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Blix writes: "It is true that the UN security council is not a reliable global policeman. It may be slow to take action, or paralysed because of disagreement between members. But do we want the US or Nato or 'alliances of willing states' as global policemen either?"

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. (photo: BBC)
Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. (photo: BBC)


The West Has No Mandate to Act As a Global Policeman

By Hans Blix, Guardian UK

31 August 13

 

t is true that the UN security council is not a reliable global policeman. It may be slow to take action, or paralysed because of disagreement between members. But do we want the US or Nato or "alliances of willing states" as global policemen either? Unlike George Bush in 2003, the Obama administration is not trigger-happy and contemptuous of the United Nations and the rules of its charter, which allow the use of armed force only in self-defence or with an authorisation from the security council. Yet Obama, like Bush and Blair, seems ready to ignore the council and order armed strikes on Syria with political support from only the UK, France and some others.

Such action could not be "in self-defence" or "retaliation", as the US, the UK and France have not been attacked. To punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons would be the action of self-appointed global policemen - action that, in my view, would be very unwise.

While much evidence points to the guilt of the Assad regime, would not due process require that judgment and consideration of action take place in the UN security council and await the report of the inspectors that the UN has sent to Syria - at the demand of the UK and many other UN members?

We may agree with John Kerry, the US secretary of state, that the use of gas is a "moral obscenity", but would we not feel that "a measured and proportionate punishment", like striking at some missile sites or helicopter bases, is like telling the regime that "you can go on with your war but do stay away from the chemical weapons"? And what is the moral weight of the condemnation by nuclear weapons states of the use of gas as a serious war crime when they themselves will not accept a norm that would criminalise any first use of their own nuclear weapons?

It is hard to avoid the impression that the political and military developments now in overdrive stem partly from pressure exerted by the rebel side to trigger an American military intervention - by trying to hold President Obama to an earlier warning to Assad that a use of chemical weapons would alter his calculation. Equally, if not more important, may be a need felt by the Obama administration to avoid criticism for being hesitant and passive - and appearing like a paper tiger to countries such as Iran that have been warned that the US will not allow them to have nuclear weapons.

In 2003 the US and the UK and an alliance of "friendly states" invaded Iraq without the authorisation of the security council. A strong body of world opinion felt that this constituted a violation and an undermining of the UN charter. A quick punitive action in Syria today without UN authorisation would be another precedent, suggesting that great military powers can intervene militarily when they feel politically impelled to do so. (They did not intervene when Iraq used chemical weapons on a large scale in the war with Iran in the 1980s.)

So, what should the world reaction be to the use of chemical weapons? Clearly, evidence available - both from UN inspectors and from member states - should be placed before and judged by the security council. Even if the council could only conclude that chemical weapons had been used - and could not agree that the Assad regime alone was responsible - there would be a good chance of unanimous world condemnation. Global indignation about the use of chemical weapons is of value to strengthen the taboo.

Condemnation is not enough. With 100,000 killed and millions of refugees, the civil war itself is a "moral obscenity". The council must seek to achieve not just an end to chemical weapons use but an end to all weapons use, by a ceasefire. As was planned not long ago by the US and Russia, the council must seek to bring about a conference at which relevant parties and states can form an interim authority. The alternative is continued civil war in Syria and worsening international relations.

Is the ending of active hostilities totally unrealistic? Let us be clear that the government in Syria, as well as all rebel groups, depends upon a flow of weapons, munitions and money from the outside. Much is reported to come to the rebels from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey; and much is reported to come to the government from Russia and Iran. The supplier countries have leverage. Agreement should be sought, under the auspices of the security council, that all parties that have given such support demand that their clients accept a ceasefire - or risk losing further support.


 

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+57 # bingers 2013-08-31 19:23
If we had listened to Hans Blix in the first place we would have saved a million lives and 3 trillion dollars, but that would have flown in the face of sanity and the plans of the Bush administration.
 
 
-20 # DurangoKid 2013-08-31 19:24
Mandate?! We don't need no stinking mandate!!
 
 
+21 # jsheats 2013-08-31 19:34
Hans Blix has a voice that is worthy of the highest respect and careful attention. I agree with what he has to say here.

The "world policeman" theme needs much closer examination, however. Not so many years ago, hundreds of thousands (I think) of Rwandans were being killed in an internal conflict, and we were roundly excoriated by many (typically liberal) voices for not intervening. A few years later similar numbers of people in East Timor were being massacred by their government, and again we did not intervene and were widely condemned.

