30 August 2013

No more Freedom Fries

How things change. A decade ago, Labour-ruled Britain joined the U.S. in invading Iraq while a conservative French government -- by French standards -- earned the ire of Americans by arguing against the war. This week, a Conservative prime minister was rebuked by many in his own party as Parliament voted against authorizing intervention in Syria, but the Socialist president of France has lined his country up alongside the U.S. should the President choose to bomb Syrian government forces.

You can probably order some Turkey with those French fries. That country's Islamist government has spoken up ahead of the findings of the UN investigators, claiming that their own intelligence service has proved the Assad government guilty of using chemical weapons. Turkey's foreign minister says it's the international community's "responsibility" to deal with Syria. As part of NATO, Turkey is much more likely to cooperate with any American attack on Syria than they were when Iraq was under the gun. Sharing a border with Syria, Turkey has an interest in restoring stability there but would also be in harm's way should Assad want to retaliate.

The big questions now are whether anyone in the U.S. has the will or power to say no should the President decide to punish Syria, and how far Russia will go to protect one of their most faithful customers (for want of a better world). It may be a bigger question for some whether the world should let any Syrians (regardless of whoever's actually guilty) get away with using the taboo chemical weapons. I admit to knowing little about international law on this point, but I suspect that punitive measures are not as mandatory or obligatory as some suggest. Were this a truly binding obligation, Russia, for one, should have no right to refuse. If punitive action is still subject to votes, whether in the UN or in national governments, than punitive action isn't mandatory, though President Obama's belief may be that action is mandatory and thus not subject to approval of his own legislature. Prime Minister Cameron thought differently and got burned for his trouble. I'm somewhat more certain that the American people never expressed an opinion at the polls on whether they had a duty to risk lives to punish the use of chemical weapons. It looks like we had better speak up pretty soon.


Anonymous said...

Liberté fries then? So will we now call "british bulldogs" freedom bulldogs?

Samuel Wilson said...

Maybe folks will have to buy Olde Freedom malt liquor for a while.