Why Should Chemical Weapons Be a Red Line in Syria—or Anywhere Else?


Writing at The Washington Times last week, John Glaser raised a question that's almost impolite in discussions about U.S. foreign policy. Basically, he asked why chemical weapons are considered a trigger point or red line when it comes to intervening abroad.

There have been an estimated 100,000 people killed in Syria's civil war, almost all by conventional bombs and weapons. If that isn't enough to mandate a U.S. intervention, then why is the alleged use of chemical weapons, killing a mere fraction of the total, enough to make intervention obligatory?

Glaser cites an article in Foreign Affairs from earlier this year that raises the same basic point. Written by Ohio State's John Mueller (like Glaser, an occasional Reason contributor) back in April, the article makes the case that "we shouldn't care about Syria's chemical weapons." 

The notion that killing with gas is more reprehensible than killing with bullets or shrapnel came out of World War I, in which chemical weapons, introduced by the Germans in 1915, were used extensively. The British emphasized the weapons' inhumane aspects as part of their ongoing program to entice the United States into taking their side in the war. It is estimated that the British quintupled their gas casualty figures from the first German attack for dramatic effect.

As it happened, chemical weapons accounted for considerably less than one percent of the battle deaths in the war, and, on average, it took over a ton of gas to produce a single fatality. Only about two or three percent of those gassed on the Western front died. By contrast, wounds from a traditional weapon proved 10 to 12 times more likely to be fatal. 

Read the whole thing here.

I don't believe in "humanitarian interventions," or at least certainly not the sort that would lead the U.S. into a Syrian civil war in which our own government clearly has no idea of what's what or who's who. And I find it amazing that we're not even fully disengaged from Iraq yet (a war promulgated over fears of WMDs commonly understood to be first and foremost "chemical weapons") and here we are talking about invading Syria because of…chemical weapons?

If you think the U.S. should intervene militarily in even more places than we have already in the past dozen years, then please don't hide behind the false threat or unique evil of chemical weapons. The Assad regime is every bit as evil and rotten as the Hussein regime was. Instead of drawing lines in the sand over WMDs and all that, plead your case on the grounds that superpowers should try to stop the slaughter of innocents. I think that case is ultimately difficult to prove (or rather, it's difficult to explain how American intervention will not ultimately lead to more problems than it might solve). But don't rely on unexamined premises that one sort of weapon underwrites a response more than carnage itself.

NEXT: American Legion Targeted by IRS

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. But Fred Gwynne, I mean John Kerry, just called it a “moral obscenity”!

    1. The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own…always comes home to you.

      Sometimes dead is better.

    2. Moral Obesity – yes, it is.

    3. Secretary-of-State Vietnam War Criminal Kerry is picking up where Hillary left off. His chicken-hawk boss knows how to pick ’em!

    4. go grab your 3$ instantly by just using my account as a refrence,Thanks,,you have to work and use the computer and internet, and if you can do that and dedicate some time each day then you can do this with no problem.
      I have been working with this for a month and have made over $2,000 already. let me know if you need more here you go “~– ?????????????????

  2. Writing at The Washington Times last week, John Glaser raised a question that’s almost impolite in discussions about U.S. foreign policy. Basically, he asked why chemical weapons are considered a trigger point or red line when it comes to intervening abroad.

    That bastard probably stole that question from me. I’ve been asking that very same thing (ask my wife, if you don’t believe me!) ever since Obama first made the red line challenge (yes, challenge, because chemical weapons were an inevitability the moment he made that dumbass promise).

    1. Everyone in America is asking that question, I’d wager.

      It’s like the perennial discussions about the bombing of Hiroshima we’ll occasionally see on this board: why is being atom bombed presumed to be that much worse than getting shot or starved to death? Dead is dead is dead, and there’s a lot of people in Syria who won’t be waking up anytime soon even without the use of chemical weapons.

      1. Everyone in America is asking that question, I’d wager.

        I’ll take that bet.

        1. You beat me to it.

      2. I do not think we should get involved in Syria regardless of whether chemical weapons were used or not.

        Having made that clear I should say it is not something new to treat gas as some kind of specially nasty weapon is it? I seem to recall reading about outrage at its use in World War I for example.