Of course, the realpolitik reason for the differences may have something to do with oil. Nevertheless, from the perspective of principles, one has to decide: is it legitimate to intervene in a country's affairs, or not? If not, and a new Hitler arises, we cannot to save that country's equivalent of the Jews. Nor can we intervene to end a system of apartheid, as we (eventually, grudgingly) did in South Africa. Non-violent vs. violent means are not distinct, as far as I can see. Either countries have the right to intervene in the affairs of other countries, or they do not.

We have not resolved this issue as a nation.
 
 
+7 # tomo 2013-09-01 12:34
As you say, js, you and Blix are addressing the same topic. The question is not whether Assad is a bad man. It is not even whether intervention can be justified. It's about the mode of intervention. When, after WWI, Lodge and company kept us (the U.S.) out of the League of Nations, it was because he (like his chum TR) wanted to leave the United Sates free to intervene in things at its own discretion. Even after WWII, when we seem to have realized a world policeman was needed, we no sooner worked to establish the UN than we began undermining its authority--for the same reasons Lodge and TR resisted the League.
Recently, Bush/Cheney clearly undermined the authority of UN official Blix. We still prefer unilateral interventions.

If DurangoKid (just above you) is serious, he is expressing a long-held American view. Just as we act as if global climate change is not happening, so, in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary, we act as if unilateral intervention is somehow neater and more efficient than the messy business of acting within an international system of justice. We dream on--although all our dreams of late have become nightmares.
 
 
+30 # MidwesTom 2013-08-31 19:47
Fortunately the action of the UK has thrown a wrench into the plans of the war machine. The fighting hasn't stopped, and we are still training and arming the rebels. We cannot afford to be shooting $3 million dollar missiles for a cause that has no relation to our country. When will Washington realize that the American people are tired of war, and the country is in fragile financial condition?
 
 
+4 # seeuingoa 2013-09-01 03:27
Quoting MidwesTom:
Fortunately the action of the UK has thrown a wrench into the plans of the war machine. The fighting hasn't stopped, and we are still training and arming the rebels. We cannot afford to be shooting $3 million dollar missiles for a cause that has no relation to our country. When will Washington realize that the American people are tired of war, and the country is in fragile financial condition?

Quoting MidwesTom:
Fortunately the action of the UK has thrown a wrench into the plans of the war machine. The fighting hasn't stopped, and we are still training and arming the rebels. We cannot afford to be shooting $3 million dollar missiles for a cause that has no relation to our country. When will Washington realize that the American people are tired of war, and the country is in fragile financial condition?




Well, it will not finish before
the Americans are wise, and they are tooooo
stupid (generally) to be wise for a looooong
time to come.
 
 
+17 # tigerlille 2013-08-31 20:08
The U.S. has seldom functioned as the world's policeman. The moral indignation factor is only used selectively when the U.S. wants to intervene on behalf of the best interests of the corporate-milit ary complex. The minute a government official starts talking about immoral conduct, you know something untoward is up, because the only morality these people know is profit.
 
 
+2 # jwb110 2013-09-01 08:59
Quoting tigerlille:
The U.S. has seldom functioned as the world's policeman. The moral indignation factor is only used selectively when the U.S. wants to intervene on behalf of the best interests of the corporate-military complex. The minute a government official starts talking about immoral conduct, you know something untoward is up, because the only morality these people know is profit.


The US has functioned as the World Policemen since the "Korean Police Action." The Gov't called it a "Police Action" not I.
 
 
+1 # CandH 2013-08-31 20:18
A US "retaliatory attack" would NOT be acting as a "global policeman" in this case as Blix is suggesting. Rather, this would be an ESCALATION of the US' already 2+ year involvement in DIRECTLY INSTIGATING the regional-actors conflict in Syria, vis-a-vis CIA/JSOC/Green Berets/Seals assets directly deployed into the region (Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq,) to supply arms & to train "rebel forces" (AQ mainly) to engage in this regional-actors war now playing out in Syria. This has been well established in many media venues all over the world, reporting on these facts since their deployments in March 2011.

Whatever Hans Blix is attempting to accomplish by "whitewashing" these very established facts, by calling the US' role in Syria as now one of "global policeman," is simply devoid of the facts, and frankly, suspect as to overall motive.

http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/08/29/bfp-syria-coverage-track-record-what-when-we-exposed-and-the-msm-quasi-alternative-culprits-who-fought-our-exposes/
 
 
+3 # Merschrod 2013-09-01 07:43
Candy, your do not understand Hans, or you want him to leave his diplomatic posture. What you would like him to have said is true, but that is not his role in the discussion.
 
 
+11 # DaveM 2013-08-31 20:29
The use of chemical weapons is banned by a series of international treaties and leaves any nation which uses them subject to sanctions including criminal prosecution of their leaders. I emphasize the word "international".

As a gas attack is a violation of international law, it is for the international community to decide an appropriate response to those responsible. The UN is imperfect, but it is a forum in which virtually every nation on earth participates on some level.

