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News that Syrian President Bashar Assad had been accepted into the Russian Academy of Sciences makes us wonder about the institution.George Kennan once lamented the American tendency to make foreign policy pronouncements that had no practical consequences and that the United States was unwilling to bolster in a forceful way. We will have to see what Obama does in Crimea, but we can say that, when it comes to Syria, the U.S. has repeatedly confirmed Kennan's doubts. What does it tell us if Assad ultimately wins the Syrian conflict? Will it not send a message even more damning to the notion of an international community based on the rule of law than Putin's maneuvers in Crimea?One could make a good case that the Bush administration violated international law by invading Iraq in 2003; but one could make an equally compelling case that the U.N. repeatedly failed to implement its own resolutions on Iraq, particularly Resolution 688 of April 1991, which condemned the repression of the civilian population by Saddam Hussein's regime.The frequent inability of the U.N. to act decisively on humanitarian matters, as in Syria, has pushed states to act unilaterally in given crises, further eroding the idea of a common interest in defending human rights and international law.
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