Debating Syrian Intervention

Check out the conversation on Syrian intervention at Notes on Liberty, “A Few Remarks on Interventions in Syria and Iraq.” And feel free to check out last year’s conversation on the same subject here, from the now-defunct Institute for Objectivist Studies blog (11 posts). If I can change one mind on the subject, I’d count my efforts as a success.

P.S.: In an earlier post, I described Bruce Ackerman as a strange bedfellow in the debate over Syrian intervention. But I think I’d have to kick Howard Friel, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Herman out of bed, despite agreeing with them on the narrow question of the need for a Congressional vote on Syria, and on the potential applicability to the case of Syria of the War Powers Resolution. In a letter published in today’s New York Times, Friel, Chomsky, and Herman casually (but dogmatically) assert the following:

While the president must request and receive congressional approval within the strictures of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, as both Mr. Ackerman and your editorial rightly demand, neither Congress nor the president is free to violate the United Nations Charter’s prohibition “against the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Individual nations are bound by their international obligations regardless of their constitutional law. Thus, the reach of law here goes beyond the War Powers Resolution to the United Nations Charter.

It’s a claim to confirm the most paranoid fears of the most paranoid right-winger: the United Nations Charter supersedes the U.S. Constitution. On the face of it, I don’t see how the United States (or any other country) can be “bound,” whether legally or morally, to adhere to the terms of a document when doing so would violate its own constitution. The perplexity is increased when you consider that it’s obvious how and why the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, but not obvious that international “law” is law at all.  Though it’s a bit of a distraction from the issue directly at hand, I’d be curious to see an argument for their claim.

AUMF, ISIS, and Imperialism

I rarely if ever agree with Bruce Ackerman on political matters, but the politics of warfare, I suppose, makes for strange bedfellows. What Ackerman says in this Op-Ed, pointedly titled “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” seems to me exactly on target:

Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.

This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.

But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Obama is rightly proud of his success in killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 and dismantling the Qaeda network he built up. But it’s preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalize new bombings in Syria and additional (noncombat) forces in Iraq.

To suggest that a Congressional vote 13 years ago responding specifically to the 9/11 attack can be used to legalize new warfare in Syria is to flout the plain meaning of the words of the original Authorization of the Use of Military Force, and to suggest by implication that words have no meaning. It’s about as obvious a violation of the rule of law as can be imagined–a paradigm case of violation staring us straight in the face, while masquerading as law. It also marks another sad milestone in the United States’s childish, eyes-wide-shut descent into imperialism.

Civilization, Its Enemies, and the Dumbest Conversation about ISIS on the Internet

Note added, September 3, 2022: To belabor the obvious–for those who need a belaboring–this post was a response to a post on a separate blog, then called Neo-Neocon, now called The New Neo. The original post was posted in 2014; I don’t know whether it still exists. Neo-Neocon was defending the idea of US military involvement in Syria (back in 2014), which I was opposing. A commenter on the original blog post on Neo-Neocon, “blert,” had attacked my views by doing a cursory Google search, finding what he thought were photos of me, mistakenly identifying me with a fashion model with the name “Irfan Khawaja,” and then offering an elaborate confabulation about how I was an out-of-the-closet gay academic jihad blogger (implying, inadvertently, that Irfan Khawaja the fashion model was one, too). Obviously, blert’s whole comment was premised on a series of really stupid, obviously false assumptions and fabrications. That hasn’t deterred people from making some more.

To be absolutely clear: I am not Irfan Khawaja the fashion model, and have never pretended to be. The references to Irfan Khawaja the fashion model below are obviously satirical references to the erroneous identification of us made by the commenter “blert” on Neo-Neocon. If I’m gay, I must be in the closet about it even to myself, and to all of the women I’ve ever married or dated. I know nothing about the sexual orientation of Irfan Khawaja the fashion model, have no interest in knowing, and have never made any assertions about it whatsoever. I don’t mind being called a “blog jihadi,” but I have no comment on whether Irfan Khawaja the fashion model is. I don’t sympathize with ISIS, and have no reason to believe that Irfan Khawaja the fashion model does. I posted his photo in the post to satirize the error of the commenter, blert. As my bio makes clear, I’ve never claimed to be a fashion model. All of the commenters below except Irfan Khawaja the fashion model grasp that I am not Irfan Khawaja the fashion model, and am not claiming to be.

I wouldn’t have to belabor these obvious points if Irfan Khawaja the fashion model hadn’t, eight years after this post was first posted, decided to misread it by identifying my views with blert the commenter, and then attacking me for what blert had said. The ludicrous results of this misreading are now in the comments. As Dwight Eisenhower put it, “There is no final answer to the question ‘How stupid can you get?'” Continue reading