Austin: Would establishing that Syria has used chemical weapons be enough trigger international intervention?

By: /
April 26, 2013

When is a red line not a red line? Asking the United Nations Security Council to authorize a military intervention is fraught with questions of proof of use of chemical weapons and whether, if shown to have been used, was such use authorized by the Bashar government or, as may be the claim, the limited use was employed by so called “rogue” elements in the Syrian military. It is clear that neither Russia nor China would give consent without an almost egregious demonstration of chemical use against masses of population.

Intervention by the United States on a unilateral basis, with or without allies, will not proceed unless the political will of the American people can be mobilized. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are fresh in the minds of their population. It is unlikely that there will be a direct attack on the United States as provoked intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does the United States have the moral conviction and political will to intervene on the basis of a proven use of chemical weapons directed by the Syrian authorities where the Security Council is thwarted? Either way, it would be definitive of the global order for some time to come.