The horrors Obama warned would happen if he didn’t intervene in Syria are happening

History will come to regard President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013 as a pivotal speech. In that address, Obama warned Americans about the dangers posed by a failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and of what an unwillingness to intervene in that rapidly worsening conflict could mean for the geopolitical order. He then went on to state why he would probably ignore his own advice.

While the president chose not to intervene in that conflict, Obama’s warnings regarding the threat the Syrian civil war posed to the world were not unfounded. It seems that the president’s failure to follow up on his own “red line” for action has yielded many of the consequences Obama warned would follow Western inaction.

“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” Obama warned in 2013. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.”

“Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield,” he continued. “And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.”

Well, American troops have not yet encountered Syrian chlorine gas – an “undeclared” chemical weapon which Assad’s forces have retained and used on multiple occasions with total impunity for over a year – but local populations in Iraq reportedly have. According to The Wall Street Journal’s correspondent in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces came under chemical attack by ISIS militants.

The report is unconfirmed, and it is worth considering it with skepticism in mind. It is, however, not inconceivable that the Islamic State, which has telegraphed its intention to secure nonconventional weapons in a variety of ways, has secured some weaponized chlorine from Assad’s forces.

The over 1,000 American “boots on the ground” in Iraq, and the thousands more who will be introduced into Iraq and Syria (whether Washington acknowledges them or not) may soon be imperiled by the regional chemical war Obama’s inaction unleashed.

“If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel,” Obama warned. None of these countries have been directly attacked with a chemical weapon yet, but it seems to only be a matter of time. Turkey is taking preventative action by calling on the United Nations to take action over Assad’s “systematic and repeated” use of chlorine gas.

“The use of chlorine gas by the Syrian regime once again reveals the threat it poses to regional and international peace and stability,” Turkey’s foreign minister warned on Sunday. His words virtually echo those Obama spoke just one year ago, repudiating the so-called success associated with Syria’s surrender of its declared nerve agents.

Obama also warned that, with the international norm prohibiting the use of WMDs having been violated, other dictatorial leaders may appeal to their use when facing internal or regional instability. At the very least, it will be harder to deter foreign leaders from violating the WMD taboo after it has been clearly demonstrated that the international will to impose consequences on the violators does not exist.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong,” Obama closed one year ago. “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.”

But he did not act. One year later, Obama was again addressing the nation about the need to combat the threat to international security in the Middle East. By then, the threat had evolved from a Syrian civil war into a regional conflict. Assad remains a problem, but the Islamic State born out of that war is now a bigger threat to international security and human dignity.

Obama warned us, but he did not take his own advice. The consequences of inaction have never been clearer.