US Intervention in Syria Must Be Legitimate in Eyes of International Law

By Rudolph, James P. | The Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

US Intervention in Syria Must Be Legitimate in Eyes of International Law


Rudolph, James P., The Christian Science Monitor


Everyone seems to agree that the situation in Syria is unimaginably horrific and heartrending. But the consensus seems to break down when the subject of solutions is broached. Now, the reported use of chemical weapons (sarin gas) raises the stakes of the crisis - and outside intervention - considerably.

President Obama, who warned that the use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer," is likely considering some kind of response beyond the nonlethal aid already given to Syria's rebels. Alleged Israeli strikes on Damascus over the weekend may complicate matters. And many questions remain. One of the most important deals with whether US intervention in Syria would be "legal" under the UN Charter without Security Council backing.

And that legality matters. It can determine the costs of and allies involved in an intervention, set precedents for future military campaigns, and can increase or decrease the likelihood of future wars in general.

Even if the Security Council doesn't sanction a Syrian intervention, any move by the United States to "put boots on the ground" in Syria could still be well supported by the international laws of war - and the demands of the UN Charter. And intervention to protect Syrian civilians may finally pressure Russia to finally give UN Security Council support for such a move.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan, are either calling on the president to put "boots on the ground" or refusing to rule that out as an option. Doing so, they argue, will increase the pressure on the Syrian regime and demonstrate to Iran that we mean what we say.

However, consistent vetoes from Russia at the UN Security Council on further action in Syria make it unlikely the international body will back any military intervention there - at least for the time being. This is unfortunate, as the UN is the most prominent international organization and therefore shouldn't be consigned to irrelevance as Syria is turned into a charnel house.

But action outside the framework of the UN - i.e., unilateral action - appears increasingly likely. Many will argue that the use of force in the absence of Security Council authorization (other than self-defense) is illegal; others will stress the primacy of human rights. It might be that the absence of Security Council authorization will render any operation illegal under international law, but that same law (including the UN Charter) obligates member states to act in the face of mass atrocities and large-scale human suffering.

If Mr. Obama and other international leaders pursue military intervention in Syria, they will ideally be guided by a concept known within the law of war as "jus ad bellum." That is, the conditions under which a state is justified in resorting to war in the first place.

In order for the use of force to be justified, the following five criteria must be consulted: the seriousness of the harm; the primary purpose of the proposed action; the existence and viability of peaceful alternatives; the proportionality of the response; and, finally, the balance of consequences.

The seriousness of harm. In the case of Syria, the world is witnessing savagery and butchery the likes of which we haven't seen since Rwanda. More than 70,000 people have been killed; civilians have been deliberately targeted; and the number of internally displaced persons now stands at more than 3 million, a situation the UN high commissioner for refugees calls the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war. This element, in other words, is not in doubt.

The primary purpose. The primary purpose of the intervention must be to halt the suffering. To be sure, ancillary considerations (for example deterring Iran, a strong ally of the Assad regime in Syria) can be present. But these considerations must not constitute the crux of the operation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

US Intervention in Syria Must Be Legitimate in Eyes of International Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.