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Chemical weapons are non-selective

September 4, 2013

There is no doubt that the vast majority of Americans usually think we spend far too much time, money and blood on wars. In rare instances, when we are the country being attacked, the nation puts all that aside and leaps willingly into the trenches. Syria has not so far engendered that response. There is even a sort of detached idea that if two factions that both hate us are killing each other in some other country, that is a good thing.

Intellectually, civilized human beings of all origins know instinctively that mass murder is wrong. A large majority of the world powers have set certain signposts for supporting a strong reaction to the use of chemical weapons and signified the nature of that reaction when 189 nations supported the aims of the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) by signing and/or ratifying that arms treaty in 1993, which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. Syria is not a signatory to that document.

There is an isolationist segment of our country that believes that if we stay at home and mind our own business, what other nations do outside of our borders does not affect us. That sort of akin to saying if we don’t poke a bear in its den, it will always stay in the den and never threaten us. Nice thought, but the bear never seems to subscribe to the idea.

The fact is, those far away nations whose factional leaders have no compunctions about killing each other with chemical weapons also have no compunctions about killing anyone else with them. It really doesn’t matter which side used the chemical weapons. The fact that either side would do so is enough reason for the world to act.

The United States, for all of its costly, dubiously effective mass surveillance of its own people, has an extremely porous border. It is unlikely that someone carrying some sort of chemical agent would fly in through Miami International Airport. Our so-called protective security agencies have already demonstrated that they are quite capable of ignoring even substantive intelligence on real threats, such as the Tsarnaev brothers.

The United Nations seems as incapable of performing to enforce the precepts of the CWC as it has been in other similar situations. In general, whenever there is a need for decisive action to condemn and contain the tyrants of the world, the UN is slow to act and and constructively unable to bring such acts to a swift end. Since any one nation can block any action, as evidenced by the Russian threat to veto any action against Syria or any of its other satellites, the UN is and has always been a vaporous shield. It’s kind of like locking your doors. It only keeps the honest people honest.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (OPCW) headquartered in the Hague has no legal authority to intervene in Syria either militarily or by enforcing seizure of the chemicals. Even if it had the military ability to do so, it can only act against member states, and again, Syria never ratified the treaty.

I would not personally choose the current administration to lead us into what could turn into another war. This administration under Barack Obama has been dovish on war from its inception. We can argue all day long about whether that philosophy has generally contributed to the turmoil in the Middle East, and specifically whether it has led to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Sometimes events choose the man, and Syria seems to have chosen President Obama.

Could that involve us in something larger than the simple act of making a moral statement by dropping a few missiles and bombs in Syria? Of course it could. Aside from countries in the Middle East, neither Russia or China is a friend. Russia uses a port city in Syria that it might choose to protect at any cost. Hopefully, both nations are skilled enough in tradecraft to know that even the most carefully monitored asset can bring down its handlers, but you never know. Sociopathic megalomaniacs exist in every society.

Be that as it may, in the interest of self-protection it would seem we are bound to act anyway. If the United States, under any President, stands idly by giving lip service and little else to international condemnation of a patently criminal act, it could well be our subways and cities the next time. Since we can’t realistically hope to stop all external threats from entering the United States, it sort of behooves us to stop them while they might still be contained in a far away land.

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