Debate Surrounding Approval For Syrian Airstrikes Begins

The US has signaled it might not wait for confirmation from the United Nations that Syria used chemical weapons as a result of evidence already gathered about atrocities perpetrated against civilians.

“So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts informed by conscience and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission – these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is
real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in the department’s daily briefing.

The Obama administration’s willingness to act before the UN may hit a snag as the debate over military strikes in Britain is taking a different path.

While the Obama administration has yet to contact leaders in the US Congress seeking authorization to act, British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking proactive action by actively seeking out the approval of Parliament.

The Washington Times reports that Obama has yet to call Republican House Speaker John Boehner to gain congressional approval for any military action, but only sought out “preliminary communication.”

Any effort to obtain UN approval for airstrikes is complicated by the likelihood Russia would veto any move by the UN Security Council.

Richard Haas, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations think tank, does not believe, however, that an attack would need UN approval.

He tells Reuters the body “is not the sole or unique custodian about what is legal and what is legitimate, and, as many have pointed out, it was bypassed at the time of Kosovo.”

Rick Pildes of the blog Lawfare addresses the balance needed between political judgment and the law in modern warfare.

“But when dealing with issues like whether to use military force in Kosovo, or Libya, or Syria, each specific set of circumstances is simply too singular, too contextual, and the situations do not recur repeatedly in the same or closely related form.  Moreover, the stakes – security stakes, political stakes, international relations stakes – could not be higher. The issue then becomes about the appropriate role of law – the “rule of law” – in highly unique settings where the costs of politico-legal systems getting the answer “wrong” are momentous and not easily reversible,” Pildes writes.e



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