        I would guess current fears focusing on it center on the idea that it is especially easy to use on civilian populations to cause ‘mass destruction.’ Of course the same can be said of boxcutters and airplanes.

        1. I seem to recall reading about outrage at its use in World War I for example.

          They covered this in the article…

      3. I think the issue of the atom bomb is that people see the long-term issues with it i.e. cancer, radiation poisoning, etc.

  3. But…but…but…WMD! [Shits pants]

  4. Why Should Chemical Weapons Be a Red Line in Syria – or Anywhere Else?

    Because the US never wants to use them. It would create too much bad publicity.

    Therefore, labeling them as special, triple-plus naughty gives us an arbitrary criteria to consider ourselves awesome, and our enemies as horrible. Otherwise, we and our enemies might be indistinguishable.

    1. Pretty spot on, they also allow small nations great protection for very little. That happens to not be how the Pentagon thinks when it comes to defense, and the idea of a small nation resisting our conventional might has to rankle them like no other.

      Our guys think way to much about the offense these days, chemical weapons suck if you want to invade a country.

      1. Uh….no.

        Nukes and the delivery systems they require are a great equalizer. Chemical weapons are easily dealt with by a trained army. It is civilian populations which are most affected by them.

      2. “Pretty spot on, they also allow small nations great protection for very little. That happens to not be how the Pentagon thinks when it comes to defense, and the idea of a small nation resisting our conventional might has to rankle them like no other.”

        Thats just ridiculous.

    2. Harry Truman: “Yeah, the Nukes stop here!”

  5. Well, we have to have some red lines, and they must be crossed, soon, before this NSA shit gets out of hand.

    1. It’s just a fortuitous occurrence, but let’s not “let the crisis go to waste”. Wink Wink

  6. chemical weapons are WMD
    nukes are WMD
    therefore chemical weapons = nukes

    Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the childruns?

    1. President Harry Truman, Hero of the Democratic Party USA: “As I said before, the nukes stop here!”

  7. Hard to believe that when you have two factions of fascist Islamic zealots gassing one another that you don’t simply let it happen and go take a shave.

    1. Hey, now. You’re being overly simplistic. They have one faction of fascist Islamic zealots and one faction of old fashioned authoritarian fascists pretending to be Islamic zealots. But, otherwise, you are correct, sir.

      1. Don’t forget the Kurds! Lovely people, ask their neighbors…

  8. It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago we amassed an army of 200,000 and marched into a Middle Eastern hellhole at the mere possibility of the existence of chemical weapons.

    1. It’s even harder to believe that you wrote this without shitting yourself.

      1. I was called a traitor, anti-American, and a coward for opposing the Iraq War back then.

        I am fully vindicated.

        1. No, you’re just an asshole.

        2. It’s just the fact that you’ve had one thought and you repeat it ad nauseum. Yes, Iraq was stupid. It’s like rejoicing over a goal when the other team already pulled the goalie.

        3. Paid Sock Puppet BP cannot bring itself to oppose Dreamboat Barry Nixon’s latest atrocity-to-be.

  9. Look, when Boosh declared WMD, it was totally Snow Miser… errr, I mean Kerrys turn, because he should have been POTUS, not Boosh! So now, Obama has promised Kerry that he could have his stolen turn to declare WMD!

  10. “He asked why chemical weapons are considered a trigger point or red line when it comes to intervening abroad.”

    I’ve been making this point here at Hit & Run since circa 2003/2004…

    The best interests of the United States should always be the determining factor, and if not responding to a chemical weapons attack is in the best interests of American security, then we shouldn’t respond.

    The red line of WMD seems to be used as a justification to win over the American public when they’re skeptical of some impending foreign adventure, and it’s been that way since George Bush Sr. and the First Gulf War in 1991, at least.…..tervention

    And we all know how Bush the Lesser waved phony photos of nonexistent mobile WMD labs around and lied about Saddam Hussein’s supposed attempts to procure yellowcake in Niger.

