Well, I guess I’m back from my blogging hiatus. There really hasn’t been much to write about this summer… I’m kidding of course. My lack of blogging isn’t for lack of opinions or lack of things to be opinionated about, but pure sloth. It’s the summer, and the summer is for riding motorcycles and drinking beer on patios. So now that I’ve briefed you on the most recent events of my confortable life, let’s turn to a group who probably had a significantly worse summer than I, the Syrian people.
The international community is once again up in arms over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and with good cause, because it’s absolutely horrible, and the next Syrian Assad gases should be himself. However, as terrible as the events in the Levant are, I maintain my previous claim that chemical weapons has changed nothing, strategically speaking, for the United States and the western world. So if it’s not cold, hard, realpolitik, is bombing Assad’s chemical weapons stock about saving the poor Syrian people? Well, no, because it won’t stop the civil war. The fact that chemical weapons use is the sole “red line” used by anyone, let alone the leader of the free world who has access to the best and brightest minds on offer, for humanitarian intervention in a conflict where 100,000 people are dead and 1.7 million people are displaced and all of it done with conventional weapons, makes me think our civilization is doomed. Given these numbers, another several hundred people killed does not constitute a new humanitarian disaster worthy of intervention on those grounds alone. Instead of bombing chemical weapons stores maybe we should try and get a handle on those millions of displaced people.
People smarter than I have opined as to why the use of chemical weapons in a conflict is a red line for outside intervention. Other people smarter than I have argued why chemical weapons aren’t all that deadly, and why they shouldn’t be a red line in this particular conflict (here’s one hint, we can’t destroy all of them). You should read those links, but if you don’t have the time, think of this; is suffocating via Sarin gas really a worse death than having shrapnel rip through your body? How is one any more or less humane than the other. Why would one be a red line and the other not?
Assad gassed his people because because most people in Syira probably think like most people in California, that chemical weapons are a particularly scary prospect to face. It’s psychological warfare as much as it is chemical warfare. However, it’s also another kind of dialogue with the Syrian people, namely, don’t fuck with Assad. If Bashar al-Assad is willing to defy the President Obama and the mighty military he wields, he must be so powerful, so in control of his country, that Obama dare not respond. So what hope do you have FSA?
I imagine the recent shuffling of American forces in the region is a result of President Obama asking the Pentagon to give him options. My hunch is that as of my writing this, a decision is yet to be made. However, if a military strike does go ahead, make no mistake, it’s not about helping the poor Syrian people who have for too long been the victims of war, and it’s not about any real measurable change in America’s interests in the outcome of this war. It’s about Obama looking like less of a chump, and about making the threat of the use of American power credible. That’s what you get when you draw a red line. If someone crosses it, you have to respond, or look like a fool. If nothing else, all those boring speeches our leaders give on this policy or that, they can matter.