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Jurist Op-Ed-A Diplomatic Solution to the Crisis in Syria

Jurist Op-Ed-A Diplomatic Solution to the Crisis in Syria

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Published by: impunitywatch on Sep 26, 2013
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A Diplomatic Solution to the Crisis in Syria: Remembering the 1930s
JURIST Contributing Editor 
,of the Syracuse University College of Law, arguesthat the world should remember the 1930's in crafting a diplomatic solution to the crisis inSyria ...
ppeasement in the face of tyranny never works. Consider the 1930's, when theinternational community, (and a spineless League of Nations) bent on avoidinganother war, was faced with a tyrant and his ambitions: a two-bit dictator seeking a placefor a so-called Third Reich. In 1936, Adolf Hitler gambled and seized the Rhineland fromFrance, which at the time was one of the world's super powers. Emboldened, he realizedthat the use of force was not a viable option for the world's democracies. In 1938, he turnedeast and seized the Sudetenland.A peace treaty was negotiated with Germany which gave Hitler a piece of another sovereignnation in return for a promise of no further expansion/aggression. As the exultant PrimeMinister of the UK, Neville Chamberlain 
,"It was peace for our time." It isinteresting to note hovering in the background, in league with Germany, was the SovietUnion, led by another tyrant. Within a year, the world plunged into the Second World War.These two nations would join forces, albeit briefly, to parcel out Poland and allow theSoviets to take over Finland.Hitler and Stalin were not alone in their policy of aggression; Italy and Japan observed themaneuvering by Germany during this time frame and moved within their regions withimpunity. China was attacked by Japan and Ethiopia fell to Mussolini's Italy. The responseby the international community was to talk and to seek diplomatic solutions. Without thethreat of force, these countries felt little concern for being held accountable politically,diplomatically, or legally. History tells us that tyrants only respect power and the use of force. They calculate their policies and plans based on this. If confronted they back down.After the horror of the Second World War, mankind tried to limit the use of force throughthe advent of the UN, and its 
 that said that nations should always settle theirdisputes peacefully, resorting to force only as a last resort. In principle, the settlement of disputes peacefully, placing the use of force on the back burner, is a laudable goal and onenecessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.With all this in mind, we are at an interesting intersection of history and policy as we watchthe US and Russia maneuver geopolitically for influence in 
 specifically and the Middle
East generally, in light of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. Supported byRussia, President Assad stands back watching, buying time, and gaining a lost legitimacydue to these negotiations that he thought was gone forever; with the possibility of survivinga two year attempt to topple him a real expectation.The use of chemical weapons in the modern era is rare. Used only in the 1980's in theIran/Iraq war and by Saddam Hussein against his own people, the use of this weaponsystem is banned and its use is illegal per se, a war crime by any measure. With the recentuse of chemical weapons by Assad's forces, the international community hesitated to actwith force in the hope of diplomatically resolving the matter. They stepped over theprinciple of the use of those weapons being illegal per se and ignored President Obama, whoreminded the international community that this cannot stand and that force was needed topunish Assad for the use of a weapon of mass destruction. Hampered politically at homeand abroad, however, there is little President Obama can do but to give diplomacy a chancebefore possibly using force to destroy Assad's chemical arsenal.Be that as it may, a diplomatic solution to this illegal act could be useful and set up furtherdialog between the parties and their political backers to end the bloodshed in Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians are dead. As the civil war continues, the chances of a peaceful and agentle transition diminishes and the specter of a bloody conclusion has risen. This tentativeagreement between the US and Russia may lead to a framework for a ceasefire by Assadand the Syrian resistance brokered by the UN.The phenomenon of two old Cold War adversaries working together towards a peace inSyria is helpful. Yet let's not forget that an accounting must be had for the destruction of over 100,000 Syrians at the hands of their own government. There is nothing wrong inbrokering a peace to stop death and destruction, yet Assad and his regime must be dealtwith under law. Already, efforts by governmental and nongovernmental organizations havebuilt the makings of a criminal case against all sides in the Syrian civil war. For a true peaceto be had in the region, a full legal accounting by an appropriate justice mechanism must behad.We won't have peace in our time without the rule of law, backed by a commitment to useforce when current and future tyrants test the theory that the rule of law is more powerfulthan the rule of the gun. President Obama has it right, let's work with our partners in theUN to seek a diplomatic solution, mindful always that Assad does not respect the rule of law, only the threat and the ultimate use of force against him. With that fear of the use of that legitimate force, the international community can keep Assad in check. The shadow of the 1930's lingers in the corners of current events playing out in Syria. Lest we forget...

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