Several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan, are either calling on the president to put “boots on the ground” or refusing to rule that out as an option. Doing so, they argue, will increase the pressure on the Syrian regime and demonstrate to Iran that we mean what we say.
However, consistent vetoes from Russia at the UN Security Council on further action in Syria make it unlikely the international body will back any military intervention there – at least for the time being. This is unfortunate, as the UN is the most prominent international organization and therefore shouldn’t be consigned to irrelevance as Syria is turned into a charnel house.
But action outside the framework of the UN – i.e., unilateral action – appears increasingly likely. Many will argue that the use of force in the absence of Security Council authorization (other than self-defense) is illegal; others will stress the primacy of human rights. It might be that the absence of Security Council authorization will render any operation illegal under international law, but that same law (including the UN Charter) obligates member states to act in the face of mass atrocities and large-scale human suffering.