President Obama said it himself. Any use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces against rebels would cross a “red line” that would require a stern response from the United States and the much of the rest of the world.
Syria has crossed it, according to U.S. and international intelligence reports.
And now the United States is likely preparing a military strike against targets in Syria.
The question needs to be asked: Would the United States be on the verge of another military action had the president not uttered the “red line” comment a year ago?
The debate is fierce. The president’s allies in Congress say he has done all he can do diplomatically to end the violence in Syria, which has claimed at least 100,000 lives over the past three or so years. His congressional foes suggest the president’s threat of a strike won’t turn the tide of battle, that it’s too little too late.
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a stern condemnation of the gas attacks that reportedly were aimed at civilians — including women and children. He called it a moral outrage that must not be allowed to stand.
Backing all this up, of course, is the nature of the rebel forces fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad, the dictator who has made it known that he intends to stay in power at all cost. Are those rebels friends or foes of the United States and our allies, chiefly Israel? If they gain power, will it upset the balance of power in the Middle East? If they are defeated, will Assad be emboldened to do more damage to his people, or to spread his violence beyond his country’s borders?
President Obama is seeking worldwide cooperation and support. He’s consulting with congressional leaders to obtain their backing.
And those pesky public opinion polls suggest Americans do not want to get involved in another ground war in the Middle East.
If ever there was a time when we question whether the U.S. presidency is a job for the faint of heart, the Syria crisis proves without a doubt that whoever sits in that office needs not only a strong heart — but a spine of tempered steel.