For you non-swimmers, a quick run-down. You might remember that George W. Bush used the evidence that Saddam Hussein used gas against Kurdish civilians as evidence that Hussein had WMDs and as justification for our entry into Iraq. The non-swimmers will also remember that they gave Bush hell when we didn't find any WMDs, even after all the available evidence pointed to the fact that they'd been shipped to Syria. Now, we've got WMDs in Syria and President Obama is conflicted about that, wanting to explore a whole range of options.
Iran’s begun openly mocking him for his hesitation, issuing its own “red line” today forbidding use of WMDs by either Assad or “the opposition.” Does Obama now agree that the rebels themselves might be responsible for one of the incidents involving chemical weapons? (Assad’s regime accuses them of it regularly, for what little that’s worth.) No one pressed him on that today. If he does come to that conclusion, does that also cross America’s “red line” or is it only the regime’s use that would trigger action? If the point of the red line is to enforce a taboo against WMD, any usage should warrant intervention, not just if it’s done by Assad. But in that case, the rebels would actually have an incentive to go chemical: If you want Assad’s stockpile off the table, start gassing people and wait for U.S. or Jordanian or Turkish troops to swoop in and grab Assad’s arsenal.It's a crap-shoot, for damned sure, but it's the same crap-shoot that Bush had. The big difference is that Assad is holding the dice, and Obama is standing at the end of the table, wondering if they're going to come up snake-eyes.
I don't believe that there is anything worth saving in Syria. Like Egypt and Libya, the whole place will be run by the Taliban, or Al-Queda, or the Muslim Brotherhood. There are no good options and there are not any secular armies in the region. As long as they don't screw with Israel, I say let them murder each other. We've got no business poking our noses into their civil wars.
Oh, and is anyone but me amused at how much Obama is beginning to act like Bush, especially in foreign affairs? He's talking about a range of options in the Middle East, we're still in Afghanistan, and Gitmo is still open. If Obama would embrace the oil business, it would be a push.