I think President Obama was right to call the use of chemical weapons by Syria a red line. And between the video and intelligence — that most of us are getting third hand — it certainly looks like chemical weapons have been used. Of course a decade ago there was pretty convincing evidence that a regime that had used chemical weapons was stockpiling them, and that turned out not to have happened.
Once again, there are inspectors on the ground, and once again there is a drumbeat to war. But I hope we can wait until the inspectors give a report before we make a final decision. And when we make that final decision, we should figure out the way to make it as international and as diplomatic as possible.
While both are to be avoided, the use of chemical weapons is different from the regular course of war. The taboo on it has served the world well for nearly a century. That Saddam Hussein is the worst example of chemical weapons use until last week is a testament to how rare it is. It wasn’t used by either side in World War 2, or much during the Cold War. And that is for the good.
Still, relying on weapons inspectors is the best way to show that we’re opposed to these weapons for the right reasons, not for political reasons.