- Nov 8, 2012
It's today's narrative. Samantha Power interview on NPR;RetroActive said:White House insists it may strike Syria without congressional approval
The White House insisted Monday that it was legally able to launch a strike on Syria without congressional approval even as it intensified its courting of lawmakers to support military action.
White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told the New York Times that a strike would be lawful under both domestic and international law. She told the paper that the president could strike because of the “important national interests” surrounding the use of chemical weapons, even without Congress or United Nations approval.
Ruemmler contended that while the Syria situation “may not fit under a traditionally recognized legal basis under international law,” it would nevertheless be “justified and legitimate.”
Inskeep: Let me ask a central question for you, because you're representing the U.S. at the United Nations, which has not authorized a strike. Would an American strike on Syria be legal?
Power: If we take military action in this context, it'll be a legitimate, necessary, and proportionate response to this large-scale and indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by the regime. Nobody has tried harder than this administration to work through the Security Council over two-and-a-half years. As you're well aware, of course, even modest humanitarian and political measures have been rejected by Russia in New York. We've had three resolutions put forward, all of which have been vetoed by Russia, and on chemical weapons specifically and perhaps most heartbreakingly, even on the day, on August 21, when those ghastly images were broadcast all around the world, we couldn't even get a press release out of the Security Council, condemning, generically, use of chemical weapons.
Inskeep: So let me just make sure that I'm clear on this. You're saying that something needs to be done, and it is time to go outside the legal system, outside the legal framework. You believe it is right to do something that is just simply not legal.
Power: In the cases we've seen in the past, there are times where there is a patron like Syria backed by Russia--we saw this in Kosovo as well, where it was just structurally impossible to get meaningful international action through the Security Council, and yet in this case you have the great reach of such a critical international norm in terms of the ban on chemical weapons use, it is very important that the international community act so as to prevent further use.