    The argument that the United States MUST attack anyone who uses WMD–regardless of whether it’s in our best interests to do so–is such a pathetic argument, that it should be seen as a red flag. The primary purpose of that argument, historically, seems to be to try to justify a war to a skeptical American public.

    Red flag, indeed! The Bush Administration manufactured evidence to make that WMD justification, and I haven’t seen any evidence yet to suggest that anything the Bush Administration ever did was so low that the Obama Administration wouldn’t stoop to the same level.

    1. The most Obama will do is lob some cruise missiles into Syria. He is far smarter and more honest than Bush.

      1. No, he’s not.

        You’re the only Proggie that I know that even supports this, that is really lame. You aren’t going to start stalking Obama, are you? I’m not sure, you’re so obsessed with him, it’s really pathetic.

      2. if anything, his actions show that he is neither. Three countries – Egypt, Libya, and Syria – with roughly the same issue: rebels of unknown background wanting to topple a dictator. Obama? Three different responses.

        One resulted in the Brotherhood, one resulted in four dead Americans, and the third has led to chem weapons. And no one here gives a shit if Bush was either smart or honest.

      3. “The most Obama will do is lob some cruise missiles into Syria. He is far smarter and more honest than Bush.”

        What do you expect Hezbollah to do in response to the U.S. lobbing some missiles at them?

        You think they’re just gonna sit on their hands and breathe through their noses? They’ve never reacted that way before!

        He may very well be–quite recklessly–opening a new front in the War on Terror. Hezbollah hasn’t specifically targeted the United States since elements that coalesced into Hezbollah attacked our Marines in 1982…

        Someone in the press needs to ask Barack Obama how he expects to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization according to our State Department, to react to being attacked directly by the United States.

        “Mr. President! Mr. President! If and when Hezbollah retaliates against your attacking them with missile strikes, how do you plan to respond?”

        I bet that question hasn’t even crossed Obama’s stupid little mind. Obama’s a lot dumber than Reagan was on this one–there’s no question about that.

        1. Just curious Ken, what do you expect Hezbollah to do if Obama orders some missile strikes?

          1. Nothing certain until after it happens, but when Israel does similar strikes against Hezbollah? Hezbollah reacts by targeting Israeli civilians.

            1. I do not mean this snarkily, but where will they target US civilians?

              1. If they somehow manage a major terrorist strike with severe casualties on US soil via some offshoot, I won’t be surprised by a response involving nuclear weaponry. Unless Hezbollah is batshit, they’ll stay away.

                1. I do not mean this snarkily, but where will they target US civilians?

                  Here. It’s bound to happen sometime. Eventually, one of our enemies will figure out that we are a lot softer of a target here in the States, than groups of heavily armed and armored soldiers, sailors, and airmen are. If we’re really lucky, the attack(s) won’t be with a WMD. Whole lot of man-portable mayhem floating around that part of the world, and I don’t have a great deal of faith that CBP can interdict it all. Or that the NSA will sniff out the plot before it begins.

                  If Hezbollah perpetrates a terrorist attack on the American people, how do you expect the American people to react to that?

                  Poorly. I expect that TSA will treat the rest of the country as if it were an airport. And it will be wildly popular. Cue “suicide pact” discussions.

                  Scares the shit out of me.

                  1. “Scares the shit out of me.”

                    Me too!

                    Nobody ever went broke overestimating the desire to panic of the American public.

                    Like I said, there’s no way of knowing what will happen until it happens, but there’s a lot more at stake here than some people seem to be suggesting.

                    You don’t just drop missiles on terrorist organizations and assume they won’t retaliate.

                2. “Unless Hezbollah is batshit, they’ll stay away.”

                  Any strategic action of ours taken on the premise that Hezbollah will react rationally has a flaw.

                  Again, nothing is certain until after it happens–certainly not how Hezbollah will react to something–but I wouldn’t make a commercial real estate decision based on that logic.

                  …and we should demand better strategic thinking from our president, too.

              2. Are you worried about Al Qaeda attacking American civilians?

                If that’s not something to worry about, then we should just lay off half the people who work at the NSA right now.

