Might isn’t right

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on March 12, 2018

Barack Obama...forgetting the past.

The US needs to justify military intervention in Syria.

It is still not certain whether the US will launch air strikes against Syria, but the ominous noises being madein Washington and Paris strongly suggest that the world has not yet learnt its lesson after the disastrous “justification” of the war on Saddam Hussein some years ago. This is what is inferred from what Barack Obama and Francois Hollande have been saying since the August 21 chemical-weapons assault near Damascus.

Last Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that sarin gas was used in the attack. But this has never been in doubt. What is yet to be established is that President Bashar-al-Assad ordered the assault, which would lend credence to the arguments to unleash military retaliation against the Syrian regime.

Similarly French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday that there was “no doubt” that Damascus was behind the “deadly chemical attack” which, again, is just not enough to threaten military intervention in Syria.

Force of public opinion

Ayrault’s summary ruling out of a parliamentary vote on the issue reeks of dangerous disregard for French public opinion. Clearly, Ayrault’s act of bravado stems from the fear that the British parliament’s rejection last week of any plans for Britain to take military action against Assad may be emulated in Paris, which has also forced Obama to seek the view of Congress on US military action in Syria.

Getting the people’s views on an issue as critical as a concerted military response to acts of international illegality by a single State is a huge step forward in a world which, in the past, has seen “unilateral” action by some of the world’s strongest military powers.

The two world wars led to the creation of an international compact where no rogue State or States could precipitate a general military conflagration. The League of Nations and the United Nations were set up specifically to prevent such catastrophes from ever happening again. But as we get further away from 1945 and the Cold War, it would seem that the lessons of the past are being forgotten or are being deliberately pushed under the carpet.

Failure to substantiate charge

Everyone remembers the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) issue and what it led to subsequently (apart from the removal of Saddam Hussein from the seat of power), namely, abject failure on the part of the Americans in particular to substantiate the charge on which the conflict was initially begun.

Admittedly, the age of international terrorism is making it even more difficult for responsible world leaders to put up with maverick States. But is there any other option, apart from a broad international consensus, to prevent “local military disturbances” from casting a fearsome shadow of conflict and hardship across large parts of the planet? The use of chemicals weapons has to be avoided to make the world a safer place to live in. But why should the man on the street have to pay more for his daily staple requirements because of this noble work?

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Published on September 03, 2013
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