2 BOILING POINTS OF VIEW – Syria: Intervention breaks international law

Anna Gordon, 11th Geade

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After watching President Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013, you might be inclined to support a military strike on Syria for the use of chemical weapons. After all, chemical weapons were the cause of millions of deaths during World War I and the Holocaust.

However, attacking Syria would be a direct violation of international law and would potentially open the doors for an international war.

For two years, Syria has been plagued by a brutal civil war. Atrocities have been committed by both the rebels and the government, and the United States has not gotten involved. However, last month the Syrian government introduced chemical weapons into the conflict. The United Nations has not punished Bashar el Assad, the president of Syria, for his actions. Now the United States wants to launch a military strike.

There are several reasons not to take this course of action. Bloodshed in Syria is inevitable at this point and even President Obama admits that U.S. military action will not resolve the civil war. Assad has killed 100,000 people since the rebellion began, but a single military strike from the U.S. will not stop the deaths from piling on. On the contrary – if the U.S. does attack Syria, more innocent people will die. Additionally, the United States could be responsible for unforeseen consequences that might affect the entire region. For example, if the missiles hit businesses they may inadvertently weaken the economy.

One could argue that striking might send a message to the rest of the world never to use chemical weapons. But making America the police for the world also sends a message that the U.S. does not respect the rights of other countries to enforce their own laws.  A single country should not have the power to intervene in another country’s internal affairs. Only the U.N. should have that kind of power.

Also, the United States would be violating International law itself by attacking a country that hadn’t attacked them.

An attack on Syria could harm Israel as well. Syrians might retaliate against the United States by attacking Israel. Israel is closer and weaker than the U.S. Also, attacking Israel might get Syria support in the Arab world. Although Israel has the means to defend itself and strike back, if this situation occurs, Israel will be forced into war.

Although Assad is outwardly anti-Israel, so are the rebels. Some are even linked to Al Qaida.

Many of the rebels are religious extremists. Should they come to power there is a strong chance that they will commit a genocide against the Alawite Muslim minority in power now.

Moreover, even if we strike, there is no guarantee that that other countries will actually be deterred from using chemical weapons in the future. We would be risking the disapproval of the entire world for something that may not even work.

And finally, there are other ways to prevent chemical weapons from being used. The Russian government has proposed that if Syria agrees to destroy its weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention, then the United States could avoid striking.

This tactic may fail. But even if it does, the U.S. should not strike on its own. If it really is in the world’s best interest to punish Syria, then there must be other countries willing to ally themselves with the United States and attack Syria together.

Bypassing the United Nations makes that organization look weak and powerless. If people do not trust the U.N.’s power to enforce international law and ensure their safety, they will try to increase their security by building more weapons of mass destruction.

In the end, breaking international law in order to enforce international law corrupts the entire system. And it is a system we need, because without international law, we have no claim against atrocities like chemical weapons – particularly when they’re not used against us ourselves.

 RELATED: 2 BOILING POINTS OF VIEW – Syria: Don’t turn away

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