Listen Now

Kinsman: What can the West hope to achieve with a military strike on Syria?

By: /
28 August, 2013
Jeremy Kinsman
By: Jeremy Kinsman
CIC Distinguished Fellow

The “West” – that is the U.S., France, and the U.K. – will achieve some measure of credibility with surgical strikes on military assets and identified chemical weapons sites, not just for themselves, but on behalf of a world community that, in the wake of the gas attack horrors of WWI, outlawed by the Geneva Protocol of 1925 chemical and biological weapons, and refined and expanded the ban in 1972 and 1993 by further conventions against biological and chemical weapons.

If this attack by the Assad regime against Syrians does not qualify for reprisal, what will? If this is not an R2P moment, what would be?

It is not meant to be in support of the rebel army but will have the effect of taking this kind of terror tactic against civilians off the table in the Syrian civil war.

Russia presumably will feel obliged by amour-propre to veto authorization by the UNSC, so indeed the Kosovo precedent that relied on clear moral legitimacy in the case of a hostile and self-interested veto will have to serve.

The UN’s credibility because of the Russian (and maybe Chinese) veto will take a hit, but there is no choice.

A hyper-cautious and domestic-focused Obama seems inhibited by the U.S. public’s war weariness and lassitude over Mideast violence, but has no real choice either.

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 


Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

Our mission is to build a conversation that involves everyone — not just politicians, academics and policy makers. We need your help to do so. Your support helps us find stories and pay writers to tell them. It helps us grow that conversation. It helps us encourage more Canadians to play an active role in shaping our country’s place in the world.

Become a Supporter