Posts Tagged ‘veto’

Limited military action to halt crimes against humanity: A new template to halt terror in Syria, and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #18 (March 28)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

For the Observer’s selection of the latest news reports, click here.

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“We are…in a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The response that is required, however, …does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population. It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

“It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

“It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights…

“…Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of such crimes may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Council action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.”

–The Trenchant Observer, below

The Hope

Rami Khouri of the Daily Star (Beirut) argued recently that

We may be witnessing in Syria the first example of a new global diplomatic process to end a conflict, protect civilians, and instigate democratic political reforms within a sovereign country in a manner that is at once legitimate, credible and effective.

In the past three months, a variety of countries – Arab and foreign, big and small, friends and foes of Syria – have all performed an ever-evolving diplomatic dance that last week generated a United Nations Security Council statement on Syria that is important for three reasons: It is unanimously supported by all council members, including Russia and China, who had vetoed earlier resolutions critical of Syria’s leadership; it waters down the earlier Arab League that explicitly called for President Bashar Assad to step aside; it seeks instead to halt the violence and open the way for an unspecified process of dialogue and reform leading to a democratic transition that may one day result in a new regime in Syria.

The two previous possible templates for addressing the Syrian situation – the Libyan intervention and war by NATO, and the unilateral Arab and Western demands that Assad step aside and make way for a democratic transition in the country – have both proved undesirable or unfeasible for certain key actors, primarily Russia. The past month has shown that if Russia and China decide to oppose the American-led camp, the situation will remain diplomatically frozen.

The chance of this package being accepted or implemented by the Syrian government is virtually zero, because it knows very well that if it pulls back its military and stops attacking its own civilians in urban centers, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations against the regime. The important point is that the key global actors have agreed on this approach, to open the door to a peaceful process of political transformation by which Syrians nonviolently and democratically change their regime and install a more democratic system of governance.

A key element in this approach is that President Bashar Assad and his family who run the country will remain in power for now, and are the key party with whom the opposition negotiates. This is understandably distasteful to the opposition, given the extreme cruelty and near barbarism that the regime’s military forces have used against unarmed Syrian civilians for the most part.
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The Assad regime’s ability to hide behind its own sovereignty is now exhausted. This week the world has started to craft a legitimate diplomatic mechanism that shatters the shield of this abused sovereignty, and demands certain actions that improve conditions inside Syria, and perhaps provide a slow-motion means of changing the regime for the better over a period of months or years.

The diplomatic dance continues, seeking to resolve the Syria crisis, but also to craft a new international diplomatic order.

–Rami G. Khouri, “A new world order is born in Syria,” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 24, 2012.

The Reality

Khouri’s optimism regarding the U.N. initiative led by Kofi Annan is noteworthy, particularly in view of the earlier pessimism expressed by the Editorial Board of The Daily Star.  On March 9, 2012, they wrote:

The scene around Syria overflows with talk. The world’s big players proffer big words, which amount to zero in their impact on the Syrian regime – if anything they are utilized in their propaganda campaign.

The international community is attempting to save face, and by doing so is exhibiting its hypocrisy in every step and every word. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind, not only uncovering the ulterior motives of the world powers, but also serving as an eye-opener as to the intentions of the small, medium and super powers. God help any downtrodden party who takes the words of those powers at their face value. In this, the international community’s reaction to the crisis in Syria should be a lesson for many nations that look to it for support.

In the meantime, help for Syria is still at square one and none of the steps currently being taken are going to eradicate the shame of the international community.

–Editorial, “We procrastinate,” The Daily Star, March 9, 2012.

Correction: Earlier versions of this article mistakenly atribributed this text to Rami G. Khouri, to whom we apologize for the error.

A New Template to Halt Terror in Syria, and Elsewhere

While the Observer has the highest respect for Khouri and his judgment, the available evidence in the public domain suggests that the March 9 Editorial of The Daily Star remains much closer to the mark than his March 24 column on “the birth of a new world order.”

We are indeed in a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The response that is required, however, and which may yet emerge–if not in this crisis perhaps in the next–does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population.  It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the  hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights, including the right to life and physical integrity of the human person, the right of assembly, the rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and to receive and impart information and ideas, and the right to due process and a fair trial by an independent judiciary.

Instead, the response that is required, for both moral and political reasons, is an insistence on the cessation of crimes against humanity and war crimes as a condition precedent to negotiations betwen the dictatorial regime, its democratic opposition, and the international community.  Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of  such crimes may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Council action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.

