Published in the Globe and Mail, May 1, 2013
If the United States becomes convinced that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has started using chemical weapons against its own citizens, the “red line” set down by President Barack Obama will have been crossed. If the U.S. initiates military action as a consequence, it will provoke the same questions of legality that arose during NATO’s bombing of Kosovo 14 years ago.
In early 1999, after Serbian police and military forces had massacred civilians, NATO began a bombing campaign in what Michael Ignatieff called a “virtual war” against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces. After 10,000 strikes against key military targets, the Serbs conceded to NATO’s demands on June 10. Canadian fighter jets were major participants in the aerial bombing. There were military and civilian casualties on the Serb side along with the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy. NATO did not suffer a single casualty.
The NATO military intervention was without the consent of the United Nations Security Council after it became clear that Russia would veto any proposal to intervene in the former Yugoslavia….
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