                1. Are you worried about Al Qaeda attacking American civilians?

                  Not so much anymore. Busting up their sanctuary in Afghanistan (and, I’m sure, privately telling some of their backers in the Gulf to knock it the hell off.) did a lot to cripple their operations. So too, did killing and capturing most of their top leaders. While it’s comparatively easy for Gulf and Central Asian countries to give their disaffected a bus ticket and an AK, and say, “The Americans are that-a-way!”, it’s evidently a lot harder for idiot jihadis to get to the U.S. Especially with any ordnance, papers, or infrastructure.

                  Hezbollah and other Shia terror groups though, I don’t believe have been as worn down by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as many of the Sunni groups have. Although Hez’s fight with Israel didn’t do them many favors.

                  Basically, I’m just wondering when one of the numerous countries we’ve dropped high explosives on within the last 20 years is going to figure out that they can do a lot more damage running operations within the U.S., than they can offering up their sons as cannon fodder.

                  Of course, the latter’s probably the point for those governments.

                  Agree about laying off many to most of the people at NSA. An apparatus that big will be used, probably against us.

      4. I actually agree somewhat with this. I would be quite surprised if Obama does anything more than a few targeted attacks at this time, and I do not see him doing anything beyond what he did in Libya ultimately.

        1. Out of curiosity, when the Israelis bomb Hezbollah, how does Hezbollah react?

          If Hezbollah perpetrates a terrorist attack on the American people, how do you expect the American people to react to that?

          We really need to think more than a half a step ahead, here. I’ll promise you this: everybody that scratches their heads and wonders why Hezbollah starts targeting Americans specifically (for the first time since 1982), if that’s what they do, after we bomb them in Syria? I’m gonna call those people “idiots”.

          Is the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban going so well that we need to open a new front–inviting attacks from groups like Hezbollah now? Aren’t the problems we’re having with Al Qaeda more than enough already?

          1. Hezbollah was formed in response to an Israeli invasion, so I am never surprised when they attack Israel or their interests, regardless of Israel does.

            I do not think Hezbollah would be quick to attack US interests and I am skeptical they would have many opportunities to do it.

            But they are pretty crazy and crazy is hard to predict.

            1. Oh, I hope I’m wrong.

              I hope if and when Obama attacks them, they see the error of their ways and apologize to us for all the trouble they’ve caused.

      5. That last sentence is quite a laugher. It is also precious that you still have faith in politicians. Really, it’s cute.

      6. This is the biggest STINKING PILE OF HORSESHIT the Obama cultists and Sunstein Paid Sock Puppet Spammers keep repeating.

        If there were a Bush III (which there is: Obama), or a Bush IV (which there is: Obama) the muther fucking strategy would be the same you fucking morons. This drone strategy was the up-and-coming thing as the technology improved. Smarter? What a laugh. More honest? Bush was in the military and Obama is a knee-jerk interventionist chicken-hawk. They are both laughing at all the suckers and giving the middle finger to the non-believers.

      7. Hey, it worked for Clinton with Osama bin Laden.

    2. The red line of WMD seems to be used as a justification to win over the American public

      It ain’t workin.

      1. It’s worked twice before–in regards to WMD–and many more times on other issues.

        I’d love to think we’re getting smarter about this stuff…

        You know, in Bush the Lesser’s case, it really was about Noble Lies. I’m oversimplifying this a bit, but if you ever read any of Leo Strauss’ stuff, there’s a ton in there about what the appropriate response is to the questions raised by Nietzsche (by way of Heidegger), and he claims that to answer those questions about relativity, you have to go all the way back to Plato’s “Noble Lie”.

        But he was writing that stuff before the internet made data so accessible to everybody, made communication so much easier, and made it easier for people in the government to share information with the public. That’s why Obama hates Snowden! That’s why the Bush Administration lashed out at Valerie Plame.

        I’d love to think the government can’t get away with telling “noble” lies like they used to. Maybe it means we’re not as easy to manipulate as we used to be?

        That hope might seem a little ridiculous considering that the government by way of the NSA is now using that same communication technology against us to–among other things–intimidate people into not bursting the government’s “noble” lie bubbles. But, I swear, there’s still gotta be a pony in here somewhere.

