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... supports Professor William Snyder's sections of National Security Law, Counterterrorism Law, and Prosecuting Terrorists at the Syracuse University College of Law.

Statement by Professor William Snyder on U.S. attacks on Syria

“All nations have the right to use military force in self-defense, but Syria has not attacked the United States.  If we, the U.S., are to use force against another nation in order to enforce international law rather than in self-defense, then as members of the United Nations we must wait for authorization by the Security Council.  It makes no sense to enforce one international treaty (the chemical weapons ban) by breaking another (the UN Charter).  I hope that the UN Security Council authorizes the use of force against and the prosecution of those who used chemical weapons in Syria, but absent that or an armed attack by Syria on the U.S. or our treaty allies, we would be wrong to use military force against Syria.

“If, however, a nation with whom we have a defense treaty — including but not limited to all members of NATO plus Israel — were to be attacked by Syria, then we must defend ourselves collectively with any and all force necessary at a time and place and in a manner of our choosing.  The same would be true, of course, if the United States were attacked by Syria.  The Syrian military should view an attack upon U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean as tantamount to suicide.

“There might be some more extreme circumstances in which the United States would have a lawful duty to protect the people of Syria from their own government.  Whatever might be the contours of the legal duty to protect is not yet clear, but it has not been triggered by events as of September 2, 2013.

“Law and morality are not the same.  It might not be immoral for the United States to kill those responsible for the chemical weapons attack, but it would be a violation of international law and of treaties, and it would be bad policy.  On that last point, Congressional policy makers should consider that we cannot attack the Assad government at this time without assisting al Qaeda-back forces.

“In general, international law and good policy both require that civil wars be fought by the domestic antagonists.  If any of the domestic antagonists spread the war beyond the national borders, however, then the matter becomes one for international action.

“Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council already could and should authorize the use of force against those persons or governments it determines are responsible for the recent use of chemical weapons.  The United State military should maintain a high state of preparedness to enforce a resolution by the Security Council or to defend itself, the United States or our allies regardless of UN action.”

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