Our “Red Line.”
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.
“We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.”
Obama’s remarks appeared to ratchet up his stance on the matter. Last month, talking about Syrian forces, he told a VFW convention, “They will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons.”
I’ve long been more hawkish than dovish, and using force has been an easier proposition for me than for many of my friends. However, I like to think that there is a clear reason for such force and that the use of force actually accomplishes that reason.
What has changed for me, however, is the role that I see the United States playing in the world. In the past, that role was one more sympathetic to seeing the US as the world’s police. I’ve evolved in that view these past years and am more likely to reserve US military intervention for the direct defense of Americas.
That’s not to say that the “crimes against humanity” argument doesn’t resonate with me, it does – just not as loudly. The world has been relatively clear that it wants a more balanced approach in the use of force; the United States doesn’t need to stand alone. We are not living in that place where it was good vs. evil, the USSR vs. The USA. Then it WAS us and only us. Now, with the larger existential threat no longer looming, the conditions are such that we are too play a part – not the WHOLE part.
And more and more I’m okay with that. In fact, as the world is becoming an ever growing economy tied together by trade and prosperity, I am feeling more and more confident in common goals.
So, where does that leave us? Well, the more I think on it the more I am coming to see actions taken by nations that fall into two categories:
- Humanitarian Crisis
- War Crime
Those lines may blur some because it’s hard to imagine a humanitarian crisis existing that is technically “legal”. However, for now, I’ll stay with those definitions.
In this context, Syria, as a whole, has been a glaring example of a Humanitarian Crisis long before chemical weapons were deployed. The people of Syria have been subjected to suffering orders of magnitude more severe than the recent events surrounding the use of chemical weapons.
Additionally, the use of chemical weapons clearly violates international law.
Obama erred in his Red Line. He erred in two aspects:
- The line he drew is a line best handled by international law bodies. In this case, the UN.
- He failed to consider that should he take action, who would most benefit.
No one denies that gassing your own, or some one else’s, now that I mention it, citizens is horrible. But it is no less horrible than walking up to them and simply shooting them. If we wanna keep the days of the United States acting as world police, make that case and position your statements with such tone and tenor. But enforcing international law?