Why An Imperfect Chemical Weapons Deal With Syria Is Still Preferable to a Strike

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govWhen Secretary of State John Kerry off-handedly suggested that Syria could avoid strikes if it turned over its entire chemical weapons stockpile to the international community within a week, he immediately dismissed the idea. Not only was it not going to happen, he said, it wasn’t even possible.

Now, however, the idea has taken on life, and appears to be under serious consideration by Russia, Syria, and the White House. Skeptics of the possible deal, however, are busy expanding on Kerry’s original argument that it’s just not possible, or at least very difficult.

Those skeptics make a number of points about the logistical and political challenges involved in a chemical weapons turnover. (1) We don’t know where the chemical weapons stockpiles are. (2) Syrian president Bashar al Assad could—and likely would—lie to us about the extent of his chemical weapons arsenal. (3) Even if we did, those weapons would take years to completely destroy. (4) The deal is being used as a delaying tactic designed to stall or avoid strikes.

All of these are reasonable points. It’s probable that any deal to turn over Syria’s chemical weapons stores would take a long time, would be complicated by our lack of intelligence, and would involve lying or stalling on the part of the Assad regime.

But compared to a military strike, a chemical weapons handover deal is nevertheless a vastly preferable alternative.

Here’s what we get with a strike:

  • We don’t destroy Assad’s entire chemical weapons arsenal (even if we targeted it, which we might not, we still don’t know where it’s all located, and some of it would be inaccessible via airstrike).
  • The Assad regime keeps killing civilians.
  • The Assad regime has a new incentive to use its chemical weapons on the populace.
  • Syria’s allies in the region, including Iran, may retaliate, against the U.S. or against Israel.
  • The United States is involved in a civil war between a dictatorship and Al Qeada-linked rebels that it may not be able to extricate itself from quickly, and that is likely to cause additional civilian deaths via collateral damage from our own strikes.

On the other hand, here’s what we get with a chemical weapons drawdown that is only partially successful:

  • The Assad regime turns over at least some, and perhaps a lot, of its chemical weapons.
  • The Assad regime agrees to additional monitoring to ensure that it does not use chemical weapons again.
  • The regime faces external pressure from its ally, Russia, which is helping to broker the deal, not to use chemical weapons on civilians again.
  • The United States doesn’t involve itself in an ugly civil conflict, lowers the risk of retaliation, and avoids directly causing civilian collateral damage entirely.

Syria’s brutal civil war is, sadly, likely to continue no matter what we do, and the Assad regime is virtually certain to continue killing its own people under any circumstance. But if we go to war with Syria, we get little, if anything, that we actually want, and we are highly likely to make the already awful situation worse. If we make a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, on the other hand, we get rid of—or at least can begin to closely monitor—some amount of the country’s chemical weapons, increase the pressure on the Assad regime to not use chemical weapons again, and avoid involvement in a new war of choice in the Middle East.

This is true even if Assad uses the negotiation process as a delaying tactic, and even if Assad lies about the extent or location of his chemical weapons stores. And on the off chance that Assad actually cooperates in something resembling good faith, then the outcome is even better. The fact that the deal might not work out perfectly, or that other players might try to game it, isn’t a reason to drop it in favor of strikes, because an attack on the Assad regime would almost certainly be even worse. 

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  • Paul.||

    Get your fucking...feet... off my desk...

  • Aloysious||

    It's a sign of how in control of everything he is.

    /progturd

  • Steve G||

    Now, I think they are using that photo on purpose...

  • PD Scott||

    Just wait 2017 when we see the photo of the "BO+MO" surrounded by a heart scratched in under the desk blotter.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    OR BO-MO after a divorce.

    Or BO+JOE.

    Or JOE-BO after impeachment.

    Or JOE+MO.

    The fun, it is possible.

  • Jake W||

    Look at that little chicken-leg poking out of those trousers. The man doesn't even look healthy.

  • anon||

    . Not only was it not going to happen, he said, it wasn’t even possible.

    I would have loved to be in the room with Kerry and Obama after that was said. I can only imagine it went something like....

    "Why the fuck would you even say that shit, John? You know this boner's been rock hard for two fucking weeks now."

    "I'm sorry, lord. Perhaps you could rub it between my ass cheeks until you cum on my back to relieve it?"

    "Not good enough." Unzips pants. "I'm going bunker buster on your ass, John."

