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Why Syria is not yet a just war

2013 August 28
by Paul Vallely

Proportion sounds plausible, with the talk of a single air strike to signal to President Assad that he cannot use chemical weapons with immunity. But history shows that air strikes have a tendency to escalate. In the past they have led to Western boots on the ground and situations from which exit strategies become tricky to devise and which radicalise the opposition. But escalation could also spread the conflict to Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Israel and even Iran. Where would arguments about proportionality stand then?

And the “prospect of success” is deeply problematic too, for it is not even clear what would constitute success?  The shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, was insightful on this when he asked whether military action would or could simply “degrade Assad’s chemical weapons capability” or whether it would involve taking sides in a bitter civil war.  Since al-Qaeda is prominent in the rebel alliance this is not a simple matter.

The outraged demand that “something must be done” should not bully us into doing the wrong thing. A signal needs to be sent to President Assad that he cannot use chemical weapons with impunity. But it could yet be diplomatic. Russia and Iran were both pressured to shift on their intransigence against UN weapons inspections. That has shown that the international disunity on which the Assad regime has relied need not be permanent. There is more to be achieved by diplomacy before the Cruise missiles are dispatched.

The Church Times

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