Any such military action without Security Council authorization should be strictly limited to defending populations which the offending state has a “responsibility to protect“–in situations where it is failing to do so, and even actively orchestrating the commission of the crimes which are to be defended against. Further, it should be limited to halting the atrocities, and undertaken as provisional measures of protection of the victims until such time as the Security Council is able to act–without a veto–to implement “the responsibility to protect”.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

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Beyond Despair: Obama’s Debacle in Syria—Update #12 (March 16)

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

[developing]

It is easier now to understand how the European Powers and the United States looked the other way as Hitler executed all his opponents beginning in 1933-34, during the period known as the Gleichschaltung.

We have gained insight into what it was like in 1936 when the European Powers did not respond to Hitler’s militarization of the Rhineland, in flagrant violation of the Versailles Treaty concluded in 1919 after World War I.

We can understand better now how the French and the English did not oppose the German Anschluss (or annexation) of Austria in March 1938, or the occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia pursuant to the Munich Pact signed by Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain and Éduouard Daladier of France on September 29-30, 1938.  Interestingly, earlier England and France had urged Czechoslovakia to resort to “mediation” with Hitler once they had decided not to go to war, and to leave Czechoslovakia to fend for itself.

We can better grasp now how the world stood by in the days that followed, after Krystalnacht on November 9-10, 1938, the night of the anti-Jewish pogroms, when Jewish businesses and synagogues were attacked throughout Germany by the SS, and the civil authorities looked on without raising a finger. Wikipedia summarized the events as follows:

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.[2] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.[3] Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.[4][5]

Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world.[3] The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”[6]

To be sure, our diplomats and foreign policy experts today don’t seem to study history (as history, as opposed to picking facts from history for case studies to illustrate theories) or diplomatic history, as they used to do–back in the days when when we had journalists like James Reston who also were deeply familiar with history.

They may not recall the famous quote by George de Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (from “Life of Reason I”).

So, presumably in the absense of this sense of history, our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia and China support the butchery of al-Assad, blocking Security Council action since their February 4 vetoes of a Security Council resolution on Syria.  Our leaders have been prepared to watch Russia continue to furnish weapons and ammunition and other matérial to al-Assad to use in the commission of these crimes, and to watch Iran continue to advise al-Assad on how to use terror to crush his opposition as was done in Iran in 2009.  They have been prepared to support “mediation” of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity with the Syrian Dictator.

And now they are prepared to sit down with Putin and Hu Jintao and share toasts with them at the next G-20 meeting in June.

Today, bringing crimes against humanity and war crimes to a halt is just one among many competing national interests.

Perhaps our acceptance of torture under Bush, and our failure to fully repudiate it by prosecuting those responsible as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture, have dulled our moral senses.

We live in a world where moral outrage is now hardly even felt, or if felt does not last for more than a day.

So, here we are. We now are living in “the day after” the world turned its back on Syria, and the Syrian Dictator was permitted to proceed with the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in repressing his civilian as well as armed opposition.

Even the sanctions imposed on Syria are kind of a joke. For example, the European Union has imposed a ban on the importation or sale of gold, jewelry, and other precious metals, or Syrian cental bank activities supporting such activities. They have imposed a ban on cargo aviation to European capitals.

They didn’t even have the resolve to ban all civil aviation. That would have hurt al-Assad directly, as it would have curtained his wife’s celebratory shopping in Paris as her husband commands the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity back home.

Barack Obama, and David Cameron, and even Nicholas Sarkozy have accepted a reality in which crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed on their doorstep, in the heart of the ancient lands that surround the Mediterranean, and they are not prepared to act militarily to halt this butchery.

They didn’t do anything effective, because it was too complicated.

Cynically, they used Ban Ki-Moon and the United Nations special representative to Syria, Kofi Annan, as their shield against criticism, and as an excuse for not acting.

They didn’t even insist on bringing a resolution referring the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria to the International Criminal Court to a public debate and vote in the Security Council.

Obama shamelessly used his top military and defense leaders to argue to the Congress that military intervention was not being considered, because it was too complicated, when he had not even ordered the preparation of serious military options ready to be executed on short notice. The “all options are on the table” president took military options off the table in his “sailboat diplomacy” with al-Assad. God bless him, for he must have goodness in his heart, or so we want to believe. But he doesn’t have the guts to stand and fight, for anything. Not if he faces serious opposition. Not if it will involve direct confrontation.

This was the attitude of the Western powers last summer, when they didn’t want to look at what was going on in Syria.

It was then, and remains, the shame of the world.

