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if Syria used chemical weapons against rebel forces the evil Assad
regime would be crossing a “red line,” after which there would be
some kind of heightened retaliation by the United States,
presumably involving miitary force. As Ed Krayewski
pointed out yesterday, France has been saying since
last summer that any chemical weapons usage should trigger
Western intervention. At a press conference in Israel yesterday,
Obama answered questions about
murky chemical-weapons allegations by
declaring that “Once we establish the facts, I have made clear
that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.” It seems
likely that no matter how war-weary Americans might be, we may soon
be in another Mideast military conflict.
This illustrates, among other things, the perils of drawing “red
lines” in an era of
ever-lower bars for American intervention. Presidents
volunteer, in the face of constant badgering from congressional
hawks and the press, the line beyond which the U.S. will have to
intervene. If it’s in the context of a civil war, participants
seeking American help (and outsiders cheering on intervention) will
thus be incentivized to make sure that that line is or appears to
be crossed. When that happens, hawks will make a lot of noise about
“American credibility,” and before you know it, here we go
Chemical weapons usage isn’t the only red line available; the
mere possibility of putting “chemical weapons” and “jihadis” in the
same sentence will also suffice, as this roundup of hawkish
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.):
I’ve never been more worried about weapons of mass destruction
falling into terrorists’ hands than I am right now. And I would
urge the president and Republican leaders to openly embrace ending
this conflict sooner rather than later with a post-Assad plan that
focuses on securing these chemical weapons sites.
President Obama has said that the use of weapons of mass
destruction by Bashar Assad is a ‘red line’ for him that ‘will have
consequences.’ If today’s reports are substantiated, the
President’s red line has been crossed, and we would urge him to
take immediate action to impose the consequences he has promised.
That should include the provision of arms to vetted Syrian
opposition groups, targeted strikes against Assad’s aircraft and
SCUD missile batteries on the ground, and the establishment of safe
zones inside Syria to protect civilians and opposition groups. If
today’s reports are substantiated, the tragic irony will be that
these are the exact same actions that could have prevented the use
of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.
If we know their intention to use these chemical weapons and
don’t do anything about that, that is a stain on our national
character….So we’ve got a growing bloody conflict, you’ve got a
regime that’s under pressure, at least a high probability they have
used most recently or in the past some amount of chemical weapons.
This is the time to act. Don’t wait until we have 5,000 dead.
That’s too late.
What the hell,
I don’t care what it takes….If the choice is to send in troops
to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get
in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I
vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.
That last quote might be the most apt. Some interventionists
literally don’t care what it takes to satisfy their
unquenchable thirst for determining world events. Dead Syrians,
dead Americans, regional chaos, tax dollars down the sump hole,
limitless deployment, unintended consequences, NO MATTER. What’s
important is to uphold the childish illusion that we can always
just “cut this off,” whatever “this” might be.
Read Reason’s symposium on (evidently unlearned) lessons from the
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