaders called for a war and no-one came?

In this case, we would have avoided the Worst Possible Outcome, which would have been World War Three. Yes, unlikely, but not off the cards. US fires enough cruise missiles to get Assad and Putin really annoyed, Putin orders his forces to take out the cruise missiles, and puts troops in to finish off the rebels Chechen-style. Israel gets take it from there.

So if Congress and the Assemblee vote to avoid WWIII, what then? Where do we stand?

The worst outcome then would be if Assad just used chemical weapons (CW) to his heart's content. He cannot be allowed to do this.

The laws against chemical weapons have great significance because they were one of the first laws passed, nearly a century ago, against weapons of mass destruction. The law against WMD must be upheld.

Also, since 2005 the UN has a responsibility to protect civilians. It goes like this:

  • A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
  • The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
  • If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.

So what can the UN do, short of taking military action?

Here are some things we can do.

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