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    And at that moment, Warty Hugeman appeared from thin air behind Barry.

  • John||

    The only problem with such a deal is that it drags us into monitoring it. If you do a deal that no one monitors we lose a ton of credibility. But if we do monitor, we are dragged into this conflict further.

  • PD Scott||

    Couldn't we get some third party nation to monitor?

    Surely there's someone out there dumb enough that we could talk into it.

  • Tman||

    Dear (Insert Dumb Nation Here),

    Please go in to a war zone where they are lobbing mortars around like they are candy while the government indiscriminately bombs targets daily, and properly dispose of large quantities of a deadly gas that is attached to a large number of munitions. And make sure that you get all of them.

    Sincerely,

    THE UN.

  • PD Scott||

    I bet the North Koreans would do it if we paid them enough, or just let them keep any WMDs they found.

  • Tman||

    Or we can just ask the guys who brought the majority of them over from Iraq where they put them, and have them go collect them and bring them back to Iraq for safe keeping.

    That way Obama can attack Iraq again. Win win!

  • Slammer||

    Scary gun shape with hand. Suspend him.

  • anon||

    If you do a deal that no one monitors we lose a ton of credibility.

    As if there's any left to lose.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    I'm hoping some parent of a kid suspended for making that scary gun shape picks up on that for a defense.

  • sarcasmic||

    I predict Obama will accept the deal only to claim that Assad is hiding more chemical weapons. After strikes turn into a full-scale invasion and occupation, no more chemical weapons will be found. Then Bush will be blamed for lying to the public to get us into an illegal war.

  • anon||

    I think his logic is "Why waste time and energy getting a resolution to bomb the shit out of them when we can do a full scale ground invasion under the cloak of maintaining order?"

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Is this the 90's all over again? Where's the no-fly zone?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Wait, can we get Madeline Albright to starve the Syrian children?

  • Nazdrakke||

    For a bonus, anyone familiar with US military doctrine in the event of a deliberate attack on our own WMDs?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Nuclear retaliation last I heard.

  • Outlaw||

    Fire ze submarines' missiles!

  • Aloysious||

    Inspector Dreyfus will deploy the giant disappearing laser from his secret evil lair from a castle somewhere in Germany. Or Austria. Somewhere over there.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Diplomacy is hard. Blowing shit up is easy!

  • ||

    What's the purpose of lobbing missiles into Syria if not to force them into turning over their chemical weapons and allowing UN inspectors in the place? Surely even Obama isn't contemplating an act of war just for the fun of it.

  • Sevo||

    Mad Scientist| 9.11.13 @ 12:35PM |#
    "What's the purpose of lobbing missiles into Syria if not to force them into turning over their chemical weapons and allowing UN inspectors in the place?"

    You have far greater faith in the man's logical faculties than do I.

  • ||

    I don't think Obama is stupid. I think he's evil.

  • ||

    I think he's both.

  • kinnath||

    You can add lazy as well.

  • ||

    And ugly, too. And skinny and yet also fat at the same time.

  • Nephilium||

    "You're not funny, Tom. You're fat, and look as though you should be, but you're not."

  • Pro Libertate||

    The only question I have is whether he's stupidly evil or evilly stupid.

  • ||

    Which option is the most evil and also the most stupid? That's the right one.

  • Pro Libertate||

    So it's a kind of Venn diagram of evil and stupid. Only decisions which fall where the sets overlap can be made. Interesting.

  • anon||

    No, you have it all wrong. It's like two columns. For every decision made in column A, one must also be chosen from column B, and vice-versa.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Sure. But first we have to rub their noses in it, or they'll never learn. That seems to be the reasoning, such as it is.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    ^this

  • Brett L||

    What? Have you seen the President's poll numbers, there's no time for plans man, we must bomb the fuck out of someone. Preferrably before the mid-term primaries.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know. It sure seems like he is going to do it just for the fun of it. No other reason has been given.

  • Brett L||

    I'll bet Chris Matthews orgasmed so hard he fainted when he saw that picture.

  • sarcasmic||

  • Brett L||

    Isn't it fitting that Putin has more dicks?

  • Aloysious||

    "Those skeptics..."

    That includes almost everyone here.

  • Dave Krueger||

    I don't think Obama's reasons for wanting to attack Syria had anything to do with chemical weapons. I think that was just the excuse.

