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Chemical weapons account for less than one percent of the more than 100,000 killed in this conflict. Yet, while I'm sympathetic to international relations expert John Mueller's argument that chemical weapons are not inherently more horrible than many modern conventional weapons, their "development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use" are technically prohibited as a matter of international law. While Syria is one of seven states who have not signed and ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, they acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol in 1968.
But enforcement of these agreements is the province of the UN Security Council, not the executive branch of the U.S. government. And, rather inconveniently, Kerry's speech was delivered on the same day that Foreign Policy reported that the U.S. government aided and abetted Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iran in 1988.
If the goal is to send the message that using chemical weapons is unacceptable, as security specialist Charli Carpenter notes in Foreign Affairs, it would be unfortunate to use "Tomahawk missiles, which are capable of carrying cluster munitions and which have been decried on humanitarian grounds by numerous governments and civil society groups." Additionally, "the planned strikes would likely involve the use of explosives in populated areas, which is in violation of emerging international concerns about such behavior." If, on the other hand, the primary goal is protection of the civilian population, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine:
requires policymakers and military planners to weigh just cause against the question of whether there is a reasonable prospect of success at reducing civilian bloodshed, given the available resources and constraints, and to select the best type of intervention to meet the goals, which generally means a much longer commitment of blood and treasure than punitive air strikes.
Leaving aside the niceties of international norms—odd though it might be when they are ostensibly the entire point of the operation—there's little reason to think that punitive strikes actually have the intended deterrent effect. A Los Angeles Times analysis notes that similar actions, including strikes against Libya and al-Qaeda in 1986 and 1998, respectively, were not only ineffectual but quite probably counterproductive. The Libya raid was followed by—and apparently inspired—the Lockerbie bombing. And, of course, al-Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attack three years after the widely derided strikes on the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. [...]
The last four days I was in an isolated cabin in Clinton, Montana, with only tenuous links to the outside world. Today was the first time I was able to truly get a handle on the New Orleans disaster, and it's almost too staggering to comprehend. It's downright biblical.
This is the greatest disaster to hit our nation in most of our lifetimes. Worse than 9-11. New Orleans is underwater. Biloxi is 90 percent destroyed. Who knows how many dead. Who knows how many homeless. Who knows how many jobless. We have a bona fide refugee crisis on our hands.
There will be a time for a full accounting of what went wrong, both preparing for this thing and relief efforts afterward. I don't know if the time is now or later. Honestly, I don't much care. I'm too horrified by what I'm seeing today. It's overwhelming.
I just wish that the president gave a damn about what's happenend. Unfortunately, he's too busy playing 'country rock star".
So the US is determined to bomb an Arab nation without international support, UN approval or an exit strategy. What could possibly go wrong? — @garyyounge
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin's back, and rounding up news on flu vaccinations, the NYC mayoral race, Syria, and... hummingbirds. More "Snowden Effect," this time sparking debate on the size and scope of intelligence operations funded by the so-called "black budget." The British Parliament rejects intervention in Syria. And an extended visit NYC City Council candidate, Kossack & netroots fellow traveler Debra Cooper. Reminder: Dem primary is September 10th!