Syria strikes imminent, and right
Even in spite of understandable reluctance to get involved in a messy situation in Syria, the US, Britain, and the West cannot set a precedent that chemical weapons can be used with impunity
No, this is not a drill. The US warship presence in the Mediterranean is emphatically there and being enhanced for a reason. Syria is about to be hit. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the following today:
"We are prepared, we have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take, if he wishes to take any of the options he’s asked for. We are ready to go, like that."
This is what he added, and see below as to why this effectively guarantees military action:
"In our opinion, I think the opinion of the entire world community, Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. I think most of our allies, most of our partners, most of the international community that we’ve talked to, - and we have reached out and talked to many – have little doubt that the most base international humanitarian standard was violated in using chemical weapons against their own people."
The reason why this effectively guarantees military action, and why military action is right, is that the West simply cannot allow a precedent to be set in which the use of chemical weapons is brushed over and ignored. This does not, and must not, mean boots on the ground. Ultimately, the Arab world should sort this out, not us.
But we can do something. Extensive cruise missile strikes against Assad's military infrastructure (plus a nice little one on his presidential palace) should be sufficient to make a very necessary point.
In terms of the calculations, of course, there's the issue of the humiliation of Barack Obama having set red lines and then allowed them to be crossed. But that wouldn't be a problem for Obama whose foreign policy credentials are rightly ridiculed even by many hard core Democrats.
The problem is that there's just too much at stake, and there are too many people around Obama in Washington, and in London, Paris, Berlin etc that know there's no choice but to act.
I absolutely disagree with those who think that the fate of Syria is any of our business in terms of its possible (fantasy world) transition to democracy if Assad is deposed. I'd love to see him go, but I'm pretty certain I'd dislike his successors just as much. No, that's not the point; which is that we have to adopt a long term strategy that is in our own interests.
That means making a decisive statement that psychopathic dictators who think they can "normalise" the use of weapons of mass destruction via our own apathy or cowardice are proved wrong.
Plainly, it would be foolish to suggest with any certainty that Obama will in fact do the right thing. But the logic of circumstances would still suggest that significant military strikes against Syria are imminent.
And if I'm wrong, the credibility of the West will be flushed down the proverbial toilet, along with our long term security.
Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1
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