Stop Comparing North Korea to Libya

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Marc Thiessen has more awful advice for Trump on North Korea:

Trump should make clear to both North Korea and China, absent an agreement, that sanctions will get tighter and military action is possible. And that means the “Libya model” is indeed on the table.

Thiessen’s “analysis” of why North Korea reacted so angrily to the “Libyan model” rhetoric is wrong as usual, but the more important thing that he misses is that North Korea today and Libya c. 2003-04 don’t have much in common except for their pariah status. North Korea’s government took offense from the Libya comparison above all because they found it demeaning to be likened to a government with a much less developed nuclear program. Inasmuch as North Korea’s government desires to be acknowledged as a nuclear-weapons state on par with the others, talking about them in the same breath with Libya was an insult as well as a threat.

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Massacring Palestinians with Impunity

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Israeli forces have shot and killed at least three dozen unarmed Palestinians and wounded many hundreds more in the latest attack on Gaza protests:

Gaza’s Health Ministry says the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli army fire amid mass protests near the Gaza border has reached 37, making it the deadliest day since a 2014 war with Israel.

The ministry says at least 448 Palestinians were shot and wounded Monday, while hundreds more suffered other types of injuries, including from tear gas.

The violence made it the deadliest day in Gaza since the devastating cross-border war between the territory’s Hamas rulers and Israel four years ago, and clouded the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli forces have been using excessive and illegal force against unarmed protesters for weeks, but this is the worst that it has been so far this year. There is no excuse for killing unarmed protesters, and there is no justification for wounding–and sometimes crippling–unarmed people with live ammunition. Gunning down dozens of people in a single day qualifies as a massacre no matter how much anyone wants to spin it as something else. The escalation of violence has been a one-sided affair as Israeli forces have been killing unarmed Palestinians with impunity for more than a month, and the predictable claims of “self-defense” ring more hollow than ever.

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A Saudi Assassination and the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Nicholas Niarchos comments on the recent assassination of a top Houthi leader by a Saudi coalition airstrike:

On Twitter, members of the Saudi royal family celebrated Sammad’s killing and touted it as a success for the country’s crown prince and de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, who recently toured Washington and Los Angeles to curry support from the Trump Administration. But the effect of the strike might be to push the Houthis further from the negotiating table. Sammad’s replacement, Mahdi al-Mashat, a politician in his thirties, has demanded all-out war with Saudi Arabia. Peter Salisbury, a senior analyst at Chatham House, said that the strike would reduce the interest of the group’s over-all leader, Abdelmalik al-Houthi, in peace talks [bold mine-DL]. “What it does do is take someone who thought dealmaking was a way of ending the war and replace him with someone more bellicose,” Salisbury told me. “You get into a position where all the voices that Abdulmalik hears are all the hard-liners, the people who are benefiting the most from the war.”

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Saudi Coalition Kills Scores at a Yemeni Wedding Party

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Updated below: Reports now say 33-40 killed.

The latest Saudi coalition atrocity against Yemeni civilians was another attack on a wedding party, killing 20 people including the bride and wounding dozens more:

At least 20 people including the bride were killed when an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, health officials have said.

The dead were mostly women and children gathered in a tent set up for the wedding in the Bani Qayis district, according to Khaled al-Nadhri, the leading health official in the north-western Hajjah province.

Hospital chief Mohammed al-Sawmali said the groom and 45 other wounded people were brought to the local al-Jomhouri hospital.

Thirty of those injured were reported to be children, with some in critical condition having suffered severed limbs and shrapnel wounds.

There is no excuse for blowing up a wedding party. There is clearly no military purpose served by attacking these people, and most of the dead and wounded are women and children. The death toll will very likely increase due to the severity of some of the injuries. This is a clear violation of international law, and unfortunately it is just one of thousands like it over the last three years. Other weddings in Yemen have been similarly turned into the sites of Saudi coalition massacres during this war. This is far from the first time this has happened, and unless the Saudi-led war on Yemen is ended it won’t be the last.

The Saudi coalition keeps carrying out these attacks with no regard for the lives of civilians, and our government continues to arm and refuel their planes as they do it. The Saudis and their allies know they can act with complete impunity because the U.S. keeps providing military assistance and diplomatic cover no matter what they do to Yemeni civilians. Our State Department won’t even report on the war crimes that they commit. Instead of being treated as the war criminal that he is during his visit to the U.S., Mohammed bin Salman was feted and embraced by our government, given mostly fawning media coverage, and welcomed by the biggest names in entertainment and business. The murders of these Yemeni women and children and thousands more like them are his doing, and the U.S. is responsible for enabling him and his allies to do it.

The idea that U.S. support is reducing the number of civilian casualties is impossible to take seriously when it seems undeniable that many of the coalition’s attacks on civilians are done on purpose. After three years of bombing and starving Yemen, the coalition is no closer to any of its stated goals, but it has succeeded in raining death and destruction on numerous weddings, funerals, medical clinics, markets, treatment plants, farms, schools, and homes. This is what happens when at least 30% of all coalition strikes hit civilian targets. Providing arms and refueling to the Saudi coalition guarantees that more Yemeni civilians will be killed in this way. For their sake, it is imperative that the U.S. halt its support for this war at once.

Update: The death toll is now reportedly 33 people:

Second Update: CNN confirms 33 killed, at least 41 injured by the strike.

Warning: some graphic images of the aftermath of the attack follow

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

The Bogus ‘Credibility’ Argument Returns

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Trump reportedly deferred to Mattis’ advice and ordered a smaller attack on Syria than he and Bolton had originally wanted:

President Donald Trump deferred to his Pentagon chief’s caution and tempered his preference for a more robust attack on Syria over allegations it used deadly gas on civilians, the first hints at the direction of his revamped national-security team.

It is better that Mattis’ view prevailed over Bolton’s, but one problem with taking any military action in response to demands to “do something” is that there will always be a chorus of hard-liners demanding that the U.S. “do more” than it already has. Once a president has conceded that military action is an appropriate response to a foreign government’s behavior, he has put himself in a trap of his own making. When the first strikes don’t “work” or are deemed to be inadequate to “get the job done,” the pressure to escalate increases. Since Trump is especially sensitive to accusations of looking “weak,” he is probably more likely than most presidents to listen to the hard-liners that fault him for not doing enough in Syria. It makes me wonder how long Mattis can hold off the president when Bolton is going to keep agitating for more aggressive actions.

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Don’t Fall for the Chemical Weapons Convention Justification

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway review the preposterous legal “arguments” in support of yesterday’s illegal attack. Here they address the erroneous claim that the attack was justified under international law because it was a response to the use of banned chemical weapons:

Nowhere does the [Chemical Weapons] Convention provide for unilateral uses of force in response to a breach of the Convention. And if it had, there’s a good chance no state would ever have joined it. And putting the treaty to one side, there is no reason at all to think that any related “norm” prohibiting the use of chemical weapons can be enforced with force outside the Charter framework [bold mine-DL].

Put simply, member states can’t ignore the U.N. Charter’s prohibition against using force against other states in the name of enforcing other international norms. Syria’s violations of its international obligations do not give other states license to disregard their own by launching military attacks against them. The U.S. and its allies don’t have any legal support for what they have done, and they make a mockery of their professed concern for international order when they wantonly undermine one of the core protections of the UN Charter.

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