The Trump administration’s missile strikes against Syria targeted three sites reportedly fundamental to the Assad regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure. The idea, we’re told, is to degrade the regime’s ability to use chemical weapons and deter Assad from using them on his own people in the future, and thereby enforce the international norm prohibiting chemical weapons warfare.
But the only norm we’re really enforcing is the one that says the United States is exempt from the laws and norms by which our adversaries must abide.
One of the core tenets of the post-WWII “liberal world order” that America supposedly leads is that the use of force against another country is prohibited unless it is taken in self-defense or it has the support of the United Nations Security Council. By bombing the Assad regime in the absence of these prerequisites, the Trump administration is acting unlawfully.
The truth is that these strikes were designed to be extremely limited in scope, so as to avoid changing any strategic or tactical realities on the battlefield. These strikes won’t tangibly improve the Syrian civil war and they won’t ease humanitarian suffering. What they have done is satisfy the irrational need to “do something.” Anything, apparently.
Trump’s order to strike Syria may end future chemical attacks
JohnGlaser is the director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.
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