So...let the evidence be sought out and confirmed or laid to rest. And then let the international community--a jury of peers, so to speak, for any nation--make a decision. Anything less is mere warmongering and verges on colonialism.
 
 
+3 # geraldom 2013-08-31 21:43
Hans Blix should be a whole lot smarter than this. The United States with the help of its gang of thugs that make up NATO don't want to be the policeman of the world.

The United States wants to be King of this world. They want to control every nation on earth. This is empire building, pure and simple, something we condemned Russia for when they were building their empire before the breakup of the old Soviet Union, and the United States does not care what the human cost will be in order to accomplish this nefarious goal.
 
 
+9 # pappajohn 2013-08-31 21:46
Empires are always able to justify their own "moral" imperative to act, whenever it suits their economic and strategic power rationale. Ask the Romans, the Spanish, the British, etc.

In other words, this will be another war for Exxon, Shell and BP!


(Oh, and sorry about all the dead little brown people...)
 
 
+8 # Nel 2013-09-01 03:05
UN Security Council is not a policeman, it is the law and the police deputizer.
When the USA act independently of the UN Security Council, the USA does not act as policeman but it acts as VIGILANTE.
 
 
-3 # seeuingoa 2013-09-01 04:17
OK Hans Blix ! have a nice time
We will sure miss you
 
 
+11 # RMDC 2013-09-01 05:28
"While much evidence points to the guilt of the Assad regime"

Hans Blix is right but the statement above I have to disagree with. There is not much "evidence" for blaming Assad. There is only the words of Kerry, Obama, and others in the US regime who are echoed by the media.

Dead bodies are not evidence about who did it. They are evidence that a crime was committed.

In world media, there is developing testimony that the rebels carried out the attacks and that the chemical wespons were provided by Saudi Arabia. Why isn't that being investigated. I'm pretty sure the US knows what the Saudis do. The chemical weapons are said to have been sent to rebels by Prince Bandar, head of Saudi Intelligence (counterpart to the US CIA). Bandar is a close friend of the Bush Family. He was smoking cigars with Bush in the white House a few days before 9-11. Why isn't he being investigated?

Clearly this whole event is part of the US/Israel/Saudi /NATO war against Syria. It is a pretext to escalating the war. This event has cancelled the peace talks that were brokered by the Russians and were to be held in Geneva next month. The biggest fear of Obama is international peace talks. They would inevitably conclude that all side have to stop shipping weapons to Syria.
 
 
+10 # Glen 2013-09-01 06:15
Over the years, whenever I have protested the policing attitude of the U.S., folks have asked, "Well, just who do you think SHOULD be doing it. Wouldn't you rather it be the U.S.?" No, says I, nobody should be policing the planet, much less supporting dictators, and killing millions of people, as the U.S. has in the name of being the good cop.

The U.S. meddling in other parts of the world has led to everything coming about today. And the U.S. continues the uppity attitude of being needed to put a stop the "the violence".
 
 
+4 # tomtom 2013-09-01 07:25
World Policemen, hell, we, Irán, China and Russia are the outlaw, gunslingers. We talk loudly about the rule of law, but, ignore the United Nations and International Law, when "we" feel like it. Rogué nations must be punished, perhaps, by temporarilly, suspending their veto powers, If all the member states have the power to vote on something, without Being vetoed by the criminal states. The Syrians are Being used as ponds, scapegoats, toys, by outside súper-powers. An immediately blockade on all weapons enterring, to begin With, then a Strategy to end the civil war can be initiated.
 
 
+10 # Guy 2013-09-01 08:06
A very sober and wise discourse by Hans Blix.
This is what should be on MSM instead of all this warmongering lies and dis-information.
Thank you Hans for stating what is so appropriate for the times.You are a true statesmen .
 
 
+1 # spenel334 2013-09-01 17:50
spenel334 and what are the chances that, if we intervene, Syria would retaliate by attacking Israel with chemical weapons? I don't really know what the chances are for that to happen, but that is the threat Israel fears.
 
 
0 # grandone@charter.net 2013-09-02 16:10
Mr. Blix record of competency must be part of the equation in judging his writings. The fact remains, nevertheless, that turning this into a proxy war would be disastrous.
Should the west be the world's policeman, meaning the United States? It is not all that hard to answer that question. Would the U.S. allow another nation to step up in its place? Not likely. Besides, who has the resources superior or equal to the U.S. No one. Is the U.N. a good cop? Not really. The U.N. Security Council, populated by enemies is not a good arbiter of truth and justice. The U.N. General Assembly is biased against the G-20 and they outnumber that group.
So, the status quo, like a body in motion, will remain.
Trust me, Americans do not like it either.
 

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