Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently announced that American troops will remain in Syria even after the fight against the Islamic State has ended. If the administration carries through on this promise, it will commit the American people to an indefinite conflict that could bring our troops into direct confrontation with the armed forces of Syria and its closest allies, Iran and Russia. In the process, it will break just about every relevant law on the books…
If the constitutional violations weren’t troubling enough, the announced plan would also put the United States in direct violation of international law. The American operations against the Islamic State and Qaeda elements in Syria were made in the defense of the United States and its allies, particularly Iraq. This was the basis for the American explanation to the United Nations of its military operations in Syria, provided by Ambassador Samantha Power on Sept. 23, 2014. That explanation was reiterated in a letter to Congress from Secretary Tillerson last fall.
Some critics have said this use of the self-defense exception is overbroad. But even if that argument was plausible before, the indefinite commitment of United States troops to hold territory in Syria cannot be defended on similar grounds.
Stabilizing the territory taken from the Islamic State is undoubtedly essential to ensuring terrorist threats do not re-emerge, and that must be a priority for the United States. But as the threat from the Islamic State diminishes and the Syrian conflict returns to a battle over whether Mr. Assad will regain full control over land held by rebels who are divided among themselves, it is no longer possible to argue that the mission is one of self-defense. If the president were to order American troops to hold Syrian territory in those circumstances, he would be ordering them to act in clear violation of the United Nations Charter.
In so clearly breaking international law, we would not just put our troops in harm’s way; we would also be licensing malevolent leaders the world over to follow in our footsteps. Läs artikel