The news of last night’s air strike on Syria hit a personal nerve. Perhaps because I have worked in conflict zones for the last several years and witnessed the horrific aftermath of civilian casualties. I’ve delivered aid to people fleeing ISIS, and spoken to 80 year old Babushkas in Eastern Ukraine waiting in in 4 hr queues in sub-zero temperatures to cross the Line of Contact to avoid shelling and sniper fire. And to buy basic supplies to stay alive.
Reportedly, last nights air attack did not lead to civilian casualties (yet). I worry that follow up attacks and a lack of a cohesive strategy will claim the lives of more Syrian civilians. Civilians who have already suffered more than any human being should endure [more than 400,000 deaths since the start of the conflict].
The US and its allies must devise a strategy on Syria [and more broadly, Russia — senior Russian officials already threaten to bolster Syrias air defense systems]. Military action to punish is not enough if there is no strategy. Do we have an objective? A strategy? What are the weighed pros and cons? What are the unintended consequences?
Future reactive clashes could easily spiral the crisis out of control, engulfing the region and beyond. The most worrying: attacks could spark a direct confrontation with Russia. Two major nuclear powers butting heads is not my idea of diplomacy. Sadly, the hoped-for mechanism, the UN Security Council is becoming increasingly ineffective as Permanent members (read: Russia) veto decisive action.
Apart from any sort of clear strategy on Syria, from a legal standpoint the Trump has made no reference to domestic or international law in his statements about Syria air strikes in 2017 or 2018. These omissions reflect that his administration has little regard for — or perhaps more accurately — awareness of his limitations under International Law.
When any nation uses military force — especially under contentious circumstances — it should always explain the legal basis for its actions. Period. Not doing so invites other countries to act without a legal basis or justification.