Foreign Secretary Hague's claims that 'we' ( i.e "the West" ) could act without a UN mandate before the UN inspectors have found any conclusive evidence and after having pressed for the inpectors to go to the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack, is both foolish and belligerent.
The refined absurdity of Hague's position was evident this morning,
"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes it is - otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, to such crimes, and I do not think that is an acceptable situation. It is possible to take action based on great humanitarian need and great humanitarian distress. It is possible to do that under many different scenarios'Hague starts off by claiming Britain would be 'responding' to chemical weapons. That leaves it open to interpretation that a response is not to a proven attack by Assad but to a 'regime' that could have been capable of using them and then destroying the evidence, as Hague already hinted it might.
Legalistic constructs such as 'the responsibility to protect' used in Kosovo in 1999 are becoming an artefact bolstering the de facto power of the US, France and UK to determine what international law will mean. Yet that cannot be other than an assertion of political power.
In the case of Syria, there is a brutal civil war in which regional and global powers have geopolitical interests. No amount of posturing over legalistic formulas can override the fact that the crisis has been in need of diplomatic and political negotiations.
Unfortunately, it has been those such as Hague who have continually tried to make Assad's departure a precondition for any talks at the postponed Geneva Conference. Now Hague believes ' the West' has an opportunity to use unproved attacks by Assad to force its unilateral will to resolve the crisis.
This delusion that law and a universal regime of rights can supplant politics and not be restrained by its considerations is a dangerous fiction. Cruise missile strikes will not remove Assad nor would a victory for 'the opposition' in the civil war ensure Syria would not disintegrate into a failed state.
Any proposed strike by 'the West' is less to do with 'humanitarian need' and more to do with 'credibility' and being seen as a force able to impose its will to show it has both might and right on its side. The West rejected diplomacy with Assad and Iran and wants to sideline Russia.
Belligerent rhetoric is about global geopolitics and reinforcing the idea of Western domination over the Middle East. As historian Mark Almond writes,
'They have been demanding the fall of Assad for more than two-and-a-half years now and it has become increasingly frustrating that his regime has shown much more resilience that they had expected, despite the resources that they and the Gulf Kingdoms have thrown into the war on the other side.
It is also like a distraction from the embarrassment of Egypt, where we see the European and the US governments basically using weasel words to avoid any kind of condemnation of a massacre in the streets of Cairo. So there are both the specifics of Syria and the context of what is going on elsewhere in the Arab world, especially in Egypt.'