Seymour Hersh’s article on Syria confirms what was reported last August and September, which is that Great Britain, France and the U.S. were preparing and mere days away from launching a massive attack on anything attackable in Syria. See here, here, and here.
At the time, an article appeared in Forbes on 9/11/2013 concerning the legality of such a move under international law, i.e., the UN charter. It pointed out that the contemplated bombing campaign was illegal and so was NATO’s Kosovo campaign. At the time, Russia said a Syrian bombing by the West would be illegal.
The Forbes commentary is worth quoting:
“To put an even finer point on it, U.S. military action in Syria is actually prohibited by the United Nations Charter. There are only two circumstances in which the U.N. Charter permits the use of military force by one nation against another: a case of self-defense, or when authorized by the Security Council ‘to maintain or restore international peace and security.’ Russia has already said it does not support action against Syria, so its veto (or that of China) in the Security Council would stop that alternative cold. The U.S. makes noises that it is concerned about its own security whenever a leader uses weapons of mass destruction (Saddam Hussein in Iraq), but a case of self-defense would need to be stronger for chemical weapons thousands of miles away.
“So, the bottom line is that if you want to undertake military measures against Syria for its use of chemical weapons on its own people, international law is part of the problem, not part of the solution. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are left with the thin argument that what they propose is ‘legitimate’ even if it isn’t actually ‘legal.’ And how do they establish such legitimacy? Presumably by getting other world powers to agree, by persuading Congress to pass a resolution, from the E.U. statement of concern (but no authorization of military force), etc. This is how NATO authorized bombings in Kosovo in the 90’s—the major world powers agreed (or agreed not to disagree) that this was the humanitarian and right thing to do, even though it violated international law.”
What is the point, beyond the educational one, in recounting this history of near-war and near-aggression, one that the U.S. military warned against as a blunder but which the Obama White House was only 2 days away from launching?
It is simply that such a rash, illegal and imprudent decision at the highest levels of authority of the U.S. government is not unique to the Obama White House and not limited to foreign policy decisions. These kinds of wrong, ill-considered, unconstitutional, destructive, irrational and harmful decisions, domestic and foreign, occur in every administration without letup. They occur because of the setup of the government itself and its powers.
Government makes every attempt to appear rational in its operation, to be doing good, to be responsive to the public, to be acting justly, and to be acting legally. Unfortunately, it is none of these things on a systematic basis. Systematically, the design of it and the realities of what government is and has become produce bad and wrong results almost as a matter of course. The Syrian episode provides a recent example.