Americans were beaten in Washington, DC at the hands of security guards employed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he reportedly watched. Recognizing Erdogan’s long-running crackdown on dissent inside Turkey and international effort to stifle criticism of his government, the incident is a troubling development. If these body guards are found to have initiated the violence and/or committed a crime, they must be prosecuted and Turkish leadership must face swift penalties for their role. Where diplomatic immunity shields those involved in the incident, non-US citizens must be expelled from the US. No foreign government can be allowed to abuse US citizens, especially inside the US.
Days after this incident occurred, US forces acted against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in self-defense. Where it is easier to justify the use of force against armed factions in a civil war-torn, terrorist safe haven, a mounting number of civilian causalities around the world at the hands of international forces, including US forces, raise questions. The Turkish bodyguards claim they also acted in the defense of pro-Turkish protesters under attack from anti-Turkish protesters. One must ask: is the US simply hypocritical or is there a justification for the use of force against the Peoples and governments of other nations. To answer this question, one must ask whether or not there is such a thing as justifiable war.
Proponents of the Assad regime will argue Bashar Al-Assad is the legitimate ruler of Syria and, therefore, all actions taken by foreign powers within Syria without his permission are violations of Syrian sovereignty. The Syrian Civil War has diminished the Assad regime to a faction fighting for control of Syria’s territory. As the Assad regime cannot assert its sovereign rule over the territory of Syria, it is no longer a sovereign government. If the Assad regime could and Syria remained a sovereign state, those opposed to Assad’s rule would still refuse to recognize Assad’s legitimacy and still disregard claims that military incursions into Syria constitute violation of Syria’s sovereignty.
On the surface, this appears to be pure and simple hypocrisy. The US would not, and should not, accept these kinds of aggression against America’s homeland or its citizens nor its allies and their citizens. The US should, therefore, never engage in such actions against other nations or accept such behavior from its allies. Unfortunately, the US and its allies have too often been hypocritical, yet international intervention against sovereign nations and their governments can be justifiable. Traditionally, the only justification for waging war against another nation is self-defense, which includes an attack by a foreign power or an intentional failure of a foreign power to police a threat operating within its territory.
Modern governance, however, restricts the justification for war. International Law, for example, defines when an at of war is considered “legal” and “illegal.” Beyond the “institutionalized” limits placed on war, the modern international order limits when war is acceptable and when it is not. That said, modern governance has also created new justifications for war. A government that attacks its own people to pursue its own interests, therefore, loses its legitimacy and the right to rule over the territory it controls. As all modern governments exist solely to serve their own Peoples, war against a nation’s government is distinguishable against a nation’s government and the People of a nation.
Because modern governance places sovereignty in the hands of a territory’s People and requires an international defense of human rights, war in the defense of a People is justifiable. The problem is that there is little enforcement of international norms in governance and human rights while actions taken to address violation are inconsistent and often driven by special interests with ulterior motives. The sad truth is that the governments of the world, including the US government, too often get away with far too many wrongs against their own Peoples and the Peoples of other nations, yet none of their wrongs are justifiable or acceptable.
The security forces of foreign leaders, including US allies, are never justified in attacking protesters in the United States. There is no reason for leaders like Erdogan or Bashar al-Assad to attack peaceful dissenters within their own nations. Whether through negligence or malicious intent, there is also no legitimate reason for US or other security forces to intentionally endanger the lives of civilians. There is, however, always just cause to defend the Peoples of the world from the terrorists and tyrannical governments. Acts of war are justified when they are legitimately committed in the defense of those who cannot defend themselves.
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