  11. So will Kerry win Next Year’s Peace Prize? I mean Al Gore got one for losing to BOOOOSH so why not him? Then only Mondale and Dukakis will be peace prizeless.

    1. Don’t forget Hitlary, she deserves a peace prize too, no?

      1. She’s ABOVE the Peace Prize?. She’ll be the one giving out prizes someday, in HER name.

        The “Power Crazy Piano Legs” awards.

  12. They shouldn’t be.

    I bet, however, if the federal government suddenly took a virulently anti-interventionist approach to the issue, the international community would be taking shits on us from on high for being uncaring, holier-than-thou Yanks.

    They’ll always find a reason to detest us.

    1. Remember all the attacks on US “Isolationism” and not intervening in Somalia or Darfur?

      1. Well, we did intervene in Somalia under Bush. It worked out so well they had a parade in our honor chronicled, I think, in a movie called Black Hawk Down.

        1. Politicians never learn their lessons.

        2. Well, we did intervene in Somalia under Bush.

          Damn it I meant Rwanda. Don’t know why I mixed them up.

          1. Must have been all of the ROADZ (Rhodes?) on my mind.

        3. Well, we did intervene in Somalia under Bush. It worked out so well they had a parade in our honor chronicled, I think, in a movie called Black Hawk Down.

          Bush was not President in 1993 when the Black Hawk Down incident took place.

    2. Uncaring, holier-than-thou Yanks in thrall to the Judeo-fascists, you mean.

      Too bad “imperialist capitalist running dogs” ran out of steam in the 70s; that turn of phrase had just the right amount of bombast.

    3. Well, if that’s the case, then let’s just save some money and lives.

      I don’t really give a fuck what the international community thinks, if you’re talking about governments. I care more about what people think, and I seriously doubt that bombing people makes them like you more.

      1. I agree. I’m militarily isolationist, just so we’re clear.

        1. Well, I sort of figured that you are, since you’re a long time Reasonoid. Most of us are, except for the trolls. And I do consider Tulpa and Cytotoxic, trolls.

          1. Cyto’s got some overly aggressive stances on foreign policy, but you can debate the guy, and he’ll reply in good faith.

            Tulpa’s just illogic personified. It’s like a calculator that tells you one and one equals a number long enough to break its processor.

            1. Cyto’s got some overly aggressive stances on foreign policy, but you can debate the guy, and he’ll reply in good faith

              Not me, he hates me. I am overly critical of his Murika.

            2. The more time goes on, the more aware I am of how TERRIBLE he is at arguing a point. Even when I agree with him I find myself wishing he would stop talking.

          2. I’m not, though I have no idea whether or not I’d qualify as a regular.

            Definitely not a neo-con though, that’s for sure.

            1. You’re here more than I am. You officially qualify.

              Welcome to the Internet. Here’s your monocle.

            2. Dude, you’re like famous. How could someone ever pants a link and be recognized for it, if not for you?

              1. that was named after me you fool

                1. Sadly, this account was but a stitch when Archduke’s unorthodox method of linking was so dubbed.

          3. Tulpa’s pretty anti-interventionist, it’s police behavior that he’s permissive about.

  13. Written by Ohio State’s John Mueller

    Which Ohio State?

    I think the line is partly because of what Ken said about justifying war, but also because they just don’t want people using WMDs, be they chemical, biological or nuclear in nature. They think they have to go in and stop people from using these weapons every time or it will look like a de facto green light for any tin pot despot who wants to use them in war or on his (or her, we’re EO here) people. They say so one can use them so they have to back it up. At least that’s what I think they think.

    1. Please replace one s with an n. Thank you.

  14. OT: Clinton Yates in Washington Post, about Miley Cyrus:

    …some people feel she is appropriating a certain amount of black culture without proper license….

    So, where does one go to get one of these licenses?

    1. The retardation is almost unfathomable on this guy. I think I just contracted Down’s Syndrome from that article.

    2. Having just seen her performance I can assure him that no black culture was appropriated by Ms. Cyrus, in fact no culture at all was.

