6 Sep
"Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us. By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards. This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back. And by we, I mean the engineering community."

—Bruce Schneier, “The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back”, September 5, 2013

(Source: theguardian.com)

"The U.S. is now debating a military campaign that marries the highest, most abstract idealism to the harshest, most unsettling pragmatism: Obama wants to punish Assad for violating the abstract norms of war even as he leaves Assad capable of continuing his massacre by more conventional means. This is why there is no enthusiasm for intervening in Syria: Making the decision to punish Assad for using chemical weapons means explicitly making the decision not to stop him when he slaughters with conventional weapons. The brutality of what we are willing to accept tarnishes the better world we seek to preserve."

—Ezra Klein, “This is why there is no enthusiasm for intervening in Syria”, September 6, 2013

(Source: Washington Post)

"But the question is, do these norms mean something? And if we’re not acting, what does that say? You know, if we’re just issuing another statement of condemnation or passing resolutions saying “wasn’t that terrible?” You know, if people who, you know, decry international inaction in Rwanda and, you know, say how terrible it is that there are these human rights violations that take place around the world, then why aren’t we doing something about it? And they always look to the United States. Why isn’t the United States doing something about this? The most powerful nation on Earth. Why are you allowing these terrible things to happen? And then if the international community turns around when we’re saying it’s time to take some responsibility and says, “Well, hold on a second, we’re not sure.” That erodes our ability to maintain the kind of norms that we’re looking at."

—US President Barack Obama, “Full transcript: President Obama’s news conference in Russia”, September 6, 2013

"While some parts of international law are well grounded and well secured in functioning institutions and solid consensus, “R2P” is more like a New Year’s resolution than an actual “law”. The problem with R2P is the same problem that cripples most activist international law more broadly: There is no overriding authority that everyone agrees to respect and obey—no analogue to a state’s government which tries to keep a monopoly on violence and which enforces breaches of the law. In the absence of that supreme international authority, nations will continue to act inconsistently, supporting or opposing R2P actions less from the standpoint of eternal principle than from national interest. As a result, things like R2P inevitably become political slogans rather than principles of international life—a sad but true fact."

—Walter Russell Mead, “Syria’s Latest Casualty: R2P?”, The American Interest, September 6, 2013

(Source: blogs.the-american-interest.com)

Al Jazeera’s Infographic on Syria’s various rebel factions

Mapping Syria

Al-Jazeera has tracked the various factions of rebel groups and political forces, and where they were active within Syria.

(Source: blog.visual.ly)


How the Loneliest Job in the World Got Even Lonelier

It would be a mistake to think the president put himself in this predicament thanks to one walk around the South Lawn with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Indeed, the events of the past week do not alone threaten to compromise the president’s credibility — there were plenty of red lines crossed, plenty of other signs of hesitation to take decisive and timely action, not just in Syria but in Egypt, in Libya, and — at the time of the Iranian Green revolution — impeding Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, while it’s absolutely true that a congressional vote against the president’s planned action to strike Syria would be absolutely devastating to America’s international standing, no one is more responsible for that standing being on the line than the president. This move was akin to him holding a gun to the head of Uncle Sam in full view of the world and saying, “Support me or I will shoot.”

5 Sep
"If history was as the authors describe, their argument is tough to dispute. Who would really risk a slide back into the Hobbesian jungle just to punish Bashar al-Assad’s beastliness? But their stark vision of the world before and after the United Nations Charter is only loosely tethered to reality. The notion that it was the UN Charter that ushered in the post-World War II era of relative peace between the major powers ignores the critical role of nuclear weapons and mutual assured destruction. They also vastly overstate the strength of the norm against the use of force without Council approval. Post-1945 history is littered with examples of states (big and small, democratic and nondemocratic) employing military force across borders without Council approval. It’s really only since 1990-1991 that a fragile “Security Council norm” has emerged in practice. And the idea that this norm is what’s keeping states from each other’s throats is fanciful."

—David Bosco, “Idealizing the United Nations Charter”, Foreign Policy, September 4, 2013

"For all its obvious failings, the United Nations system has made for a more peaceful world than the one that preceded it. No leader may claim the right to collect debts or gain thrones by going to war. States may fracture into smaller pieces, but they don’t get conquered. Gunboat diplomacy is also out of the question."

—Oona Hathaway & Scott J Shapiro, “On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t Optional”, September 4, 2013

(Source: The New York Times)

4 Sep

The Moral Case for a Syria Strike

"The international community has largely failed in efforts in Syria, in part, because global norms on protecting civilians from their own governments haven’t evolved to the point where intervention is considered acceptable (and likely never will completely). Still the norms that do exist are important and maintaining them is one of the best tools at America’s disposal to further limit and contain violence and not just in Syria, but in future conflicts (of course it would also help if the US abided by them as well . . ). The fact is there are and should be rules to the game, and when a country acts so far beyond the generally accepted guidelines of armed combat, a response is necessary."

—Michael Cohen, “The liberal case for President Obama to strike the Syrian regime”, The Guardian, August 29, 2013

(Source: theguardian.com)