France: We must use force against Assad if chemical-weapons use is proven

posted at 9:21 am on August 22, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The deaths of hundreds in a Damascus suburb have Western leaders talking retribution.  Syrian rebels claim that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against both the rebels and civilians in the area, while the Bashar al-Assad government vehemently denies this.  Today, France’s foreign minister demanded a show of force if the use of chemical weapons can be proven by UN investigators already on the ground — even if the UN finds itself impotent:

France’s foreign minister said Thursday that “a reaction of force must be taken” if Syrian activists’ claims that the government has used chemical weapons outside the capital, Damascus, are confirmed.

France’s foreign minister said Thursday that force must be used reaction of force must be taken” if Syrian activists’ claims that the government has used chemical weapons outside the capital, Damascus, are confirmed. …

Hours after the closed-door meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told CNN affiliate BFMTV that “force” was needed if the allegations were true.

“If the U.N. Security Council cannot do it, decisions will be made otherwise,” Fabius said. But, he said, sending ground troops to Syria is out of question.

Why?  Shooting a cruise missile to hit an army barracks might sound like a big rebuke to Assad, but it’s not going to change the calculus of the war.  In fact, it won’t even change the calculus of the use of chemical weapons, by either side.  A momentary attack with no follow-up will only allow Western leaders to convince themselves that they’ve done something, even though they will have done nothing at all.

Or, perhaps, M. Fabius has more in mind a concerted air campaign designed to force the collapse of the Assad regime.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because France, the UK, and the US combined to do just that in Libya.  How’s that working out for the West?  Even more pertinently, how did it work out for France?  They had to put boots on the ground in Mali to stop an al-Qaeda takeover that was launched from the failed state of Libya, thanks to our decapitation of the Qaddafi regime and its control over the eastern part of the country.

The US has troops ready to get on the ground and actually accomplish something in the effort to stop the use of chemical weapons:

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is getting ready to seize chemical weapons, anywhere in the world. CBS News’ David Martin went on a training mission with the famous Army unit, the 82nd Airborne.

In the early morning hours recently, paratroopers training at Fort Bragg, N.C., conducted an assault on a compound where they’d been told chemical agents are stored. After a decade of fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was a new mission for the soldiers in Col. Mike Fenzel’s brigade. Fenzel told CBS News, “It’s one that we haven’t really addressed over the last 12 years because we have been focused on Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was just an exercise, but Maj. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said it was designed to deal with a real world threat. Nicholson said, “As we look at the evolving situation in Syria and other places around the world, we’re preparing to deal with the reality of securing chemical weapons.”

The 82nd Airborne is kept on constant alert, ready to load and launch 1,000 paratroopers and their gear within 18 hours to anywhere in the world.

Bloomberg makes a good point about the credibility of the US and “red lines”:

Dempsey and the White House are right not to want to own another conflict in the Middle East. Yet failure to react also has repercussions, in Syria and beyond. Why should Iran, or indeedEgypt’s new military rulers, take U.S. commitments and red lines at face value? In addition,Syria looks set for years of continued civil war in which each side is supplied by regional backers, and spillover to Syria’s neighbors is inevitable. It can’t be in U.S. interests for this war to include chemical weapons.

Nor do Dempsey’s justified concerns about the nature of Syria’s opposition preclude action. The U.S. should accompany any response to a proven use of chemical weapons by Assad with a clear statement of its policy goal in Syria: not to topple the regime or ensure victory for part or all of the opposition, but to force the main parties to a cease-fire. There are ways to do this short of a full-scale U.S. intervention, and an internationally endorsed statement of these limited goals would help to guard against mission creep. …

As Dempsey’s letter makes clear, the administration has chosen a noninterventionist policy in Syria. Almost exactly one year ago, Obama said that “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”

Today’s allegations, when figured into that calculus, may soon demand a more forceful response. Whether it is cruise missiles against Syria’s air force or another military option, it is a response the president — and the rest of the world — should be prepared to deliver.

