OK so, I know I’m about to start some shit with some people I really love and respect but…can we stop pretending like this is 2003?
Chemical weapons are an atrocity. They’re a kind of neutron bomb, only hurting living things and not infrastructure. There are few more terrible ways to die. There is no doubt that they were used in very large quantities in Syria, and that they killed over 1000 people.
Let’s talk for a second about how sarin gas kills you. Sarin is a nerve agent…colorless and odorless. When you inhale it, it interferes with receptors in your nervous system. This causes intensely painful seizures and tremors Your muscles contract wildly, past the point of exhaustion, the seizing because torturous. Eventually, you completely lose of control of your body.
While this is happening, you start breathing faster, eventually inhaling and exhaling so rapidly that you aren’t actually taking in any new air, so in addition to being in torturous pain, you are unable to breath. You asphyxiate. You drown in the open air. Some people fall unconscious from the pain and exhaustion before they begin to drown, so we can be thankful for that.
The fact that this happened to children in my world while I could do nothing about it is very painful.
Syria (and pretty much every other nation) signed the Geneva Convention, saying that they would never use chemical weapons. Many nations would like to use chemical weapons, but they know that it is forbidden and there will be consequences for using them.
I’m not saying those consequences have to be rapid, and I think the Obama administration has not rushed. I think also they are wrong to move before the UN has made its determination. But I do want there to be consequences, because otherwise, what will stop Assad from doing it again…from clearing out entire populations while leaving the cities they left behind entirely in tact and undamaged.
This is not about regime change, it’s not about trying to find an excuse, it’s not about staying at war forever. This is about limited missiles strikes to say “you can’t kill people this way, that’s where we drew the line.” Maybe the Obama administration does want to go to war with Assad, I don’t know, but that’s not what they’re proposing right now.
This is not 2003. Pretending like it’s 2003 is just willful ignorance. This is a complicated situation with no good solution. Assad is terrible, but removing him would be equally terrible. All we can do is enforce the rules…and be glad we have the rules we have.