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Syria, Democracy And International Law

By John Scales Avery

07 September, 2013

The central purpose of the UN organization, when it was set up in 1945, was to make war illegal. The enormous suffering caused by two world wars had convinced the men and women who drafted the Charter that security based on national military forces had to be replaced by a system of collective security.

The fact that the basic purpose of the United Nations is the abolition of war is made clear in Article 2, where Section 2.3 states that “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” Section 2.4 adds that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

The abolition of war implies the abolition of the colonial system, in which technologically advanced nations maintain their dominance over less developed regions by means of superior weapons. If the institution of war is abolished, this becomes impossible.

Despite the high aims of the founders of the United Nations, both war and neocolonialism have persisted. Some of the wars that we see today are civil wars, but others are characterized by the use of military force by highly industrialized countries to extract resources from the developing countries on unfair economic terms.

In his book, “Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict” (2002), Michael T. Klare shows that many recent wars can be interpreted as struggles for the control of natural resources. For example, many conflicts in the Middle East can be seen in terms of the desire of industrialized countries to control the petroleum resources.of the region (“blood for oil”). Are not the efforts of the United States to obtain complete hegemony in the Middle East at least partly motivated by the lust for oil? Syria and Iran resist this hegemony, and therefore they are scheduled for attacks.

But there is a second motive for the US plan to attack Syria and Iran: Israel regards these two countries as threats; and Israel seems to control the United States government. Much of the drive towards a US military attack on Syria seems to come from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The American people oppose such an attack; but the government ignores the wishes of its citizens because it has been enslaved by Israel.

Since the United Nations has, until now, failed in its efforts to abolish the institution of war, some people argue that we should let the United States function as a “global policeman”. There are a number of reasons why this is a terrible idea, one of which is that no single country can be an impartial judge in international conflicts. The special motives (oil and Israel) for a US attack on Syria illustrate this point.

Furthermore, whatever system we have for global governance ought to be democratic, with equal rights for all nations. The United Nations, in some form, is the appropriate place for all nations to have their say. If a single bully, “the world's sole superpower”,dominates all other nations, we do not have a global democracy but a tyranny of brutal military power.

In fact, the United States has lost it own internal democracy and degenerated into an Orwellian surveillance state. The Occupy Wall Street movement's slogan, ``We are the 99 percent", points to the fact that a very small power elite, perhaps only 1 percent of the population, has a hugely disproportionate amount of economic and political power in the United States. In this sense, the United States is no longer a democracy, since neither the economic system nor the government serve the will and needs of the people. They serve instead the interests of the wealthy and powerful 1 percent, who control not only the mass media and the financial system, but also the politicians of both major parties.

Law has always been the protector of the weak against the raw power of aggressors. This is why tyrants hate law and ignore the law. But today, in a world of thermonuclear weapons capable of destroying human civilization and much of the biosphere, international law is our only hope.

A US attack on Syria would unambiguously violate not only Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, but also the Nuremberg Principles. Does President Obama really want to turn himself from a Nobel Peace Prize winner into a war criminal?

Today the world has become a global village. It is no longer possible to regard nations as separated from each other. They are linked together by nearly instantaneous communications and by a shared economy. So nationalism has become anachronistic, and we can no longer afford to have anarchy at the international level; we need to have some sort of global governance. The United Nations fills that role, and its agencies perform extremely important services for the world community. For example, essential work is done by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Panel on Climate Change, the UN Development Program and UNESCO. Furthermore, the United Nations is a forum and a meeting place where international problems can be discussed and solved.

Rather than undermining the United Nations, we need to strengthen and reform it. A just and democratic system of international law is our only hope for the future.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com



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