The world is today facing a new type of political behavior. Certain states, who view themselves as superpowers, have granted themselves special powers to punish another state. In such a situation, the world takes a kind of satisfaction that there is a judge and that evil-doers will be brought to justice and punished for their actions.

However, this approach is a dangerous error. Only the Almighty can view, with impartiality and through complete justice, the acts of another, and can punish behaviors. The precedent of a state punishing another state due to actions against its citizens, can in the end, lead to anarchy and tyranny. There is no state that has the right to punish another state. True, when there is an immediate danger, states can take action against another state in order to prevent certain scenarios from unfolding. For example, the United States did not punish Saddam for his use of gas against the Kurds, but instead looked for a “smoking gun” which would prove that his regime was a danger to the region and the entire world.

If the United States would have notified the entire world that the Syrian regime, through its actions, had become a danger to the entire world, it would have received support from most of the free world. However, when the United States stated that it wishes to punish Syria, the world questions whether America has the right to punish other states.

The truth is that Britain and France should be punished for the fact that they created an impossible state comprised of various minorities that do not recognize one another. The imperial European states who established impossible states are those that have the ultimate responsibility for the ongoing violence and bloodshed across the Middle East, due to the terrorism of warring factions, some of whom practice different religions, and some different versions of the same religion.

We must ask ourselves: Does exposing the criminal acts of another state mean that a state has the right to seek justice? If so, this would result in anarchy and competition between the various “just states” around the world. Each would put forth its just cause to punish another.

Furthermore, when a state views itself as the legitimate representative of ultimate justice, even if it is a democratic, lawful state, such an approach would encourage dictatorships to view themselves as representatives of justice. In a way, there is little difference between United States’ current approach towards Syria and the Russia’s invasion of Georgia, claiming that it seeks justice against the Georgian regime which is committing crimes against its citizens.

Such an approach creates an opening for states to jump into the internal issues of other states when they believe that justice is being served. Middle-sized powers must unite to prevent superpowers from abusing this concept. We must prevent a situation in which all states are equal, but some states are more equal than others, to paraphrase Orwell.

Various leaders of world powers have decided to allow their parliaments to determine whether or not to punish Syria. This is also a dangerous trend, as, at least in Europe, parliaments can no longer be viewed as representatives of the People, but instead represent numerous immigrant communities and their interests alone. When granting a parliament the power to decide whether to punish or, we must think who elected these parliaments, and whose interests they represent.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center