    I don't have any concrete evidence of that, but I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that government lies (a lot!) and the reasons they give for what they do turn out to be bullshit more than half the time.

    As has been the case with almost everything the U.S. government does, we are unlikely to have a chance at understanding the real story until some hero sacrifices his life and leaks it.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    Syrian expert fired for lying about PhD

  • SugarFree||

    The lefthawks at Gawker get their warboners out.

    CrumpetUivoted4himtwice31L
    Ugh, you're comment is just fucking horrible. What peaceful solution do you propose that hasn't been tried a million times? Diplomacy? Did you miss the repeated trips/meetings by Clinton, Kerry, everyone else? Sanctions? International condemnation and resolutions? Meanwhile 1,000 people including tons of children were gassed to death by Sarin two weeks ago. Grow the fuck up. Today 10:31am
  • ||

    SlickWillieUTaylor Berman181L
    What is up with the complete lack of nuance right now in comparing the decade long ground invasion and occupation of two countries to a 3 month long (at the most) missile strike on one country? Today 10:11am

    Grow up, you glib asshole. Learn some nuance.

  • Irish||

    What is up with the complete lack of nuance right now in comparing the decade long ground invasion and occupation of two countries to a 3 month long (at the most) missile strike on one country?

    And the Vietnam war started with military advisers. WWI was supposed to be over by Christmas.

    There's a strange tendency for wars to last longer and cost more than the government tells us.

  • Hugh Akston||

    We must rain nuance upon them from the sky!

  • Irish||

    I don't want another war about as much as the next guy, but I just can't think of a good reason why we wouldn't at least bomb Syria's chemical weapons facilities for their actions. I know the US isn't innocent of killing civilians, but at least we don't target them directly, on purpose, as part of our policy. I think I've come around to support some kind of limited strike that at least shows fascist fucks that they can't gas their own people and get away with it. Today 11:37am

    I'm sure those civilians who are killed and mutilated by American missile attacks think to themselves 'Well at least they didn't do this on purpose' in the final moments before death comes.

  • ||

    Not only that, but it's complete bullshit. If you fire a missile at a guy who's hiding in a school, and you kill him and the kids in the school, you fucking killed those kids on purpose.

  • Pro Libertate||

    War is bad and always includes the killing of innocent people. This is why war, even miniwar, should be the last resort. Nowadays, presidents want to kill before they even ask if there's a diplomatic solution. Or even a dipsomanic solution

  • ||

    War always gives you a bump in the polls. It's not a coincidence that this fucking guy is trying to start one.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's the only thing that makes sense. I mean, not following through on the "redline" comment would've cost him what, exactly? The indifference Americans have shown about intervening in Syria gave him ample cover, so that meme is bullshit.

    Nah, he wanted to go to war, but he thought he could just do it without having to deal with Congress or the world.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    but at least we don't target them directly, on purpose, as part of our policy.

    Look up Operation Meetinghouse, you proggie twatwaffle.

  • SugarFree||

    KillAllRepublicansUTaylor Berman61L
    Thanks Snooki Jr. for sharing all of the knowledge about the world you've gained over the last 15 years watching Dora the Explorer and Hanna Montana!

    Yes, but Pelosi's 5-year-old granddaughter is a senior policy adviser.

  • Irish||

    KillAllRepublicansUTaylor

    Wow. That's quite the name you've got there, buddy.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's very nuanced.

  • ||

    KillAllRepublicans

    Uh-huh.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is that kill as in round up and murder? Should all Republicans be rounded up into camps and exterminated systematically? What about the children of Republicans raised with Republicanism? Them, too? Should we burn all conservative books, as well?

  • PD Scott||

    Yes, yes, no - if they respond to re-education, if not then yes, yes.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They should be gassed. Doing it to them is okay.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not really people, really.

  • Brett L||

    Gassing is way more environmentally friendly than shooting.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    All Republicans, including those in the larval stage, must be wiped off the face off the earth. Due to the proggies' newfound hatred of chemical weapons, we will be using firearms instead of gas. After all, the Einsatzgruppen were much less morally abhorrent than Auschwitz.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What about someone who just has one Republican grandparent?

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    They are a mischling Republican. They will be allowed to live, but will be banned from marrying or copulating with Progressives.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You have to careful. Every good socialist has a Republicanish friend they think is okay.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    1,000 people including tons of children

    Send in MO with the new lunch menus!

