Obama’s Dubious Syrian Strikes
By Matthew Rothschild
There they were, the retired generals on the gabfests last night and this morning, assessing the weaponry used and the sites that were targeted.
The networks and cable shows were all prepared. War is good for them.
But in the little that I could tolerate on CNN and MSNBC, I didn’t hear any discussion of whether this was legal for our President to do.
And then today we hear that one of the targets wasn’t even ISIS, but a new outfit called the Khorasan Group.
So this is where we are: The President can go attack an enemy that the American people have never even heard of whenever he wants, and wherever he wants.
Could it be that he decided that as long as he was in the neighborhood, and as long as he was violating Syrian airspace, he might as well make the most of it, and take a swing at this group, too?
Put me down as skeptical on the strike against this Khorasan Group.
And as for the legality of the entire operation, it is, to put it mildly, dubious.
First of all, Congress has not declared war against ISIS or the Khorasan Group, as is required by the Constitution.
And second, under international law, one country is not allowed to attack inside another country unless that country poses an imminent threat against it. ISIS, by Obama’s repeated admissions, doesn’t pose a direct threat. And we’re just supposed to work his word that the Khorasan Group does?
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said that the United States was coming to the aid of Iraq, and she invoked Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which states: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
First of all, there is a huge question as to whether “collective self-defense” includes cross-border bombing raids.
And secondly, what was the hurry? The Security Council was set to meet in less than 48 hours, with Obama presiding, and that is the body that is supposed to govern the application of force. See Article 39: “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken . . . to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
There are other eyebrow-raising aspects of Obama’s bombing of Syria. Take, for instance, his boasting of his coalition of the willing: “We were joined in this action by our friends and partners -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar.”
Well, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar have been the biggest funders of Sunni fundamentalism around the world, including in Syria. If these “friends and partners” hadn’t been aiding our enemies for so long, ISIS wouldn’t even exist.
Or take this classic Orwellian comment from Obama that war is peace: “Above all, the people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.”
Obama may be a more pensive warmonger than George W. Bush, but he’s still a warmonger. And like Bush, he now has the United States deeply embroiled in a war that is dubious to start with and may prove even trickier to end.