The West’s attempt to ride roughshod over the United Nations Security Council with a hastily drafted proposal to authorize the use of force in Syria sets the stage for its second military intervention in West Asia and North Africa in as many years. The resolution, drafted by the United Kingdom and backed by the United States and France, seeks two things from the Council: one, a condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on his people and two, its blessings to deploy “all necessary measures” to protect Syrians. If the first asks the U.N. for a leap of faith on a premature claim, the second requires it to turn a blind eye to history.
While acknowledging there exists no “smoking gun” to establish Mr. Assad’s culpability, the West has tried its best to impede the working of the U.N.’s team in Syria investigating claims if chemical weapons were used at all. The charade now unfolding before the UNSC reflects the West’s desperation to have its way with a military intervention that has few takers. If the Arab League, including key members and U.S. allies like Egypt, has expressed its reluctance to support the imminent assault, public opinion in the U.S., Britain and France too is overwhelmingly opposed to a new war. After the disastrous 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, which began with the objective of protecting civilians but ended up being a full-blown attack on the Muammar Qadhafi regime, the Security Council is rightly wary of the Anglo-American plans for a “limited” intervention in Syria. Expecting the world to believe a military attack will destroy Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal without inflicting unacceptable civilian casualties is silly.
If anything, a targeted attack is not so much a guarantee of minimal damage, but an attempt to fulfill President Barack Obama’s vain promise to punish the Assad regime if it used chemical weapons. After proffering sketchy evidence in support of this grave allegation, the President is now being forced to walk his talk by the liberal interventionists who populate his administration and by a trigger-happy British Prime Minister. One senior U.S. official let slip that the planned assault will be “just muscular enough not to get mocked,” revealing how this issue is now entirely about American “credibility,” as opposed to the humanitarian tragedy in Syria. The Council’s likely rejection of the draft resolution will be portrayed as Russian and Chinese intransigence. The fact remains, however, that influential powers like India, Brazil and South Africa too are against military intervention pending a complete investigation of WMD claims. The West’s failure to act through the U.N. not only betrays the Syrian people but also reflects its contempt for the international order.