Eric Posner,"The U.S. Has No Legal Basis to Intervene in Syria"

The U.S. Has No Legal Basis to Intervene in Syria
Eric Posner
August 28, 2013

Inter arma enim silent leges, said the Romans—in times of war, the law falls silent. But ours is a chattier society. Rather than keep silent, our laws speak loudly about war. We just don’t follow them—as the U.S. military intervention in Syria is about to show.

Press reports say that President Obama has ordered his lawyers to supply him with a legal justification for a military assault on Syria, and unnamed officials have cited the Geneva Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Kosovo precedent, and the so-called Responsibility to Protect doctrine. They have not cited the United Nations Charter, which flatly bans military interventions without Security Council approval, which the United States cannot obtain because of Russian and Chinese opposition.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 (which Syria ratified) and the Che