Since March 2011, Syria has been in the throes of a civil war. Those seeking to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad are a mixture of his domestic political opponents, disgruntled former Syrian military officers and dangerous radical foreign Islamist fighters affiliated with al-Qaida. International organizations monitoring the war have put the dead from both sides at more than 100,000 persons.
Until last week, the U.S. had steadfastly stayed out of this war, as its outcome is unlikely to affect American national security. Though Assad is a former friend who once famously dined with then Sen. John Kerry, he is now a monster willing to go to extremes to stay in power. On the other hand, our allies in the region surely would prefer that the Syrian government not be run by or under the influence of al-Qaida, and federal law prohibits Americans and the U.S. government from aiding al-Qaida. Hence, our neutrality -- until Obama made a thoughtless and bravado-driven comment during his re-election campaign in August 2012, and now fears that his bluff has been called.
In his comment, the president, sounding like an international policeman -- a position he condemned when President George W. Bush sounded that way -- declared that if the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its adversaries, the very use of which is prohibited by all civilized norms, America would revisit its neutrality. In reliance upon what he now claims is sound intelligence showing government use of chemical weapons on innocent Syrian civilians, Obama last week stated an intention to engage in a limited military invasion of Syria so as to weaken its resolve and ability to fight the rebels further.