      1. I dunno, is white trash a culture?

    3. Li’l Miley Ray Cyrus was a bigger news story today then our impending military action in Syria.

      1. I thought her performance was essentially musical performance trolling, if you will.

        1. I was a terror in the public school era:
          Cutting classes, squeezing asses, selling elevator passes;
          Smoking blunts was a daily routine
          A chubby n***er on the scene.

      2. of course they want you to be distracted

    4. In short, it is inherently racist to imply that there is anything wrong with anyone other than black women twerking.


      1. It’s racism all the way down.

    5. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a butt twerking in a human face ? forever.

      1. +1 Idiocracy.

  15. Excellent post. Very smart.

  16. Ironically when Bush and Cheney got duped into invading Iraq over their (nonexistent) WMDs, they weren’t even concerned about sarin, mustard gas, or other chemical weapons. They were primarily concerned about anthrax, which of course is a biological weapon.

    It wasn’t a phony vial full of sarin that Colin Powell was dramatically displaying to the U.N., it was a phony vial of weaponized anthrax. Many in the administration at the time really believed that the post 9/11 anthrax letters were sent from Iraqi agents, and of course everyone eventually learned that they were sent by a fucking U.S. federal government employee working at Fort Detrick.

  17. Why Should Chemical Weapons Be a Red Line in Syria – or Anywhere Else?

    Because, BUSH!

  18. The same questions can be asked with respect to drones vs aircraft.

  19. This feels like Iraq, all the way through. Reports of chemical weapons/wmd’s, mr. bad man Assad needs to be taken out, UN inspectors go to the country in question, US positions forces for attack, etc. etc. Let’s just hope Matt Damon makes a movie decrying this war the same as the Iraq war. Same story different country.

  20. This is a difficult subject to tackle but I believe the outrage at hlthe use of nuclear weapons generally stems not from their lethality but from their capacity to maim. I had a great-uncle who was wounded in a gas attack in World War I and thought he lives well into his eighties, by all accounts it was a miserable existence. He could barely get his breath for sixty years, spending most of his life in a chair or in bed. Every breath was painful for him and he was psychologically affected in significant ways. I never met him, he having died before or shortly after by birth, but all my relatives who knew him describe a shell of a man who probably would have been better off dead.

    All weapons of war are designed to kill people. Some are meant to terrorize and demoralize. More recent examples are the “targeting” lasers used to blind people on the battlefield. What’s more terrifying and likely to dissuade an enemy from attack or effective defense? A chance at a quick but painful death, a Bouncing Betty mine that cuts them off at the groin, a laser thet blinds them permanently, or a gas attack that leaves them in pain for decades?

    Morally, is it worse to murder or to torture? Not a simple question. What if all wars could be fought with nonlethal weapons that only incapacitated a foe such that he could be subsequently incarcerated and “re-educated?” Could that be creepier, possibly, that outright torture?

    1. “Nuclear” s/b “chemical” above. Weird.

      1. Not weird, I think it applies to them too.

    2. If their ability to kill were the consider’n, why was gassing developed as a humane method of execution? I wondered about that until I realized this.

  21. I agree. The argument for going into Iraq should have been that he was killing 40,000 of his people/year on average; not WMD’s.

    I think the interception of 15 pounds of plutonium in southern Turkey, months prior to the invasion, is what scared Bush into action. The press reports stated they weren’t sure if the plutonium was destined for the Kurds in southern Turkey or Saddam in Iraq.

    1. 15 lbs of plutonium? In Turkey?

      1. They needed it to power the Turkish Flux Capacitor which they were going to use to bring Ataturk forward in time to lead Turkey to greatness.

  22. Is it a crime when a regime opposes its domestic rebels with lethal force? If so, Lincoln crossed that red line at Bull Run. Is it a crime when a regime uses lethal force to kill innocent civilians? If so, Lincoln crossed that red line in the Valley or Virginia and in Sherman’s march to the sea. There is no such thing as morality, only politics.

    1. In the old days a nation would simply act in whatever was in it’s best national interest. Nowadays we have to label foreign governments “criminals” and act like the damn world police.

