By Anne Bayefsky
The Syrian problem threatens the very core of the Obama doctrine. Bashing President Bush for doing an end run around the U.N. Security Council over Iraq was Obama’s nom de guerre.
With Russia’s leaders making it clear that they are not going to approve a Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria, how can the president act without appearing to be a hypocrite or a fraud? The answer is: he can’t.
In the case of Libya, a Security Council resolution was sufficiently general that the United States and its allies could claim there was approval for military action and the removal of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. It was March 17, 2011 and the Council authorized member states “acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements … to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians” in Libya. The Russians aren’t about to make the same mistake twice.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that “using force without the approval of the UN Security Council is a very grave violation of international law.” Russian and Chinese vetoes have already been cast three times on Syria over what even former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice called “very mild resolutions” that didn’t even contain sanctions. If France, Britain or the United States try again, they can expect a fourth nyet.
This leaves President Obama with a serious quandary. When President Bush asked the Security Council for the 18th resolution on Iraq, he set up the Council as the legitimatizing institution.
Failing to get that stamp of approval then destroyed his chances of cogently arguing a resolution wasn’t necessary in the first place.
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