The United Kingdom explains its justification for bombing Syria on humanitarian grounds:
1.This is the Government’s position on the legality of UK military action to alleviate the extreme humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their further use, following the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018.
2.The Syrian regime has been killing its own people for seven years. Its use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering, is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
3.The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention, which requires three conditions to be met:
(i) there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief;
(ii) it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and
(iii) the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose).
It’s a nice try but inadequate since it fails on grounds 3iii. Let me explain why. If a country is using its bombers to attack primarily civilian targets, destroying the bombers might be a justifiable use of force. Destroying command and control facilities would not.
The missile attacks did not end an imminent attack and I can’t believe that anyone thinks that of themselves they would end the use of chemical weapons or even deter them.
Ironically, the justification produced by the U. K. provides a sound argument for downing Saudi bombers presently attacking Yemen.
IMO the missile attacks were grossly premature. What should happen is that if the Russian don’t like the Security Council resolution sponsored by the U. S., France, and the U. K., they should sponsor one of their own so that an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma could proceed. To the best of my knowledge the preponderance of evidence to date has come from sources friendly to the anti-government forces. Past U. N. investigations have found that the Syrian government has used chlorine and anti-government forces have used mustard gas. If forces that oppose the Syrian government can provoke attacks against the Syrian government by the United States, France, or the United Kingdom any time they care to just by using chemical weapons against civilians, expect many more such attacks.
Meanwhile if humanitarian concerns are sufficient for the use of force, why wasn’t it justified in the case of the U. S. in Iraq and China in its own territories? The scale and duration of deaths was much greater in both cases. And what about Yemen?