News

Should we allow Australians to fight in other people's wars?



6 May 2013

Reports that Australians may be fighting in the Syrian civil war require us to confront the ugly reality of internecine violence, writes Professor Ben Saul.

In an opinion piece published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Professor Saul says Australia's response is incoherent, unprincipled, and even helps the brutal Assad regime to stay in power.

"This is because while our government opposes Assad's terror, Australian law paradoxically criminalises anyone who fights for the rebels - yet allows Australians to fight for President Bashar al-Assad.

"On one hand, our government rightly condemns Syria's brutal repression of its own people, including recent allegations that it has used chemical weapons.

"Australia broadly supports the aims of the rebels to overthrow the Assad regime, which has lost its legitimacy and the confidence of its people.

"The international community, including the UN Security Council on which Australia now sits, is divided over what to do.

"Some of our Western allies are providing non-military support to the rebels, while others wish to arm them. China and Russia are implacably opposed to intervention.

"Foreign Minister Bob Carr has steered a middle course by working to secure a ceasefire and deliver more humanitarian aid.

"The problem is that Australian foreign policy and Australian law are radically out of whack."
Read more: Australian law helps keep Assad in power

Contact: Greg Sherington

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