THE STRIKES against Syria conducted by the US, Britain and France last week have all but confirmed the paralysis of the United Nations when it comes to resolving the issue of the use of chemical weapons, ushering in a dangerous new era of unilateral action on the part of nation States when it comes to this most ominous matter.
The situation is worsened by the presence, on the international stage, of unpredictable actors such as Donald Trump, whose sudden invocation of human rights rings hollow given his track record at home.
His latest air strikes, done without a clear strategy on Syria and under questionable legal authority, push the world closer to a full-frontal conflagration involving Russia.
Undoubtedly, the continued association of the Bashar al-Assad regime with the use of chemical weapons is deplorable. According to US diplomats, Assad has used these weapons at least 50 times.
That alone is an affront to all civilized nations.
Failure to stop him has simply made other nations more brazen. North Korea has been tied to a murder in Malaysia which was done with a nerve agent. And Russia has been tied to the attempted assassination of former spy, Sergei Skirpal, on British soil using novichok, with the latter probably colouring Theresa May’s decision to back the military action without the benefit of convening the UK parliament. But thus far, no one has been able to stop Assad. And it is not apparent whether the latest strike will change that. Worse, the limited scope of the action has been interpreted as a sign the allies do not intend to challenge: his rule by military means.
None of the allies that made the strikes sought approval from the UN. Instead, they opted to do so after the fact. That this was the course of action adopted is understandable given the veto powers of Russia on the UN Security Council.
That said, the decision to go behind the back of the UN sets a dangerous precedent. It emboldens similar rogue action by other nations. And it diminishes the authority of the UN in the long-run.
“I urge all Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” warned the UN Secretary General on Friday.
His pointed and carefully-worded warning was more or less a concession of the fact that the UN can do little else.