Cruise missiles against Syria’s air force won’t do anything to change the calculus in this fight, either.  Assad is using traditional artillery, not air power, against the rebels.  We’ll get back to the red-line credibility argument in a moment, but before we do that, shouldn’t we first find out whether it’s been crossed at all?

Two questions are raised by reports of this attack. The first, of course, is whether it happened the way Syrian rebels said it happened. That is why immediately dispatching the UN team, already in-country, to the affected areas is so vital. If this process worked the way it should, they would be there already. If the Syrian regime denies the UN inspectors permission to visit these areas, well, that is kind of an answer in itself.

The second question is, why would the Assad regime launch its biggest chemical attack on rebels and civilians precisely at the moment when a UN inspection team was parked in Damascus? The answer to that question is easy: Because Assad believes that no one — not the UN, not President Obama, not other Western powers, not the Arab League — will do a damn thing to stop him.

There is a good chance he is correct.

Shooting a cruise missile or two won’t stop Assad, if he actually used chemical weapons in the first place.  It will take a large ground force to disarm both sides, if we don’t just aim for securing the chemical weapons, and even the latter mission will require tens of thousands of troops to execute properly.

Finally, we do have an interest in enforcing red lines when we draw them.  However, we don’t have an interest in making the situation worse than it already is by helping al-Qaeda seize Syria, nor do we help ourselves when our response is nothing short of impotent and irrelevant.  If we are not prepared to go big and go for the long term, then we should stay home — and take care in the future not to speak loudly and carry a twig when dealing with the Middle East.


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How many civilians will WE kill if we start blowing stuff up?

myiq2xu on August 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Much fewer civilians than the tens of thousands of the civilians who have been already killed and will be killed in the future by both sides of this civil war … When our military bombs we do so with the most accurate technology ever… Hence we bomb military installations and buildings that belong to the regime with very low casualties among civilians…

mnjg on August 22, 2013 at 1:32 PM

The Israeli defense minister confirmed that it was a chemical attack by the Assad regime… I trust Israel in this case…

I don’t. I don’t trust France either. I especially don’t trust the Obama regime.

That’s not our fight.

myiq2xu on August 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, we look weak and ineffectual since Obama made his “red line” comment.

But that’s fair, isn’t it? We elected Obama; we ARE weak and ineffectual. His “fundamental transformation” of America has been “socialistic vaginafication.” We’re all supposed to be as wimpy as Obama on his girls bike or throwing a baseball to some big meany.

`

Besides, isn’t the socialist principle allegedly “the greatest good to the greatest number?” Well, that’s letting Assad’s evil supporters and their evil opponents keep on killing each other off. It’s sad about the civilians, but both sides in Syria will be killing civilians in other countries in short order if this war ends.

Let ‘em fight it out. Tell ya what: if Assad ends up winning, we take him out then, mmmkay? He’ll be nicely softened up by then, the French could do it without our help.

Adjoran on August 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Christien on August 22, 2013 at 1:00 PM

If you want to go that route, I’ve never seen you around before, either.

The other guy has been here for a couple of years and I have no reason to doubt his service. You can find him all over the internet.

Blake on August 22, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Hence we bomb military installations and buildings that belong to the regime with very low casualties among civilians…

ROFLMFAO

How many will die in the bloodbath that will take place if the rebels win?

myiq2xu on August 22, 2013 at 1:36 PM

The Israeli defense minister confirmed that it was a chemical attack by the Assad regime… I trust Israel in this case…

mnjg on August 22, 2013 at 1:19 PM

No one else has. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.542849

It’s not even clear from his statement that Ya’alon is confirming these particular “attacks”. He doesn’t say he’s conducted an investigation, there’s no mention of sources. We can only speculate he’s basing this passing statement on hearsay about the videos. He just sort of mentions chemical weapons in general in passing.

I trust Israel too. But I don’t think the Defense Minister meant to confirm anything. I think he’s probably already regretting saying this in passing.

