US should respect sovereignty of others
Updated: 2014-09-25 07:51
By Chen Weihua(China Daily)
US President Barack Obama likes to talk about international laws and respect for other nations' sovereignty, but he himself violated it blatantly on Tuesday when he ordered airstrikes in Syria.
The fact that the airstrikes were not invited or approved by the Syrian government or endorsed by the United Nations Security Council proved that there is no legal basis for the US military actions.
Eleven years ago, before then-president George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq, he at least sent his secretary of state Colin Powell to lobby the United Nations first, albeit with false evidence in his hand.
Obama did not bother to try and get approval from the UN before bombing a sovereign nation. Instead, he chose to go to the UN only after the strikes. Such an action shows gross disrespect for international law.
If the action by the Bush administration set a bad precedent, Obama, who opposed and criticized the Iraq War, is setting another horrible precedent. From now on, any big and powerful nation can launch airstrikes in another nation to pursue so-called hostile elements by just notifying its government and not getting its agreement or asking the UN Security Council for a green light. The words of Jennifer Psaki, the US State Department's spokeswoman on Tuesday clearly reflected such disregard for another country's sovereignty. She said the US informed the Syrian regime directly of the US intent to take action through the US ambassador to UN.
"We warned Syria not to engage US aircraft. We did not request the regime's permission," Psaki said.
It's not a surprise that the US has so far garnered little support for its military action in Syria. Although it has tried to show legitimacy by highlighting the five Arab states which participated in Tuesday's action, it cannot hide the fact that even its closest allies, such as Britain and France, have chosen not to participate in the strikes in Syria, partly out of the concern for the lack of legitimacy.
In fact, Obama didn't even get overwhelming support from his own Democrats for his strategy, as 85 Democrat House members last week voted against his proposals to arm Syrian rebels in the fight against the IS group, because of their concerns about it escalating into an open-ended war.
What is ironic is that Obama, in stressing the five Arab states, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, that participated in the strikes, did not emphasize as usual that it is a coalition based on common values of freedom and democracy, because clearly it isn't.
What is even more ironic is that the IS extremists received funding from wealthy donors in some of these Arab states in their bid to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The US itself also helped train IS members in Jordan in the past years in a covert operation to finance, train and arm Syrian rebels.
As Obama spoke eloquently to the American people after the Tuesday airstrikes, he did not mention that besides killing dozens of IS and al-Qaeda extremists, eight civilians, three of them children, also died as collateral damage in the US-led strikes in Syria, according to a Reuters report citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Of course, most American taxpayers have no idea that each Tomakawk cruise missile costs about $1.4 million, and 47 of them were launched as part of the 14 overnight strikes against IS in Syria on Tuesday, according to Pentagon.
There is no doubt that IS as an extremist group should be uprooted. But this does not mean that a superpower can ignore the UN Charter and violate the sovereignty of a nation, especially a much smaller one.
The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. firstname.lastname@example.org