I listened to Kerry's speech.
Separate from the issues about what is and is not true with what happened in Syria and separate from the issues of what immediate action the US is going to take, this statement really hit me as very important and critical.
It matters because if we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.People are arguing about whether Syria is like Iraq in terms of the quality of evidence. However, there is one very important respect in which the two situations are similar. The US government is prepared to assume the power to disregard international law and do what it thinks should be done to impose moral order on the world and hope to intimidate those who might disregard its moral authority.
This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons’ attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons.
It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use? Or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?
So our concern is not just about some far-off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world.
It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations.
This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us.
And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world.
That was the position taken in Iraq. The UNSC was bypassed and the US with the support of a limited coalition launched an invasion. In retrospect that turned out not to be a successful project. It seems probable that a military intervention will be launched in Syria. It is also pretty clear that the international support for it will me more limited than it was in Iraq. We won't know until some time in the future whether this intervention will turn out to have been useful and effective or yet another disastrous military adventure.
Clearly the US maintains sufficient military power that it can likely get by with playing global cop. The question is whether this is a posture that we as Americans want to see our country adopting over and over again. Speaking for myself, I can conclusively answer, no.