Does it make sense for leaders to take decisions regarding the use of force to the people? asks former State Department policy planner Anne-Marie Slaughter, hitherto a staunch advocate of U.S. intervention in Syria.
“Though turning to the legislature may prove to be inconvenient, frustrating, and even counter-productive, it is the right thing to do, for three reasons,” she writes for Project Syndicate:
First, the use of force is costly in terms of lives, money, and leaders’ energy and attention. The people pay these costs, so their representatives should decide whether to incur them.
Second, it is never more important for a democracy to follow its procedures and uphold its principles than in an armed conflict involving non-democracies. The Syrian people, oppressed and brutalized by their own government, should see that the American people have a different relationship with their leaders.
Finally, a core component of democracy is a set of rules and procedures designed to require public officials to justify their policies with reasons that can be accepted or countered in public debate. When contemplating foreign military intervention, leaders must explain their actions in ways that make clear how their country’s strategic and moral interests are at stake – for example, how unbridled aggression and hideous suffering can fester and spread.
Slaughter is a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.