Assessing U.S. Justifications for Using Force in Response to Syriai's Chemical Attacks: An International Law Perspective

Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Forthcoming

19 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michael N. Schmitt

Michael N. Schmitt

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law; University of Exeter Law School; Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point

Christopher Ford

Government of the United States of America - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law

Date Written: May 16, 2017

Abstract

Michael Schmitt and Christopher Ford unpack the Trump Administration’s legal justifications for the April 2017 United States attack on a Syrian airfield in response to its use of chemical weapons against civilians. Schmitt and Ford discuss three possible legal bases for the use of force: self-defense, response to an internationally wrongful act, and humanitarian intervention. The authors conclude that the US’s actions run afoul of limitations in each relevant body of law, and of note, they discuss how this attack is consequential for the validity of humanitarian intervention on another state’s territory without approval from the UN Security Council. They conclude by suggesting that the international community is likely to consider the nature of suffering, in addition to the quantum of suffering, as bearing on the right of States to mount future humanitarian operations.

Keywords: Humanitarian Intervention, Syria, Missile Attack, Self-Defense, International Law, IHL, LOAC, Law of Armed Conflict, UN, Security Council, Chemical Weapons

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Schmitt, Michael N. and Ford, Christopher, Assessing U.S. Justifications for Using Force in Response to Syriai's Chemical Attacks: An International Law Perspective (May 16, 2017). Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2972842

Michael N. Schmitt (Contact Author)

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Michael-Schmitt.aspx

University of Exeter Law School ( email )

Streatham Court
University of Exeter
Exeter, EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/law/staff/mschmitt/

Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

Christopher Ford

Government of the United States of America - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841
United States

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