But a curious thing happened last summer. The Syrian people didn’t give up. They may not give up this time either.

So, it is just one more chapter in Obama’s sad series of foreign policy debacles. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Latin America (with Chavez in Venezuela, Correa in Ecuador, and Morales in Bolivia).

Notwithstanding the above, hope springs eternal in the human heart. No situation is totally hopeless.

There are a few hopeful signs on the horizon with respect to Syria. First, there is a report today that defections from the military in Syria are up.

See (AFP/Bloomberg), “Syria’s bloody isolation,” The Sydney Moring Herald, March 16, 2012 (1:26PM).

Second, there is a report that the establishment of humanitarian corrridors and safe areas is still under consideration, at least by some observers.

See Benedetta Berti, “To help Syria, apply a mix of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power”; Sanctions and isolation of the Assad regime are simply allowing massacres to continue in Syria. Yet the world resists an all-out military intervention in Syria. A third option is to apply a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power to relieve the suffering there,” The Christian Science Monitor (opinion), March 15, 2012.

Meanwhile, we need to not turn our glance away, but rather to follow closely, day by day, the details of the hell the Syrian Dictator is inflicting on his people–the dozens and sometimes hundreds who are dying every day, in utter defiance of every rule of civilization and international law.

And if the ICC has not yet been invested by the Security Council with jurisdiction over the crimes being committed in Syria, perhaps at least there is one country–somewhere–that might initiate judicial proceedings against Bashar al-Assad, his brother and other accomplices to these atrocities, in exercise of the universal jurisdiction against such crimes that is permitted under international law to be exercised by individual states, provided their domestic legislation so permits.

It is a sad moment when we look in the mirror and see who we really are, as a nation, as an alliance.

Obama’s restless attention will turn to something else.  But the world, and history, will not forget.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

–For earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.
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How to find news reports from around the world
–Google and other major search engines use a series of filters amounting to what has been termed a “filter bubble” to limit search results to those keyed to the location, language, and previous search results of the user. See Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble (2011).
–To find the latest news from around the world on Syria (or any other subject), you can bypass the “filter bubble” of Google and other search engines by going to and beginning your search at www.startpage.com

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Commitments Obama Needs from Brazil

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

President Obama will travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in the next week.

Hopeully his trip to Brazil will be better prepared than his trip to China last fall, which produced few tangible results and may have ended up exarcerbating relationships between the two countries.

Assuming he and his delegation are seriously prepared, Obama should seek to achieve the following objectives:

1. First, he should engage in hard-nosed discussions with Brazil in order to achieve a commitment from Brazil that it will not repeat its free-lancing on the issue of nuclear-proliferation in Iran. Last year Brazil negotiated a three-way deal with Turkey and Iran for the reprocessing of nuclear fuel from Iran, at a precise moment in which their negotiations undercut the negotiations then underway with the Group of 5 + 1.

2. Second, Obama should secure a commitment that any nuclear cooperation agreement betwen Brazil and Iran must be public, transparent, and safeguard the non-proliferation concerns and interests of the IAEA and the international community.

3. Third, Obama should secure a public reaffirmation that Brazil will comply with its 1988 Constitution and the principal international non-proliferation treaties, to which it is a party, and never seek a nuclear weapons capability. Such a reassurance is particularly iimportant in view of some of the statements made by high officials of the previous Lula government, and the fact that Brazil is moving quickly to implement and expand an autonomous nuclear enrichment capability.

4. Obama should seek a commitment from Brazil that it will not seek an expanded Securty Council seat which carries with it the power of the veto, which the current Permanent Members of the Security Council now have.

5. Finally, if and only if Brazil agrees not to seek a Secuirty Council seat which has the power of the veto, Obama should express U.S. support for Brazil to have a permanent seat on an expanded Security Council.

Actually, offering support for Security Council permanent seats on presidential trips abroad is a very poor way to approach the issue of Security Council reform, which if ever achieved will require the approval of its current peranent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Nonetheless, having made the mistake of offfering India support for a permanent seat on the Security Council during his trip to that country, Obama can at least correct part of his error by specifying that his support is for a Secuirty Council seat without a veto.

Given Brazil’s importance in Latin America, the countries of the developing world, and the world as a whole, offering such qualified support would definitely be appropriate.

Brazil is also a fascinating country and democracy, in which signficant reduction in poverty was achieved during Lula’s time in office. Obama’s visit offers an extraordinary opportunity for him to expand his consciousness of the world, and the importance of countries that are significant not because they are failing, but precisely because they are succeeding in the new economy of the 21st century.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

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