Skip to main content

John Kerry should be careful how he uses history to justify a strike against Syria

We cannot solve the problems of today by belatedly acting on the problems of yesterday. Yet a key pillar of John Kerry's justification for a punitive strike against the Assad regime is that the world stood by in the past when other atrocities were committed in previous conflicts. 

"We need to hear an appropriate outcry as we think back on those moments of history when large numbers of people have been killed because the world was silent," he said today when meeting British foreign secretary William Hague. "The Holocaust, Rwanda, other moments, are lessons to all of us today."

I am afraid history is rarely a good argument for the USA, or for Britain and other former colonial powers. History reveals a very dirty business when it comes to support for nasty regimes. The USA at best looked the other way and at the worst supported the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein in the war with Iran in the 1980s. I suppose this must have been one of the 'other moments' in history referred to by John Kerry.

Without further sanction by the UN security council a punitive strike would not be legal. Only a strike that could demonstratively protect civilians would be legal. As far as I understand it there is no legal sanction for punitive action. But I confess I am no expert in international law. What I can say, however, is that the ethics of punitive action is dubious.

John Kerry is right when he says that "the end of the conflict in Syria requires a political solution." It would be better if the Obama administration worked to that end. It is difficult to see how a punitive military strike against Assad facilitates a political solution. If it weakens the Assad regime, the opposition forces would be unlikely to want a negotiated settlement. No, it is a very contradictory position for the Obama administration to hold.

The USA has now given the Assad regime just one week to hand over all its chemical weapons. Why
just one week? It is an empty gesture as John Kerry himself says; Assad will not comply with such a demand.

Afterword

Russia today also called on Syria to put its arsenal of chemical weapons under international control for destruction. It is clear John Kerry's ultimatum was made with some degree of cynicism and the US administration has been caught on the hop by Russia's move. Nonetheless, should Syria comply with Russia's request then this clearly would be a way forward to avoid a military intervention.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Prioritising people in nursing care.

There has been in recent years concern that care in the NHS has not been sufficiently 'patient centred', or responsive to the needs of the patient on a case basis. It has been felt in care that it as been the patient who has had to adapt to the regime of care, rather than the other way around. Putting patients at the centre of care means being responsive to their needs and supporting them through the process of health care delivery.  Patients should not become identikit sausages in a production line. The nurses body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has responded to this challenge with a revised code of practice reflection get changes in health and social care since the previous code was published in 2008. The Code describes the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives. Four themes describe what nurses and midwives are expected to do: prioritise people practise effectively preserve safety, and promote professionalism and trust. The

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

When Finance Drives Destruction

Tackling climate change means stopping the funding of rainforest destruction, says a significant study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund.  The UK's financial services have provided directly over £8.7 billion to 167 different traders, processors, and buyers of forest-risk commodities (cocoa, rubber, timber, soy, beef, palm oil, pulp & paper) from 2013 to 2021.   With direct and indirect investment,  the figure rises to a staggering £200 bn.  Whilst not all that investment is in destructive projects,  the study concludes there is little transparency on the risk.  Finance is the oil in the economic machine.  But it also drives decisions. We all know the importance of money. We borrow to invest. So much depends on it, such as company pensions.  Do we really know what our pension pots are doing? We invest for the future. But what kind of future? Is all investment good?  Much investment is bad. Investment drives the nature of our economy. It drives our decisions as individuals,