Debate: Obama said chemical weapons were a ‘red line’ for intervention in Syria. So should America now intervene?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

Last August President Obama vowed that were the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war it would constitute crossing a "red line".

Obama's word is now being tested as reports last week suggested that chemical weapons had been used, a revelation the President again described as "game changing".

But, with the relatively small-scale of the episodes currently under investigation, America has not yet acted on its threats.

Should Obama keep his word and step up US intervention in the conflict?

Case for: Word

For America not to act now looks worse than cowardly. Assurances were given - to the press, but more importantly to the Syrian people - that if the barbarous regime of Assad used chemical weapons then the US would act. We've seen the videos of what looks like civilians suffering from chemical attacks. But we've neither seen nor heard anything from Obama. It would be unconscionable  now, having made so many promises, to continue to sit on the sidelines. Moreover, it would render America's word - a previously valuable political currency - null and void.

Case against: Pragmatism

Obama's statement, it seems, was not one he had aligned with his policy advisers. It might well have been political tough-talk, a line floated to dissuade Assad from pursuing further butchery. Far worse than the President looking a little foolish would be to allow US foreign policy to be dictated by a political foot-fault. Since intervention is expensive and America's strategic interests unchallenged by Syria's civil war, it's better to wait and weigh the evidence further.