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A Wise Decision: The British vote on Syria

By | August 29, 2013 | Opinion

Thursday, the British Parliament voted not to aid the Syrian rebels militarily.

The New York Times reported that David Cameron’s government had hoped for the opposite. 

In trying to make this happen, the government published a report citing the Syrian government’s supposed use of chemical weapons, as well as a statement saying that parliamentary agreement is not necessarily needed to justify a military strike in Syria.

Apparently, such action can be justified on humanitarian grounds.

It’s interesting that the British do not want to strike Syria, though the margin was very slim at a difference of 13 opposing votes.

In 2002, Tony Blair’s government published a report citing Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

In turn, when the United States declared war on Iraq, the British military was right behind as a loyal ally.

Declaring war on Iraq was not necessarily a travesty operationwise. In comparison to Afghanistan it was a victory.

Yet, there were problems with the campaign in Iraq, and in hindsight—when one learns that the whole WMD thing was a tad bit fabricated—the human and economic losses in Iraq seem in vain.

Frankly, they are. Of course, the argument for going to Iraq was that Hussein somehow supported the Taliban and al-Qaida. They in turn planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A full frontal campaign in Iraq seems to have been unnecessary, and Afghanistan could have been handled more covertly, a la secret bombings, CIA negotiations and strategic alliances with various regional leaders.

We see that things went awry. Even if you supported the invasion of Iraq, you see that things could have been handled differently, and the reasoning could have been a little more concrete.

Fortunately, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan can always be justified by citing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In light of those attacks, the question was and still is, “What else are we supposed to do besides invade something or someone?”

After all, the U.S. can’t simply turn the other cheek. That would invite more offensive actions by our enemies.

But for Britain, the only reason to have attacked Iraq was the familial alliance with the U.S. that has been in effect (though technically unspoken) since 1917.

It seems parliament, including a majority of Cameron’s own party members, lack faith in the current reasoning for military strikes.

After all, the United Nation’s inspectors say they will not have results for at least another two days. And then, what happens if they find that Bashar al-Assad did not mandate the use of chemical weapons?

That, in fact, is very likely. The nation of Syria is in a state of civil war. It’s possible that a military commander made a rogue decision.

Though, it seems more likely that Assad would use chemical weapons, an analysis of Assad’s situation shows he might not attempt the use of such weapons.

His close ally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, has a keen understanding of international law and has Assad’s ear. Plus, Assad is no dummy.

The man has a medical degree from University of Damascus and did postgraduate research in London. He understands the seriousness of international law.

He is not an ignorant theoretician like Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nor is he so cloistered in his palace and delusional ego as to think there are no consequences for his actions. That would be more likely of a Kim Jung-Un or Hussein.

Considering this information, it seems unwise to jump to conclusions about the chemical weapons speculations. There is plenty of incriminating circumstances with which to accuse Assad of ordering chemical weapons strikes.

However, there is enough evidence at this point to claim that Assad did not perpetrate such actions. We have to wait for the official report by the U.N.

This could be what parliament is doing. Maybe it is waiting for more concrete evidence of Assad’s specifically instructing the use of chemical weapons.

Or the Brits may have learned a lesson from Iraq. They may have learned that the egomaniacal oppression of a cruel dictator is not necessarily the problem of Western Europe and North America.

The ministers of parliament who voted against Cameron may see that the reasoning for going into Iraq was ill-founded and, furthermore, they had no defensive connection to the fight. They were simply acting as allies.

The parliamentarians have good reason for not wanting to strike Syria.

And so does the U.S.

The U.S. is essentially in the same position as Britain. Other than humanitarian reasons, there is no reason to intervene in Syria.

We have not been attacked by the Syria. And our allies have not been attacked.

It’s a civil war between a really horrible dictator and a group of rebels, some of whom tout an extreme and often violent variation of Islam.

If the U.S. intervenes in Syria, we are not only fighting a power that has not offended our sovereignty, we may be creating makeshift alliances with Jihadist organizations.

And finally, should the U.S. attack Syria while other allied nations do not, it may be grounds for war crimes.

According to the verdicts of the post-World War II Nuremburg Trials, when one nation intervenes militarily within the happenings of another nation without the consent of allied forces (i.e.- the U.N.), it means the offending nation has impeded upon the defending nation’s sovereignty.

The only thing holding back the possibilities of this is the U.N.’s Responsibility to Protect initiative.

Under this initiative, a nation like the U.S. could intervene militarily in Syria without being accused of offending another nation’s sovereignty.

This is allowed only if a nation like Syria is perpetrating Mass Atrocity Crimes: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Except, this initiative is really only applicable for places where the persecuted people have no substantial means of defending themselves.

This was true of places like Rwanda of the mid-1990s.

However, we never sent troops there, instead we sent troops to Kosovo, which was actually a civil war situation not unlike Syria.

Both factions were violent and both factions had the means to fight each other on a fairly equitable playing field.

When this happened, many people questioned the legality. The same was true of Vietnam under the direction of Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon.

In the midst of so much historical insight and legal stumbling blocks, it seems prudent of the British parliament to keep out of Syria.

Hopefully, President Barack Obama will lead the U.S. in the same direction.

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