First, let's start by assuming that Assad's guys did pull this off and slimed their own civvies.
Yeah, that pretty much sucks. Not exactly Final Solution or Armenian Genocide sucks, but up there on the scale of suckage somewhere.
My country has been happy to ignore this sort of nasty suckage when it wants to. What's magical about this?
Well, it's chemicals.
Now believe it or not, I actually buy that there's an argument that We the People have a national interest in ass-kicking people who throw chemical weapons around.
I don't AGREE with the argument, but I'll agree that there IS one.
To wit: We're the 800-pound gorilla of conventional war. If nothing else, Gulf Wars II and III convinced pretty much every other national leader with a functioning hindbrain that taking on Uncle Sugar in a conventional donnybrook was just stupid. You would get creamed. Period.
But bugs and gas (nukes, too, but those are ridiculously hard to get hold of or make) are great levelers. They're the sleeper hold of warfare. Comprehensively slime U.S. troops and you go a long way to reducing their combat efficiency to the level of just any other gomers.
(Now, obviously, the problem with this is that most Second and Third World troops are WORSE at operating in a CBR battlefield than US forces, but, whatever, if you're Assad you know your guys are just shit on toast anyway, right?)The U.S. foreign policy (and military policy, since our foreign policy has become very militarized...) is to brook no peer foe. You try and compete with Sammie's Arsenal of Democracy? Here's some incoming for you, Tojo!
U.S. policy, as it currently stands, cannot accept the possibility of some crappy little ruler of some crappy little country trying to use chemical weapons to level the military playing field.
So clearly the U.S. doesn't want to encourage ANYBODY to think that way. So fuck Geneva and international law; it's in the U.S.'s best interest to remind anyone who even thinks of using chemicals that the result will be a massive ass-whupping of the most medieval sort. Peer through the fog of humanitarian bullshit (and that's not to say that some of the speakers don't ACTUALLY want to punish Assad for sliming his own people, assuming that his guys in fact did and in fact did it deliberately, something I consider still speculative at best...) and you'll find there's a hard core of naked self-interest here.
That's fine. Kinda shitty, but that's what nations are supposed to do; suss out their "interests" and act on them.
Again - that self-interest proceeds from the notion that the U.S. defense policy HAS to be based on bitchslapping everyone who even looks capable of cocking a snook at us.
I don't agree that this is a smart defense policy.
But it appears to be the one currently accepted in D.C. So I understand that the "leaders" there see the situation above in just the fashion I've described it. And, therefore, see a burning need to use force to "punish" the reckless foreign leader that crosses the line into chemical war.
BUT...again, here's my problem with this situation; the notion that punitive force is a "deterrent" or a "punishment" in this case is laughable.
Assad is playing the Game of Thrones in Syria; he wins or he dies. And he is, if not losing, at least not winning. So at this point he has little to lose risking American "punishment". He knows that the Yankees have no love for his enemies, and that they cannot do more than give him a love-tap for fear that his chaotic mess of rebel foes (who make Libya's TNC look like the Athenian civic improvement society, from what I can tell...) will up and take over.
Plus, frankly, for the U.S. to do this while ignoring all the other vile crap we've either encouraged (or at least ignored) in "friendly" states or places we didn't care about, from Saddam's sliming the Iranians back in Gulf War I to Rwandan genocide, to "yellow rain", to the Egyptian coup...well, if you're a person sitting in darkness it sure looks less like "justice" and more like the strong doing what they can...
I find it interesting that the British lawmakers aren't playing. They got into the clown car back in '03, and they've seen where this idiot carnival ride ends.Put all of this together - the sorry record of the U.S. on this sort of "humanitarian" beatdown, the actual win-or-die facts in Syria, the huge mass of "unknown unknowns" surrounding what happens when the U.S. makes parts of Syria go boom - and it damn sure looks like a mug's game to me.
The only reason to do this seems to be so the Good People can say "We did something."
But "something" isn't always the sensible or useful thing to do. The old rule of medicine is Primum non nocere - "First, do no harm" - meaning that if you can't do good, actual good, foreseeable good, than the next best thing is to do nothing if doing "something" might do harm.
Frankly I see no reason why blowing the shit out of some barracks and ministries in Baghdad will do good, or nothing, instead of harm.
The sad and sorry part about this is that the U.S. has blood and treasure to piss away on this nonsense. We will drop a scattering of ordnance on Syria like Lady Bountiful's largesse and walk away whistling. There really isn't a downside to beating down these poor bastards a little further. We'll probably end up doing it and walking away whistling. A couple more dead camel-jockeys. Oh, well.
Except within ourselves, where we go a little further down the road to Iron Rome.
A little smaller, a little meaner, a little stupider. A little more willing to accept idiotic things, brutal things, pointless things, violent and secret things, evils, small and great, done with neither our assent nor our demur but instead with our bovine indifference. We stare at the television screen showing us the deaths and horrors of others as if they were a play, or as if it were a joke, or a sport, like bored children throwing stones at animals.
But as Plutarch says; the boys throw stones at the frogs for sport but the frogs die in earnest.
It seems that someone somewhere in Syria will die soon at the hand of my nation. The death, it seems to me, is unlikely to do anything but add another mite of misery to that miserable place.
And I have absolutely, positively, utterly no fucking idea what to do, or say, about that.
I am as clueless as any Senator or cabinet officer, and ten thousand times more powerless.