Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria and Chemical Weapons

Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning President Obama alleges that the Assad's regime in Syria used chemical weapons against his own people.  President Obama's recommended solution to redress this crime is to forgo using the collectivist, international frameworks that he so often praises and instead push for immediate and unilateral military attacks against Syria.  Syria did not attack the United States.

Assuming that the Obama Administration's charges against Syria are correct, is this the best solution?

The vast majority--188 altogether--of the planet's nations are signatories and have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), shown here in green.  As of the most recent update (May, 2009), five nations (shown in brown) choose not to participate in the agreement, including Syria, Egypt, North Korea, Somalia, and Angola.  Two nations have signed the CWC but have not ratified it, including Israel and Myanmar (formerly Burma).  Israel is located between Syria and Egypt, neither of whom have signed the CWC.

Although Syria has not signed the CWC, it did sign the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, also known as the Geneva Protocol.  The Geneva Protocol does not explicitly contain enforcement provisions.

Article XII of the CWC, however, describes the enforcement regime to ensure compliance.  Article XII states that ...
3. In cases where serious damage to the object and purpose of this Convention may result from activities prohibited under this Convention, in particular by Article I, the Conference may recommend collective measures to States Parties in conformity with international law.
4. The Conference shall, in cases of particular gravity, bring the issue, including relevant information and conclusions, to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council.

The United States is a signatory to the CWC.  Note that the CWC does not indicate that member nations can take unilateral action against an offender, unless, of course, the member state was directly attacked by the defender.  The alleged Syrian chemical attack happened exclusively within the borders of Syria, a non-member to the CWC. True, there is a risk that Syria's chemical weapons could fall into the hands of rogue players in the course of the Syrian civil war.  Will President Obama quote the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Attack as justification?

Is President Obama afraid that CWC member states are just too weak to stand up to the mighty Assad regime?  Do the CWC member states have the military or economic power to dissuade Syria from further chemical attacks?

The CWC members nations include all twenty members of the G-20 major economies.
  1. European Union
  2. United States of America
  3. China
  4. Japan
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Brazil
  9. Russia
  10. Italy
  11. India
  12. Canada
  13. Australia
  14. Mexico
  15. South Korea
  16. Indonesia (an Islamic nation)
  17. Turkey (secular, but predominantly Islamic nation, neighbors Syria)
  18. Saudi Arabia (an Islamic nation)
  19. Argentina
  20. South Africa
If economic sanctions are not powerful enough against Syria, military force might be justified. The CWC members nations include eight of the ten largest militaries (by personnel).  Syria is ranked 15th.
  1. China
  2. United States
  3. India
  4. North Korea (NOT A CWC MEMBER)
  5. Russian Federation (an ally of Syria)
  6. South Korea
  7. Turkey (who neighbors Syria and is predominantly Islamic)
  8. Pakistan (an Islamic nation)
  9. Iran (an Islamic nation but whose Hezbollah proxies are already fighting in the Syrian civil war)
  10. Egypt (NOT A CWC MEMBER)
Why is President Obama pursuing unilateral military action against Syria instead of filing an official complaint via the CWC or directly taking the case to the United States General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council?  It is likely that China and Russia, two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, will veto military action in Syria. However, the United States should pursue a diplomatic route to convince other United Nations members and not resort to unilateral action.

See also ...

Foreign Affairs: "No Strike, No Problem: The Right Way to Nurture a Norm" by Richard Price

No comments:

Post a Comment