Friday, March 22, 2013

Illegal? Arms-trafficking and the Syrian resistance

One justification offered for exposing arms shipments to the Syrian resistance is that this 'arms trafficking' is illegal.  This makes for such a bad argument that it raises serious questions about the good faith of those who propagate it.   Among those is Russian foreign minister Lavrov, and in his case the question of good faith doesn't even arise, but what of the others? What of the enthusiastic arms trackers and anti-proliferation obsessives?

The very idea that 'illegal' is sufficient reason for doing or not doing anything is, frankly, infantile.   Laws can be good or bad, justified or unjustified.  Helping slaves escape in the US, circa 1850, was illegal.  Mixed marriages were illegal in  apartheid South Africa.

But suppose the arms trackers really mean you shouldn't break a good law - which begs the question of whether a law barring arms to the FSA would count as good.  No matter.  Even when a law is justified or good, it may also be justified to break it.   It is illegal to steal.  Suppose someone will die within minutes unless I steal an antidote from a pharmacy - the pharmacy will not, for one reason or another, let me have it.   My lawbreaking is justifiable, maybe even obligatory.

But there's another little detail:  arming the FSA is not illegal.

What could make it so?  We hear dark talk about arming 'non-state parties'.  There is no law of any sort against this.  There is a proposed treaty that may or may not be ratified in July and which might ban such activity.  But a possible treaty is not an actual treaty and is not law.  Moreover an expert in international law has informed me that there is a great deal of uncertainty about who or what should count as a 'non-state party'.   Is the Palestinian Authority a non-state party, so that the US arms its police 'illegally'?  The FSA and SNC are recognized by some countries as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.   Is that enough to make the opposition a non-non-state party?  No one can say.

So blatant nonsense and plain falsehoods are deployed to crusade against 'arms trafficking', that is, legally providing arms so that Syrians can defend themselves against horrific attacks.   This is not what you would have expected if the issue has been arming something like the French Resistance.  But it's what passes for respectable moralizing when it comes to 'Arabs'.

Note:  Some arms came from Croatia, perhaps between November 2012 and February 2013 .  There is a EU arms embargo on arms to Syria.   Though it will become a member of the EU in July 2013, Croatia is not a member now, and the embargo binds only EU members.  What's more, the embargo expires at the end of May, and can be renewed only by unanimous consent.  So not even these deliveries run counter to any restrictions on arms trafficking.

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