No line in the sand. President Obama is changing his mind when it comes to clamping down on Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Concerning the use of chemical weapons, Obama first said “don’t move them” and now it’s “don’t use them.”
In a press conference on Dec. 3, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked the president about the chemical weapons in Syria. In part, he responded.
I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
Four days later the line moved. If Assad used chemical weapons he would have crossed the line. From an analysis piece by Fred Kaplan. My emphasis.
[A] bright red line separates chemical weapons from conventional munitions for moral, humanitarian, and legal reasons. Not just Obama but the leaders of the other signatory nations have an obligation to respond in some very serious fashion if Assad crosses the line—to send the clear message, to everyone, that the use of these weapons is completely unacceptable.
I thought the idea was to stop the use of the chemical weapons? I guess the goal is now to stop the use of chemical weapons after they have been used. That is a big difference. The Obama administration does not want to take the chance of a political hit – throughout the world – by taking out the Assad and securing the weapons before they are used. Many would criticize the United States and Obama stating we used the threat to invade another country.
Of course Assad would not have used chemical weapons! There are those in the media stating Syria has no chemical weapons. Sound familiar?
For the current administration, the line now is the use of chemical weapons, not just the threat as defined by moving them around and prepping them for use. I’ve argued before that even if someone in the Middle East or elsewhere actually use a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon, the United States would not respond. I was writing about Iran and nukes, but this same philosophy – I’m willing to bet – could be assigned to Bashar and the use of chemical weapons.
Any major attack – including conventional, nuclear or biologic – against the United States or allies in the region will not be from a defined, established government in the region. The State of Iran would probably never send a missel into Israel, and if they did, it would be blamed on an outlier group who was not affiliated with the government. In other words, it would be a terrible tragedy that was some sort of mistake. They would be sorry. Somehow, a radical Islamic fundamentalist group – an outlier – got control over a weapon and used it. The official government leaders would be ashamed. They would promise to root out the evil in their country. The diplomats would go to work again.
In other words, all Assad has to do is blame it on someone else and he could easily blame it on the Syrian rebels. Then what do you do?