Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Was the Legal Basis for the U.S. Air Strikes Against Syria? - Lawfare

As Phil Ochs sang: We are the cops of the world. - gwc
What Was the Legal Basis for the U.S. Air Strikes Against Syria? - Lawfare 

 by John Bellinger
***As a matter of international law, President Trump does not have clear authority to use force in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and he may not care whether U.S. actions are lawful under international law. Under the U.N. Charter, the U.S. is prohibited from using force in Syria unless authorized by the Security Council or exercising its right to individual or collective self-defense. The U.S. Government—like most other governments (with the exception of the United Kingdom and Denmark)—has never recognized a right of humanitarian intervention under international law. China and Russia have continued to block Security Council resolutions that would authorize the use of force to respond to the Assad regime’s atrocities. Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley suggested that the U.S. might use force without U.N. approval: “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.” Having proceeded without U.N. authorization, it would be better if the Administration attempts to explain its actions as lawful, or at least justified, under international law. Although a U.S. military strike cannot be easily justified as self-defense of the United States, it is possible that the United States could argue that the use of force was permissible as an action in collective self-defense of Syria’s neighbors. Alternatively, it might be better for the Trump Administration to argue that its limited use of force was justified, even if not strictly lawful, under international law based on the specific facts in Syria and that other avenues had been exhausted. This is the approach the Clinton Administration took when it participated in the NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo in the 1990s, and that the Obama Administration was apparently prepared to take if it had decided to use force against Syria in 2013.

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