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Both sides in the Syrian civil war are bad guys.  Both sides may possess chemical weapons.  If one side uses those weapons, it seems to me that the other side would be inclined to retaliate in kind.  It doesn't even matter who started it.

If killing a bunch of people with chemical weapons is really no different from using conventional weapons, then I suppose it is not a big deal if this war becomes an exercise in turning neighborhoods into open-air gas chambers, setting the precedent for future wars to look like that.

But, if there is a difference....

Let's go ahead and assume that the Syrian government is recent events.  If Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons before, why wouldn't he do it again, in the absence of pressure to stop?  If these Syrian militants include al-Qaeda fighters, what makes you think they would avoid the temptation to use chemical weapons, whether supplied by Saudi Arabia or taken from captured Syrian stockpiles?

And if it is some sort of 11-dimensional chess false flag operation, well, if I were Assad, I might want to go down swinging and do the things I've been falsely accused of doing because I am being blamed for it anyways.

The longer this action goes without a response, the more likely it is that someone will use chemical weapons again.  So, there is some undefined time constraint if the rest of the world doesn't want to see this civil war descend into tit-for-tat poison gas attacks.

The question then becomes, what sort of pressure is necessary to convince both sides to come to heel?  Does Assad need to feel that any further use of chemical weapons may cost him the war?  Do the rebels need to feel that Assad has been appropriately punished by the international community?  Are both sides a bunch of barbarians who only understand a fist or is there a diplomatic answer?

If it is not worth trying to bring an end to the war directly, is it an acceptable goal to discourage the further use of chemical weapons or retaliation in kind, so that both sides can go ahead and kill each other so long as they use conventional weapons?  If so, what is the minimum effort necessary to increase the chances that no more chemical weapons are used and is that effort non-military in nature?

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are 196 or so countries in the world. The (0+ / 0-)

    questions you ask have some importance, but it is not for us, the United States, to provide all the answers, especially given our own history of war crimes, and the support of regimes that used chemical weapon, i.e., Iraq.

    We should be asking a bunch of questions about the thousands of people who are dying here in good-old USA because of lack of health care, and the result of imposed/selective "austerity," i.e., purposely de-funding the proper functions of government and the social safety net.

    There are many many questions we should be asking, and Syria should be very very low in the totem pole of priorities, IMHO>

  •  Endless questions without answers... (0+ / 0-)

    ...is, in practice, an answer and that answer is "do nothing."  Which is a credible answer, certainly.  But it's hard to engage the endless-questions version because it doesn't acknowledge its position.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:15:40 PM PDT

  •  this meme must be corrected: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, Garrett
    If these Syrian militants include al-Qaeda fighters, what makes you think they would avoid the temptation to use chemical weapons, whether supplied by Saudi Arabia or taken from captured Syrian stockpiles?
    I did quite a bit of research for several years on the proliferation of chemical weapons, especially in the Middle east--and never saw or heard of any evidence whatsoever that Saudi Arabia has ever manufactured any chemical weapons, or obtained or bought any from anyone else.

    Indeed, there are only three countries in the world who (1) have a suspected or known stockpile of chemical weapons and (2) have not signed the Chemical Weapons convention and are not subject to onsite inspections of suspected CW plants. Those are Syria, Egypt and North Korea. None are friendly to the rebels.

    If the rebels do have chemical weapons, their only possible source is the Syrian military stockpile.

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