Any idiot can see that the videos are fake.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 1:37 PM

I’m getting worried that an hysterical, hyperbolic MSM shrieking “atrocity, atrocity” are going to get America involved in another war–on the wrong side if we choose the Al Qaeda-backed rebels. It’s a dream come true–Arab killing Arab. Let’s give both sides chemical weapons if it can kill them any faster.

As for the French getting involved. Don’t count on it and, if they do, the side they choose will lose.

MaiDee on August 22, 2013 at 1:39 PM

The story I linked is now behind a paywall…

“One alternative is that a large concentration of riot control agents were used here, which could have caused suffocation of large numbers of people who were pressed together in a bunker or underground shelter,” says Gwyn Winfield, a veteran researcher and editor of CBRNe World, a professional journal the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear warfare. While riot-control substances, mainly various types of tear gas, are usually deployed in small quantities using hand-grenades, they can be used in much larger quantities in artillery shells or even dropped in barrels from aircraft as the U.S. Army did in Vietnam, trying to flush the Vietcong out of its underground bunkers. In large concentrations, these substances can cause suffocation, especially in closed spaces where many of the Syrian families would have been hiding from the bombing.

The rebels and the doctors on the scene may indeed believe that chemical weapons were used, since they fear such an attack, but they may not have the necessary knowledge and means to make such a diagnosis.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 1:43 PM

This must really be pissing off the pro-Caliphate forces in the Administration that they can’t gin up the public to support the U.S. military to intervene.

They stirred up Tunisia, then Libya, then Egypt, and those little gulf fiefdoms and now Syria, even Turkey had a taste of it and still no progression towards the re-establishment of this Grand Islamic vision.

Oh, well they’ll have Europe in another 10/20 years, be patient Islam. Just keep having babies and moving around in Europe and you’ll have it in no time.

PappyD61 on August 22, 2013 at 1:44 PM

France: We must use force against Assad if chemical-weapons use is proven

Go ahead, frogs. Let us know how it goes.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 22, 2013 at 1:50 PM

The rebels and the doctors on the scene may indeed believe that chemical weapons were used, since they fear such an attack, but they may not have the necessary knowledge and means to make such a diagnosis.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 1:43 PM

That’s not too far of a stretch. Unintended suffocation deaths resulted when Russian troops tried breaking a hostage situation in a movie theater against Chechen terrorists. They used gas that was meant to put everyone to sleep, but the concentration got too high.

Liam on August 22, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Blake on August 22, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Alright, you’re vouching for the reservist. That’s a big help, so thank you very much. I do see he has posted here occasionally before, though I do not ever recall seeing him.

Christien on August 22, 2013 at 2:00 PM

I do see he has posted here occasionally before, though I do not ever recall seeing him.

Christien on August 22, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Neither did I. I did a websearch. He also has a website. However, don’t mistake my comment as agreement with him.

Blake on August 22, 2013 at 2:19 PM

France: We must use force against Assad if chemical-weapons use is proven

Yeah, because France did so well in Algeria and Viet Nam. What was it Patton said, “I’d rather have a German division in front of me than a French division behind me.”

tommyboy on August 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

However, don’t mistake my comment as agreement with him.

Blake on August 22, 2013 at 2:19 PM

I don’t. I just take exception to him repeatedly insulting good people here who have serious reservations about America’s Mideast actions and policies under our current administration. Hopefully, he doesn’t go Terp Mole on us.

Christien on August 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Postcards From Egypt (Photo Essay)

Resist We Much on August 22, 2013 at 2:24 PM

And some people here still doubt this whole “chemical weapon attack” isn’t faked drummed up nonsense to try and get a reaction out of the U.S.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM

double negatives! oops

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Phony as a three dollar bill. Do they think no one in the West has ever seen a dead body?

Here’s a personal old favorite of Islamic deception:

http://www.lindasog.com/pics07/08/bullets.jpg

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM

As for the French getting involved. Don’t count on it and, if they do, the side they choose will lose.

