The Guardian/Observer split
More here and here.
(incorporating "World of Decency")
Finally, at no point does Conor squarely face the case on which I was basing my argument for a right of humanitarian intervention: conditions in which it is agreed (let us suppose by him and me amongst many others) that there is urgent need for intervention to stop something appalling and ongoing, a genocide, or something else of humanitarian-crisis proportions; no security council authorization is forthcoming (for one bad political reason or another); nothing of sufficiently multilateral scope is going to happen for a long time either. Is it the law in these circumstances that the people being killed by their thousands must just be killed and that's all there is to it? I say that that is not a law worth supporting. It is my central argument. Conor doesn't engage with it.
If in some minimal sense a state protects the common life of its people (if it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life), then its sovereignty is to be respected. But if the state itself violates this common life in appalling ways, its claim to sovereignty is forfeited and there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue. Once a threshold of inhumanity has been crossed, there is a "responsibility to protect".
The most important story of this week and of most others is one on which there is a paucity of public information. We know that Israel made a bombing raid on Syria on 6 September. Everything else is conjecture or the product of unattributable briefing, but The Sunday Times gives a lucid account: ...
There is an important article in The Spectator by James Forsyth and Douglas Davis about Israel's bombing raid on a Syrian target on 6 September. The authors of the article believe we narrowly escaped World War III. They reconstruct events this way: ...
Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.
The destination was not a complete surprise. It had already been the subject of intense surveillance by an Israeli Ofek spy satellite, and within hours a band of elite Israeli commandos had secretly crossed into Syria and headed for the town. Soil samples and other material they collected there were returned to Israel. Sure enough, they indicated that the cargo was nuclear.
What was in the consignment that led the Israelis to mount an attack which could easily have spiralled into an all-out regional war? It could not have been a transfer of chemical or biological weapons; Syria is already known to possess the most abundant stockpiles in the region. Nor could it have been missile delivery systems; Syria had previously acquired substantial quantities from North Korea. The only possible explanation is that the consignment was nuclear.
The scale of the potential threat - and the intelligence methods that were used to follow the transfer - explain the dense mist of official secrecy that shrouds the event. There have been no official briefings, no winks or nudges, from any of the scores of people who must have been involved in the preparation, analysis, decision-making and execution of the operation. Even when Israelis now offer a firm 'no comment', it is strictly off the record. The secrecy is itself significant.
Israel is a small country. In some respects, it resembles an extended, if chaotic, family. Word gets around fast. Israelis have lived on the edge for so long they have become addicted to the news. Israel’s media is far too robust and its politicians far too leaky to allow secrets to remain secret for long. Even in the face of an increasingly archaic military censor, Israeli journalists have found ways to publish and, if necessary, be damned.
This is an extraordinary development. And what is most extraordinary about it is what has not happened. Israel, even more than the United States, is a polity where it's very hard to keep things secret. Yet this one hasn't been leaked.