59 American cruise missiles rained down on Syria yesterday as punishment for the Assad regime allegedly deploying chemical weapons against civilians in Idlib. The chemical weapon used was most likely sarin gas, a nasty type of nerve agent that causes respiratory failure. Images from Syria showed dead women and children, limp and lifeless as if someone had just flipped their off switch.
Gases like sarin are considered weapons of mass destruction and are banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons is also a gross breach of every international norm, something that the United States has put a lot of work into preventing from happening over the years lest warfare swallow our civilization wholesale.
Just prior to the sarin attack, the Trump administration initiated a policy reversal from the Obama legacy, stating that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can remain in power. The beleaguered Assad has fought a pitched battle against nearly the entire world it seems, but found allies in Iran and Russia who have helped preserve his regime. Waiting out President Obama, it seemed that Assad really was here to stay.
Regarding chemical weapons, Obama and Assad had been down this road before. Obama had declared that the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” in the Syrian Civil War, and that their use would result in some type of US military action against the regime. Obama was telling Assad, and the world, that the international prohibition against chemical weapons remained and would be enforced. Then Ghouta happened.