President Obama at a White House press conference
Courtesy Reuters

The United States, by all indications, will soon become a belligerent in Syria’s civil war. The Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds crossed a redline that U.S. President Barack Obama claimed a year ago would be the game changer, and the game for Washington, London, and Paris has clearly changed. Yet one thing has not: the international law governing when states may use force.

That is not to suggest that government lawyers won’t eventually try to offer some sort of legal benediction. News coverage suggests that administration officials are pushing them to do just that. And the lawyers will want to be helpful, particularly if the policy consensus for force is strong and the evidence for the regime’s responsibility for the attacks is beyond reproach.

But they should also be clear: It is the lawyers’ duty to provide their clients -- senior

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  • DAVID KAYE is a Professor at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law.
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