It has been fairly well substantiated that chemical warfare was utilized in Syria over the past couple of weeks. There had been previous reports of use of deadly chemicals to kill rebellious Syrians, but the evidence was shaky. This time the evidence includes the deaths of several hundred people and the reported illnesses of hundreds. As I write this post there is a United Nations investigatory team in Syria surveying the evidence. Nobody believes that there will be a report of “no evidence.” All sides of the civil war have already acknowledged its existence.
What remains to be discovered is the identity of the group that deployed the chemicals. While many people are firm in their belief that it is the Assad government forces that had access to the weapons, the Assad people are claiming that they have been set up in this matter. They claim that it is rebellious protesters who have loosed the chemicals in the atmosphere, seeming to place the blame on the government forces. I should take only a couple of days for the truth to be known.
Chemical warfare was most pronounced in its use in World War I. Mustard gas and similar chemicals were released on the opposing forces. American and Allied troops were devastated by the damage done to those who inhaled the deadly chemicals and there was a tacit understanding among those who analyzed the post-war data that the use of chemical weapons should be banned. For the most part this agreement has been adhered to by forces engaged in large-scale military operations.
But as the terrorist movements have come into their own in the past decades, the restraint practiced by nations has been ineffective when the enemy is not a nation, but an ideological force. Terrorists are not bound by the same restrictions that a nation might want to preserve.
President Obama had indicated that U.S. involvement in the war in Syria was not called for. He deemed the war to be a civil war and rejected calls for the United States to become directly involved in the horrendous battle for leadership of the Syrian people. He declared that the “red line” which would demarcate U.S. involvement would be the use of chemical weaponry. There had been warnings that chemicals could potentially find their way into the Syrian conflict. But when the first reports of chemical warfare became known, the President backed away, correctly pointing out that the use of chemical weapons could not be ascertained.
In ths current charge of chemical warfare the President has taken a more direct position, awaiting the results of the U.N. findings. It would seem likely that the reports will affirm the use of chemicals and the President will be forced by his own declaration of a red line criterion to take some form of retaliation. It will be necessary for there to be a clear finger pointing to a perpetrator.
The visual reports of the use of chemicals have been horrendous. Men, women, and little children have died excruciating deaths seemingly related to chemicals ingested by innocent citizens. American and international television viewers are horrified by what they have seen and will not be willing to stand down from their calls for retaliation. Solomonic baby-splitting will not suffice.
The President is calling for international support should it be found appropriate for some kind of military action to take place. While there is a great deal of posturing on the part of global leaders, it is not clear what will be affirmed should some form of reaction be called for.
Photo Credit: Survival Center