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    I prefer measuring my murdered children in bushels.

  • Hugh Akston||

    GrigoritheOcto
    I don't want another war about as much as the next guy, but I just can't think of a good reason why we wouldn't at least bomb Syria's chemical weapons facilities for their actions. I know the US isn't innocent of killing civilians, but at least we don't target them directly, on purpose, as part of our policy. I think I've come around to support some kind of limited strike that at least shows fascist fucks that they can't gas their own people and get away with it.
  • SugarFree||

    I know the US isn't innocent of killing civilians, but at least we don't target them directly, on purpose, as part of our policy.

    Idiot or liar? (Don't say "both," that's just lazy.)

  • Irish||

    Now Sugarfree. We try not to target civilians in other countries. We prefer our civilian targeting to be domestic.

  • ||

    Now, it seems to me that a useful definition of "idiot" could be "one who lies to himself". And this idiot is definitely that kind of idiot too.

  • SugarFree||

    Grr. OK.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I just can't think of a good reason why we wouldn't at least bomb Syria's chemical weapons facilities for their actions.

    Because poison gases are probably not going to be destroyed, but rather released, by explosions?

  • Jake W||

    Most chemical weapons are actually worse in the presence of an explosion, given that is how they are deployed. Hotter chems = finer mist.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    O’Bagy’s Aug. 30 op-ed piece for the Journal, “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War,” was cited by both Kerry and McCain last week. McCain read from the piece last Tuesday to Kerry, calling it “an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy.” The next day, Kerry also brought up the piece before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and described it as a “very interesting article” and recommended that members read it.
    But the piece had also come under fire for misrepresenting her affiliations. Originally the op-ed only listed O’Bagy, 26, as only “a senior analyst” at the ISW, later adding a clarification that disclosed her connection to a Syrian rebel advocacy group.
    “In addition to her role at the Institute for the Study of War, Ms. O’Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition,” the WSJ added in its clarification.

    http://www.politico.com/story/.....z2ebXn5LMZ

  • db||

    Someone Photoshop a big yellow dick into that picture.

  • Jake W||

    I think we should make all of our politicians wear giant fake wangs on their heads all of the time. It would help me take them more seriously.

  • Killazontherun||

    'Hey, Big O, man, you're totally backing me in 2016, right? I mean, come on, no way you are going to imply by withholding support that you didn't pick the best possible man to replace you when you chose me as your VP for all of these eight years?

    Just fucking with you, B. No way I would want you on the stops. Have you seen your poll numbers?'

  • Mesoman||

    There seems to be plenty of wishful thinking in this article regarding the benefits of the "deal":

    "The Assad regime turns over at least some, and perhaps a lot, of its chemical weapons."

    Very unlikely to be a substantive amount. They may turn over a bit, but this is taking place in an active war zone. It's very easy of them to make excuses for logistical problems, and to discourage inspectors with false flag attacks on inspectors.

    The Assad regime agrees to additional monitoring to ensure that it does not use chemical weapons again.

    It doesn't matter what the Assad regime agrees to.

    The regime faces external pressure from its ally, Russia, which is helping to broker the deal, not to use chemical weapons on civilians again.

    And why would the Russians do that? They want the regime to win. The rest is just game playing.

    The United States doesn’t involve itself in an ugly civil conflict, lowers the risk of retaliation, and avoids directly causing civilian collateral damage entirely.

    The United States is already involved and has stated so: we are training and equipping rebels. Also, just who do you think will be providing security the inspectors?

  • radical centrist blogger||

    oh, look, another educated boy is playing pundit/talking head/politician.

    Do your act. Mouth the talking points and propaganda.

    It's about money. Money in rich wallets. That is what foreign policy is about. It is about generating wars which allow the rich and their tools, the corporations, the media, the american govt, etc, to exploit opportunity. Wars create corporate opportunity. And that puts money in zillionaire. All else is window dressing.

    But do your little pundit act.
    **pats author on head**
    That's a good boy!

  • Anders||

    An imperfect deal?

    He got rolled by Pooty and only hard leftists are trying to claim this was some sort of diplomatic genius at play.

    Assad and Pooty are laughing their asses off at this incompetent community organizer. They're playing chess and he's playing with himself and his catamites in the media.

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