The situation in Syria became all the more real last week when it was revealed that chemical weapons were used against its own citizens. While the use of chemical weapons was once designated by the Obama administration as the “red line,” the administration has been cautious to respond. Barack Obama says that the administration is currently engaged in an “intelligence assessment” to determine definitely whether or not chemical weapons were, in fact, used.
Either way, it is clear that the situation is Syria is only getting worse. According to the United Nations, around 70,000 Syrians have been killed as a result of this civil war. In addition, over 1 million Syrians are now refugees, having fled the country. Fox News reported this morning that according to the CIA, over the last four years Syria has amassed vast supplies of mustard gas, sarin nerve agent and cyanide. It is described as one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons.
The problem is who has control or could potentially gain control of this stockpile. The New York Times had a report over the weekend on the complicated landscape in Syria stating, “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.” Also over the weekend we get reports like this: Al-Qaeda's battle for control of Assad's chemical weapons plant. This is exactly the type of thing that the administration and many in the region have feared.
So how should America respond, if at all? There seems to be a consensus that something needs to be done, but the level of engagement is obviously debatable. Many agree with John McCain who stated over the weekend that American boots on the ground in Syria would be the “worst thing United States could do.” Others like Senator Claire McCaskill say we can't rule that out.
But the fact remains that Obama drew a “red line” and has now failed to act when it seems that line has been crossed. This is not sitting well with many conservatives who fear what message this will send to Assad and other counties like Iran. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday: “What has changed, if Mr. Obama allows his red line to be crossed unanswered, is that his latest act of foreign-policy fecklessness provides further proof to Iran, North Korea and other adversaries, whether states or terrorists, that he is not a force to be reckoned with.” Exactly. I fear that our enemies will no longer take us seriously, proving what they've suspected all along: That Barack Obama is weak and won't ultimately live up to his word, jeopardizing our national security as well as our allies.