White House spokesman: A major gas attack in Syria would threaten U.S. national security; Update: Pentagon preparing cruise missile attack?

Sounds … intervention-y.

“In this situation, when there are weapons of mass destruction involved — or when there is evidence that weapons of mass destruction may be involved — that would have an impact on the calculus about the impact that this has on our national security,” Earnest said. “Ultimately, that is the criteria that the president will use as he evaluates the best course of action in this situation, that is the best interests of national security.”

“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and in this case there’s some evidence for that, it’s certainly something that the president is very concerned about. And it does have significant implications for our national security,” Earnest said.

Does it? As atrocious as it was, what new information does the Damascus gas attack add to our Syria “calculus,” to borrow a word Earnest used today? We knew Assad had chemical weapons; we knew that he’s willing to kill as many people as he needs or wants to retain power and protect the Alawites; and we knew (or kinda knew) from previous suspicious incidents — as many as 35 by one count — that he’s willing to use gas. The Damascus attack shows that he’s willing to use it on a larger scale than before, but his motive for the escalation is unclear. Does it follow logically that because he feels he can attack Syrians with impunity that he’d also now feel he can attack Americans with impunity? I’m thinking … no. There are phony rhetorical “red lines” of the sort O bumbled into last year in a lame attempt to deter Assad, and then there are real Red Lines that come with, say, flying planes into American skyscraper. A man as dogged as Assad about hanging on in Syria has a very strong incentive to keep his gas stockpile far out of range of U.S. citizens. The jihadis he’s fighting have much less incentive, which brings us back around to the cosmic irony that a U.S. attack on Assad would probably raise the risk of chemical terrorism against Americans by weakening regime control over the arsenal.

The significance of the Damascus attack isn’t that it poses a special threat to U.S. security, it’s that it weakens the international taboo against using WMD. And since the U.S. is, as O said in his CNN interview this morning, “the indispensable nation,” that means we’ve got to lead the charge (whatever the charge in this case looks like) against Assad. When a major crime is committed, the global policeman springs into action. Provided, of course, that the United Nations says he can:

OBAMA: …There’s a reason why, when you listen to what’s happened around Egypt and Syria, that everybody asks what the U.S. is doing. It’s because the United States continues to be the one country that people expect can do more than just simply protect their borders.

But that does not mean that we have to get involved with everything immediately. We have to think through strategically what’s going to be in our long-term national interests, even as we work cooperatively internationally to do everything we can to put pressure on those who would kill innocent civilians…

And, you know, if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.

The fact that he’s emphasizing UN approval as an obstacle shows you how reluctant he is even now to intervene. The UN’s not going to do anything about Syria; Russia will veto any nascent international coalition into oblivion. In fact, not only is the Security Council paralyzed, but the UN has ordered its chemical weapons team in Syria not to go to the Damascus suburb where the new attack occurred because it’s simply too dangerous for them. O’s stuck in a moronic cycle of his own making where he clearly doesn’t want to get involve in Syria but is compelled to respond to each new Assad provocation with ever finer gradations of heightened “concern.” That’s what Josh Earnest’s blather about a threat to U.S. national security is about. We used to be taking this WMD stuff very seriously, but now we’re taking it very, very seriously, even as the president’s telling CNN that we need to think hard about not violating international law in trying to stop gas massacres. Oh well. Expect a small but symbolic upgrade in the quality of weapons that Syria’s rebels will be getting sometime soon.

Update: Does this sound like an administration that thinks it’s facing a national security threat?

Mystery solved. America’s ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was in Ireland on a personal trip when she missed an emergency meeting on the alleged chemical gas attack in Syria, U.N. sources tell Fox News.

A day earlier, State Department officials were mum when asked for information on Power’s whereabouts. She had come under fire for missing Wednesday’s urgent U.N. Security Council meeting, where delegations weighed how to respond to charges that the Assad regime had just committed the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the country’s two-year civil war.

Update: I guess O decided he’d finally bled too much credibility. Friday surprise!

As that news was breaking at CBS, Reuters was reporting that western intelligence has in fact determined that the Damascus attack was likely chemical in nature. A belated exit question for you: Why on earth is this being leaked to CBS? Is O trying to gauge public reaction to a strike before it happens? (WMD use is the only thing that softens the poll numbers against U.S. action in Syria.) Preparing a strike on Assad and then telling him it’s coming is the perfect ending to the Obama intervention saga. The “red line” chatter was a symbolic gesture, and now the “red line” attack is going to be mostly symbolic too.

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