MaiDee on August 22, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Go ahead, frogs. Let us know how it goes.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 22, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Yeah, because France did so well in Algeria and Viet Nam. What was it Patton said, “I’d rather have a German division in front of me than a French division behind me.”

tommyboy on August 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Al Bundy agrees

Del Dolemonte on August 22, 2013 at 2:46 PM

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM

That one is classic. I like the “making of” documentaries best…

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=0b4_1375922321

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 2:50 PM

The trouble with all this talk about credibility is that the outcome, if you do it right, is that the leader of the other country complies, like Gaddafi did. America shook his hand, made peace with him, and killed him anyway.

No matter how credibly you enforce your red-lines, you can’t make this add up from the point of view of any dictator thinking about whether he should comply like Gaddafi or take his chances on defiance like the Iranians.

Killing Gaddafi, making a bloody example of the guy who was doing what America wanted, was a huge diplomatic mistake. I don’t know of any other diplomatic mistake America made that was as bad. Ever.

America cannot make diplomacy work in the Middle East any more. It might as well walk. There’s nothing left to play for, it’s all wrecked.

David Blue on August 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 2:50 PM

And the best part is this is probably staged to make the other side look like they’re the ones faking it. All these folks are the best!

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM

That’s an instant classic, complete with signs in English to reach the target audience!

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 2:58 PM

I just take exception to him repeatedly insulting good people here who have serious reservations about America’s Mideast actions and policies under our current administration.

Christien on August 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Agreed.

Blake on August 22, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Looks like the Great Chemical Attack of 2013 has entirely disappeared from Drudge.

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Looks like the Great Chemical Attack of 2013 has entirely disappeared from Drudge.

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

But what about all those “corpses”? I saw them with my own eyes on the Internet! Their eyes were closed and they were covered in a white sheets, just like real dead people.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Feel free to do so, France.

I’m not remotely interested in sending US forces anywhere near an environment that has us choosing sides between Assad and Al-Qaeda, with chemical weapons being used.

Midas on August 22, 2013 at 3:21 PM

http://www.lindasog.com/pics07/08/bullets.jpg

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM

LOL! We no longer have “news” services. It’s all propaganda now.

WisRich on August 22, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Yea, every few years, France forgets it’s not an empire anymore. Just pay them a little attention and they’ll go away.

And I think they said ‘oui’, not ‘we’. We know who ‘we’ is.

Tsar of Earth on August 22, 2013 at 3:31 PM

claudius on August 22, 2013 at 2:41 PM

I remember this:

And more fun with Big Media propagandists: During a soi-disant Israeli “power cut”, Palestinians are forced to hold a parliamentary session by candlelight. Alas, even with the curtains drawn, the blazing sunlight keeps peeping through.

It’s all BS. The Palestinians even admitted some time later that not only was session staged, the ‘Power Cut” was as well!

WisRich on August 22, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Never really understood the distinction. We’re cool with a leader slaughtering thousands of his own citizens with conventional weaponry, but if he uses chemical weapons…well, we can’t have that, now can we!

Good Solid B-Plus on August 22, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Not to be totally cynical, but it’s pretty obvious that the French are only saying this since they’ve seen the videos and they can tell (as can anyone who isn’t completely blind) they’re totally fake.

They know chemical weapons use will not be proven. Easy way to seem tough.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Odd that Obama said his “red line” was chemical weapons.

That should be all you need to know to understand where Obama’s allegiance lies.
darwin on August 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM

0booba’s calculus was that chemical weapons would not be used. He wanted to sound tough while hedging his bet. Too bad the Syrian army doesn’t give squat about dear leader.

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 3:48 PM

0booba’s calculus was that chemical weapons would not be used.

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 3:48 PM

So far he’s right.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Never really understood the distinction.
Good Solid B-Plus on August 22, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Well, you would if you saw what actually happens from a chemical-weapons attack instead of drummed up fake Islamic nonsense that we’ve seen paraded as a “chemical attack”.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:56 PM

So far he’s right.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Possibly. Not sure what he’s right about, though. Is it the calculus that his tough talk is keeping the Syrian army at bay with regard to chem weapon use? Maybe so.

