Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Ok, as promised, my take on the Syrian bombing.

The problem here is relatively simple. Does Israel have the right to enter Syrian territory? If it does, should it have done so? If it doesn't, then does it matter?

The answer to the first question is relatively simple: No, it doesn't. National sovereignty isn't a grey area; countries are allowed to defend their borders against hostile intruders, but aren't allowed to venture into other countries to pre-emptively attack, else there would be endless "pre-emptive" attacks that are, simply, attacks. (After all, any military you don't control is a potential threat.) This isn't just a moral goal or political theory; it's a core concept of the U.N. Charter, to which Israel (and, yes, the United States) is a signatory (and, therefore, a benficiary). It doesn't matter whether it's Israel or Syria or Serbia or the Sudan or Jordan or Canada or India or Pakistan or Ethiopia that you're talking about. Crossing borders isn't, well, Kosher.

(Israeli advocates usually interject that the U.N. is hostile to Israel. I don't believe it is, innately, but even so that doesn't get Israel out of its Charter requirements. You have to play by the rules if you want to benefit from them. Socrates understood this when he drank the hemlock, and Sharon should understand that now. They might also say that Israel needed to act in order to defend themselves. That's fine as an abstract, but the entitlement to *an* act doesn't mean entitlement to *any* act. Israel couldn't nuke Syria either, although that'd certainly solve the problem of Syrian-based camps.)

So, the question is... does it matter? That's tougher. The U.S. is onside, which is unsurprising considering that Sharon is simply adopting the Bush doctrine. (I hadn't expected it to be Israel that first jumped aboard that hay wagon, but there you go... unless you count the Russians.) With the U.S. onside, there can't be a security council resolution against Israel, and Israel has a history of ignoring the things anyway. Syria can't respond; they don't have the military might. The Arab world as a whole could respond, but any real threat to Israel can be (and likely will be) met with a nuclear response. The E.U. and the Russians won't be overly happy; the E.U. because they have to keep their large Muslim minorities happy, and the Russians because they're on the border with Iran and they know that Iran will only further step up its attempts to get the bomb, which is a serious threat to Russian security. That race for the bomb will be the #1 priority for Iran now, and I wouldn't be overly surprised if cash gets funnelled in from other parts of the Middle East to make it happen, because Israel's threat to "hit its enemies at any time in any place" will be taken very, very seriously.

So, it's quite likely that Israel's attempt to pre-emptively ensure its security will make it, yes, less secure. Unsurprising. After all, we've seen it before, haven't we?

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