Last Friday night, President Trump along with Prime Minister, Theresa May of Great Britain and President Emmanuel Macron of France engaged in a limited but highly controversial air campaign against the Syrian regime’s ability to produce chemical weapons. While over one hundred missiles were fired into Syria from allied forces, a similar effort to make the case to the public was not made. While the President failed to make the case, opponents of the intervention were quick to lay out why it was a terrible idea– although not all arguments were equally convincing or truthful.
Because of this, I want to lay out the case for a campaign to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to produce and use chemical weapons. Let me be clear, this is not a case based on humanitarian intervention but rather American interest.
- To uphold the credibility of statements made by President Obama and President Trump. Credibility is not candy that can be easily lost and gained back but rather it is a finite political resource that must be protected for the current President and future Presidents.
- To uphold the post-World War 2 world order which banned this class of weapon. This world order was created by America and strongly benefits her. The international order is an anarchic system. In the aftermath of World War 2, America has created and backed a system which has put limits on that anarchic system. Protecting the integrity of that system is a fundamental American interest.
- To discourage their production and potential use in future conflicts against American troops.
None of this is an argument for an Iraq style invasion, nor is it an argument for regime change. It is an argument for specific actions to achieve specific and defined policy goals. I want to stop Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons, not to overthrow his regime.
To be clear, the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is undeniable. On August 21, 2013, there was a massive Sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs. The international community and opposition groups blamed the Syrian regime while regime apologists spinned an alternate reality where the attack was a false flag. They conveniently ignored the chemical weapons were delivered using about a dozen M14 140mm artillery rocket and “Volcano” rockets both of which have only been used by the Syrian regime and never by any Syrian opposition groups.
Fast Forward to last year and the April 4th, 2017 incident at Khan Sheikhoun. Similarly, to the August 2013 attack, we known the Syrian regime is responsible for this attack because of the munitions used. MYM6000 and M4000 bombs were used to deliver the chemical weapons to the opposition held city. Ironically enough, in an attempt to defend the regime, the Russian government released the first images of the bomb designs allowing open source journalists to prove they were used at Khan Sheikhoun.
Lastly, the incident earlier this month, on April 7th, there was another large scale chemical weapon attack– this time in Douma. As the open-source journalists at Bellingcat pointed out, Mi-8 Hip Helicopters had been seen over the city right before the attack, Mi-8 Helicopters have been known to carry out gas attacks for the Syrian government in the past, and yellow gas canisters which are known to have been dropped by helicopters in the past were found.
There have also been potentially hundreds of other instances of chemical weapon used by the Syrian regime.
In response to this reality, regime apologists have crafted an elaborate conspiracy theory to protect their alternative worldview. For example, these conspiracy theorists have taken quotes out of context from Defense Secretary Mattis to push their agenda. Similarly, they have questioned the strategic soundness of Assad using chemical weapons as if 1. It is a given militaries always use sound strategy 2. There is not a strategic justification for their use. Regime apologists have even posted pictures of a supposed opposition chemical weapons laboratory. They conveniently ignore the lab is completely unable to produce Sarin or Chlorine.