To bomb, or not to bomb, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler to allow
A tyrant to murder his own people,
Or by taking arms against him,
To empower a common enemy.
The Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to murder more than a thousand of his own subjects in cold blood. The use of chemical weapons was outlawed after the First World War because of their disproportionate impact on civilians, who unlike soldiers have neither the training nor equipment to detect, let alone protect themselves against this threat.
The strategic problem that the US faces here is that the Syrian opposition is largely Islamist and anti-western. So far, the US has been happy with a “pox on both houses” hands off strategy: a bloody stalemate without end that leaves both enemies weakened. This is no longer a simple choice.
Not to respond is a choice, a choice to effectively renounce the hitherto-fore remarkably effective 1925 Geneva Protocol on the use of chemical weapons. But the alternative of effective response would unbalance the stalemate, and so to risk a world in which a mortal enemy is stronger than they'd have been without our action. Neither world is attractive to US interests.
Obama is right when he says that the use of chemical weapon's isn't his red line, it is the world's. Yet the rest of the world (save only our seminal allies, the French) defers, or in Russia's case, obstructs. We can stand aside. Yet, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” All in favor of Satan, raise your hands…
This is not a partisan question: pro-war votes come from McCain and Pelosi; anti-war votes from Grayson and Paul. And whoever “wins” this debate will bear the full responsibility for its consequences, which are all-but guaranteed to be bad.
My opinion is that if both houses of Congress reject action, it would be political suicide for Obama to act, and he won't. But a likely result is that the Senate will approve, while the House will disapprove action, in which case Obama will rely on the War Powers Act to act.
We all want peace. But what is the true path?