Perhaps I spoke too soon. Maybe the injuries were staged. Still, I believe he took a gamble by posturing like that; he bluffed, so to speak. What’s he going to do if it’s shown that it was a chem attack?

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 4:02 PM

They know chemical weapons use will not be proven. Easy way to seem tough.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Ha! I see you are saying that the French are doing something similar to what I’m saying dear leader did.

Uh oh. Does that make dear leader French? Does that make you and me alike? Interesting.

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 4:07 PM

What’s he going to do if it’s shown that it was a chem attack?

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 4:02 PM

It won’t be, since it’s staged nonsense. Regardless… what if next week there actually is a chemical attack? I suppose he’ll be in a mild pickle and will launch some sort of bombing on various military installations where they think the chemical attack originated.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Well, you would if you saw what actually happens from a chemical-weapons attack instead of drummed up fake Islamic nonsense that we’ve seen paraded as a “chemical attack”.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 3:56 PM

So it’s fine for despots to kill their people en masse as long as the death is more “humane,” like a quick bullet to the head?

Nonsense.

Good Solid B-Plus on August 22, 2013 at 4:19 PM

The rebels carried out this chemical attack in conjunction with U.N. forces in order to get the U.S. (and U.N.) forces in Syria. It’s a complete and utter false flag of sorts. These people are pure evil.

fatlibertarianinokc on August 22, 2013 at 4:36 PM

The rebels carried out this chemical attack in conjunction with U.N. forces in order to get the U.S. (and U.N.) forces in Syria. It’s a complete and utter false flag of sorts. These people are pure evil.
fatlibertarianinokc on August 22, 2013 at 4:36 PM

You mean they made a collection of fake videos about a “chemical attack” or you actually think there was a chemical attack?

The videos are fake. There wasn’t an attack that has been filmed. If there was an attack it has mysteriously happened without a single camera present.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 4:54 PM

…what if next week there actually is a chemical attack? I suppose he’ll be in a mild pickle and will launch some sort of bombing on various military installations where they think the chemical attack originated.

happytobehere on August 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM

That’s what I was getting at.

freedomfirst on August 22, 2013 at 5:05 PM

It’s fake. But just for the record…

When the French are calling for action and You’re not…

You’re a pussy.

(Full disclosure: Yes, I would throw the gloves on the ice with Bob Probert. Yes, I’m stupid that way.)

a5minmajor on August 22, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Containment. Let Syria sort it out.

thatsafactjack on August 22, 2013 at 6:21 PM

France is always willing to fight against tyranny, down to the last American.

RSbrewer on August 22, 2013 at 6:32 PM

No, we just have to make sure each side has equal amounts!

redware on August 22, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Knock yourself out France. Since you didn’t have our backs when we took out Saddam (who also used chemical weapons), we’ll just sit this one out while denouncing you every step of the way.

BDavis on August 22, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Sunnis killing Shias, and vice-versa – I don’t see a problem.

mojo on August 22, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Sunnis killing Shias, and vice-versa – I don’t see a problem.

mojo on August 22, 2013 at 11:02 PM

The people who’ve seen this as a problem were George W. Bush, who pushed the “Islam means peace” line, and Barack H. Obama, who once referred to his Muslim religion.

David Blue on August 22, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Bwahahahahahoohooheehee…FRANCE?!?

The same nation we just had to ferry over somewhere else?

Good luck, buckos.

MelonCollie on August 23, 2013 at 10:49 AM

France: We must use force against Assad if chemical-weapons use is proven

Go ahead, France, we’re right behind ya. Want us to hold you coat?

jclittlep on August 23, 2013 at 2:37 PM

They had to put boots on the ground in Mali to stop an al-Qaeda takeover that was launched from the failed state of Libya

Huh?

Are we talking about Libya or Algeria?

Reaps on August 24, 2013 at 2:31 AM

Go Get ‘em, Hollande.

TimBuk3 on August 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

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