      The United States is a country, not a global police force, and it’s about time we start acting like it again. The only time we should intervene in foreign nations is when it’s in our national interests to do so, and right now getting involved in Syria is not in our national interests.

  23. Thank God Abraham Lincoln didn’t listen to any of his libertarian friends. With Nick in charge, slavery would still be around. Nick would just be like, “just leave them people and their slaves alone… I ain’t our business”.

    Fuck you Nick with love.

  24. The problem with getting involved in Syria is that there isn’t a side in the conflict that we should support. You have the choice between a ruthless secular dictator or rebel groups backed by Hezbollah, and other Jihadis.

    And between those two possibilities, at least in the long term, Assad is probably the lessor of two evils.

    1. But Assad is backed by the Iranians and Hezbollah. The Sunni jihadis like Al Qaeda are on the rebel side.

    2. Um… Assad is backed by Hizbollah.

    3. “Assad is probably the [lesser] of two evils.”

      Also, Iran has a nuclear program and a long range missile program, and both of those represent a long term threat to the security of the United States–beyond the capabilities of anything an organization like Al Qaeda can do.

      …even IF IF IF the Syrian rebels were nothing but Al Qaeda.

      Oh, and, for whatever it’s worth, our allies in the region (from Qatar to Saudi Arabia) are on the side of the rebels and not the side of Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad.…..-is-ousted

  25. This fight reminds me other “great” fights from the 20th century. One where bloodletting of both sides on both sides makes one wonder “Does it have to stop because both sides are reprehensible.” I am thinking of Stalingrad, PRC v. North Vietnam, Iraq v. Iran to name a few.

    Edward Luttwak wrote a paper in Foreign Affairs back in the 1990’s that positioned the reason the west often gets involved in these small and middle sized conflicts has nothing to do morality but because we have people who are discomforted by watching this on TeeVee. Large states will fight till until the issue is resolved but large states refuse the other states that option. Would the mess in the middle east be still going on if the world left the fight continue until it was resolved? How about in Darfur or the Balkans? The conflicts might still be going on, but it hard to see how it would be worse (or more expensive) for us.

  26. We should stay out of Syria for several reasons but the most important is that we have no vital national interests involved. As was stated above “dead is dead is dead” and to me dying slowly from being disemboweled by steel splinter or gangrene doesn’t seem like such a great improvement over a minute or so of intense muscular contractions, related symptoms and shock from a G series nerve agent(or even mustard gas).

    One more personal reason why we should stay out. Powers can kiss my ass. She will lose nobody she loves, or even knows well if we intervene. “Duty to intervene” is the evil Luttwak addresses.

    I spent too many years fighting in shit holes for bad reasons with no real link to continued vital interests to want to lose more people I know for middle easterners who hate us anyway. Let them fight it out. One side will eventually win and we can decide how we want to engage them diplomatically and economically.

  27. Hey, there’s a bit of a bait and switch between mustard gas being used on the front lines in WWI, and nerve gas being used on civilians. Pretty much everyone was upset with the first general use of nerve gas versus civilians: that happened in concentration camps in WWII. Comparing sarin to trench warfare in WWI is just preaching to the choir.

    1. There is no bait and switch here. The SS did not use nerve gas within the death camps. The killed primarily with bullets, cyanide and to a much lessor extent carbon monoxide to commit their genocide. The Italians used gas on the Ethiopians, the Egyptians used gas on the Yemenis and the Iraqi’s used multiple agents (including nerve) on the Iranians and their own people. We did not militarily intervene in any of those cases. What is recognized by military forces is that gas is not much use on trained forces and devastating on ill equipped soldiers and especially so on civilians. Both NATO and Korea have spent much brain power on how to deal with 100,000’s (or more) of civilian dead and wounded.

  28. Maybe we should attack that evil regime that drones to death American civilians without due process… oh wait.. that would be the Obama administration.

  29. In reality, chemical weapons are pretty ineffective on a regular battlefield. However, they are absolutely deadly when it comes to genocide and this is the reason using them is crossing the red line. It is more about sending a message to every dictatorship not to mess with battle gasses. I know this sounds tacky but if you look at the hundred years of chemical weapons this deterrent has been pretty effective in limitting their use.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.