Musings —09.04.2013 09:15 AM—
I plan to write more about this in my Sunday column. But, as the debate heats up in Congress today, here are a few reasons why I feel we are compelled to take action, in no particular order. Comments welcome.
- Morality: More than 1,400 were killed by Assad’s Sarin gas, many of them children. We cannot allow that to happen again. This is a profound humanitarian crisis. We have a collective moral and legal responsibility to prevent further use of chemical weapons.
- Red Line: Obama said a year ago that the use of chemical weapons was a red line – he cannot back away from that now. U.S. credibility – particularly in Israel and with pro-U.S. Arab states – is at stake. (And, as Obama noted this morning, it’s the world’s red line.)
- Terrorism’s arsenal: If Assad is permitted to use such weapons with impunity, there is every reason to expect his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda – will seek to do likewise. Assad will reward them with chemical weapons for their support in the nearly three-year war.
- Proliferation: Chemical weapons, as I wrote in my first book, are cheap and easy to produce. They radically change the way in which war is waged. Their increased use will make the Middle East (and therefore the world) a much more dangerous place.
- Stronger Assad: If his targeting of civilians with chemical agents remains unpunished, his stature is increased, and the rebels’ predicament gets increasingly dire. Iran, Hezbollah and others benefit.
- Allies onside: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey – all of them are advising to strike now, and ensure that Assad is driven out. They are in the region; their perspective is highly relevant. We must listen to them.
- No more waiting: Those who said waiting would work were wrong. The situation has gotten dramatically worse – a massive refugee crisis, and more than 100,000 dead. Action is needed, now.
- Others are watching: North Korea et al. are watching closely. A failure to act will only encourage them.
- Consensus: While Bush Sr. didn’t wait for Congress with Kuwait – and while Clinton and Chretien didn’t wait for the U.N. in Kosovo – Obama has sought bi-partisan congressional support. He is getting it. Most Western governments are onside. That matters.
- Public onside: An NBC poll found that a clear majority favour action if (a) Congress approves and (b) U.S. allies are with Obama and (c) the engagement is limited. Conditions (a) and (b) will be met; condition (c) is what Obama has promised.