Readers are undoubtedly familiar with the various "doctrines" named after American presidents. Those named after James Monroe, Harry Truman and George W. Bush are among the best known.
Well, we have a new one, announced this week by Secretary of State John Kerry. It is a new doctrine of war -- so new, in fact, that it is not only new to America; it is new in the annals of military history.
Kerry announced that an American attack on the Assad regime for using chemical weapons would be an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort." This novel mode of fighting should be known by its acronym, USLKOE (pronounced US-il-ko).
How novel is it? It is inconceivable that any country in history has ever announced to its adversary that its forthcoming attack would be an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."
But what matters most is not USLKOE's novelty. It is that it has rendered it impossible to argue the case for attacking Syria. If the American attack -- presuming there will be one -- is indeed an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort," such an attack would be worse than doing nothing.
If the president is serious about punishing the Assad regime for crossing the "red line" that he himself set, then it is a punishment that Assad needs to feel. A "symbolic" attack is not an attack. The attack must injure, not symbolize.
Why should we injure the Assad regime? Here are five reasons:
1. Doing nothing gives Iran, America's greatest enemy -- indeed the most dangerous regime in the world at the present time -- a huge victory. We will have lost our best chance to weaken Iran's most important ally, the regime that gives Iran clout in the Arab Middle East and which supports Hezbollah.
2. Doing nothing gives Putin an equally great victory. He -- along with China, though he is the more outspoken -- is what prevents the United Nations from authorizing military action against Syria.
3. Doing nothing elevates the status of that amoral body, the United Nations Security Council. The more the United States seeks Security Council or other U.N. approval, the less a force for good America will be in the world. If you seek a better world, it can only be done despite, not in obedience to, the United Nations.
4. Doing nothing sends the message to both friends and foes of the United States that America's word is now largely worthless. We don't even honor our own "red lines." The Israeli government, for example, is officially silent, but Israelis from left to right are concluding that as long as Barack Obama is president of the United States, they are alone in their existential battle with Iran. And one suspects the Taiwanese must feel similarly.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”