Some Pros and Cons of a Syrian Attack
Tibor R. Machan
Why should one powerful nation attack another that is following intolerable policies — e.g., gasing its own citizens? Some argue that this is because when others act violently toward innocent people, those who can prevent this from happening have an obligation to step in and help out. We are, as Mr. Obama put it not long ago, “all in the same boat!”
But is this true? Do we have such an obligation? The men and women who signed up to defend a country didn’t do this to fight for the citizens of other nations. They signed up to defend their own nation. For their leaders to lead them into a war that doesn’t involve national defense is malpractice.
But perhaps when the wrongs committed by the powerful nation are severe enough, the restraint against getting involved must be abandoned. It is just inhuman to allow the powerful nation to carry on with its vile, murderous practices.
Yet when my neighbors — two brothers, say — are fighting, is it my duty to intervene, even if in support of the weaker brother? Do I have the moral authority to do so? After all, going to the aid to the weak brother isn’t costless and those who are going to pay (sometimes with their lives) must give their consent, which the citizens of the intervening country may well not have given.
It is usually politicians who make these decisions and they aren’t footing the bills involved, let alone doing any of the fighting. (The lives of those who are being made to pay require sustenance and resources and it must be up to them how they allocate what belongs to them, otherwise they aren’t sovereign citizens.)
“For their leaders to lead them into a war that doesn’t involve national defense is malpractice.”
Well put. The question is, what is the best way to legally define ‘defense’? I have in mind the beautifully crafted piece of rhetoric, ‘preemptive self-defense’, which could mean anything.
“Yet when my neighbors — two brothers, say — are fighting, is it my duty to intervene, even if in support of the weaker brother? Do I have the moral authority to do so?”
This false analogy seems to be backbone of US foreign policy post-WWII. It is a false analogy because a nation in the throes of a civil war is different from two neighbors, brothers even, engaged in a fight, even if only for the fact that a nation is a sovereign entity, while two quarreling neighbors (or brothers) are under the rule of an external sovereign (in this case, the state) who legally holds a monopoly on violence and whose role as sovereign is to arbiter between the quarreling parties.
The US stepping in to fill the gap as arbiter implies authority as sovereign where no such authority exists. The POTUS acting as judge, jury and executioner for having that crossed an arbitrary red line, under the guises that “the world has drawn that red line”, is the crafting of a legal fiction to justify an illegal act. The American people, by large, aren’t buying it, and neither are our allies.
The US has neither the resources, the will, nor the legal authority to be the world’s policeman. Let’s not let a foreign nation’s supposed illegal acts compel us into acting illegally…
An analogy can be useful or enlightening but not false. There is no attempt to produce something true here. And analogies are usually simply indicative.