Would A Syrian War Violate International Law?

by Patrick Appel

Kevin Baron reports that the US won’t seek UN or NATO permission to bomb Syria. Larison comments:

In practice, the governments involved in this attack will be more or less the same ones that intervened in Libya, but there will be no illusion of international approval or alliance backing that the Libyan war received. If NATO had endorsed the action, it wouldn’t make it any more legal, but it would have created the superficial impression of a Western consensus in favor of it. As it is, the attack will most likely be backed by the U.S., Britain, and France, plus the activist Gulf monarchies that have been doing their part to worsen Syria’s conflict.

Millman argues that, if “we launch an attack on Syria, it will not be under any legal warrant whatsoever”:

[T]he entire public justification for an attack is the to punish Syria for a crime of war – that is to say, the justification is the need to uphold international law. In other words, an attack would be an open declaration that the United States arrogates to itself the right to determine what the law is, who has violated it, what punishment they deserve, and to take whatever action is necessary to see it carried out.

Larison adds:

[W]hat strikes the U.S. and its allies launch against Syrian forces in the next few days will be contrary to international law. Now most Americans and even some American liberal internationalists probably don’t care about this, but it is a fairly significant flaw in the claim that the forthcoming missile strikes have something to do with enforcing international norms and creating a “rules-based order.” Indeed, it sinks the only argument for this particular attack.