Back a little over a decade ago, I was one of the people who did not support the Bush Administration’s determination to attack Iraq. Why? Well, yes, Saddam Hussein had at one time used chemical weapons against his own people, but had by numerous accounts gotten rid of them after Desert Storm. There were a lot of questionable assertions being made, and most notably, that it was principally the Bush administration who was making them. Most of our allies, and other interested players were saying “No, no sign of them now.” Add in that it would take the focus off of Afghanistan, that Iraq was “contained” and not a serious factor in the Middle East, and it was – at least to me – a “bad idea.”
Which is not the case now with regards to Syria. Multiple sources, many of whom don’t really like us, have stated that there were chemical weapons used. There is some argument over the number of actual casualties, but not that they weren’t caused by a chemical attack. Beside our own agencies’ assessments, a number of other countries intelligence agencies have come out with statements saying that they are placing “high confidence” that it was a chemical attack, and it was the forces of President Assad that used them. “High confidence,” in case you don’t get it, means “We’re more than 95% sure, but since they’re not admitting it, and we didn’t have our people filming and sampling during during the attack, we won’t say “certain.”
What is also different is that no one in this Administration is proposing a “boots on the ground” invasion, capture and overthrow the evil dictator, and “install a democracy.” It is not “intervention,” which carries the connotation that we’re choosing sides, and doing this to help “our side” win or put a stop to the civil war. What is being proposed is the equivalent of a good slap for using chemical weaponry, a reminder to President Assad that there are limits to what he can do. It won’t force him to surrender, it won’t make him step down, and it won’t stop the civil war. It’d be nice if it did all those things, but no one thinks that. About the only thing it hopes to accomplish is to prevent him from using them again, and even that isn’t a certainty.
20 years ago, I went through an intense course on nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. Part of that training was learning what each and every one of the chemical warfare agents could do, and yes, we got examples like this:
If I had to pick a really, really nasty way to kill someone, nerve agents would be at or near the top of the list. Looking at the recent videos from Syria? Yes, that’s nerve agent. It’s hard to fake all that. Equally hard is having the capability to make enough and put it on target, which is something that a government has, not “random rebel alliance.” It is being used, and deflecting, conspiracy theories, and anything else to avoid doing anything about it is just condoning it.
What I have become certain of is that most of the hand-wringing “anti-war” sentiments are mainly based on “Iraq derangement syndrome,” to coin a phrase. Everyone is bound and determined that the government is somehow lying, that there is a move to start a war for little gain, and somehow, the administration is of the belief that this will “solve the Syrians problem.” None of which is true. What is true is that the many of the anti-war people are perfectly willing to come up with excuses to not do anything. Because, after all, they’re “not going to be fooled again.” No, they’re just going to be fools in a different way.