I admit, I get nervous when I read stories like this one questioning whether Assad is really directly responsible for Syria’s gas attacks. But then I watch Susan Rice and feel better, because I know: If she’s willing to stand behind an intelligence assessment, you can take it to the bank, baby.
Two highlights from today’s speech, one via the AP and the other via the Corner. Neither includes the part where she talked about how she feels as a mom looking at photos of Syrian children after they were gassed by the monster in Damascus. Is that feeling different from how she feels when she looks at photos of Syrian children shot and bombed? This is what I can’t understand about the White House’s sales pitch in all this: Normally it’s perfectly understandable to make a humanitarian case for intervention, but how do you make that case after sitting by for two and a half years while 100,000 people are killed? It’s ludicrous. If you want to try to sell the public on intervention at this late date, your best argument is that WMD use is, always and everywhere, a threat to U.S. national security. (Rice makes that claim here, naturally.) To add a johnny-come-lately humanitarian argument almost weakens the case, frankly, since it’s so glaringly hypocritical. They don’t care about Syrian kids or they would have bombed him in 2011. Simple as that. Why pretend otherwise now? Nobody’s fooled.
One other thing. In the second clip, she claims that letting Assad’s use of gas go unpunished would raise the risk “that deadly chemicals would spill across borders into neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.” How so? Logically, bombing Assad is more likely to make that happen than any alternative. If you hit him hard, he might retaliate by handing off nerve gas to Hezbollah or to his military units with instructions to go nuts on civilians. Or, if you take out the units that safeguard the gas, you might inadvertently clear the way for jihadi rebels to seize their arsenal before U.S. troops can reach it to secure it. The less Assad has to lose, the greater the risk that he’ll open the valves; the harder the U.S. hits him, potentially turning the tide of the war, the less he has to lose. Punishing this degenerate to send a message to would-be gassers in other countries is fine, and maybe would reduce the use of chemical weapons long-term, but understand that the price of that is probably more gas in the near term, not less.