The United States and its allies have no choice but to respond militarily to what looks like a deadly, provocative use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad against its own people. The poison gas attack on Aug. 21 is said to have killed nearly 1,500 people, including almost 500 children.
Syria's use of poison gas — if that is what the team of international weapons inspectors concludes — cannot go unpunished. To do nothing but wag a finger would invite Mr. Assad to do it again and would send the wrong signals to other rogue regimes that aspire to possess weapons of mass destruction.
As President Obama said Friday, the use of a weapon of mass destruction by a hostile regime, even against its own people, threatens U.S. national security interests and threatens our allies, such as Israel, in the region. It's also just horribly inhumane.
The war-weary American people are closely divided on the issue of a military response, however. So appears to be Congress. Even this state's two U.S. senators, both Democrats, are at odds over the proper response by Washington: Chris Murphy is far less inclined to support a military intervention against Syria than Richard Blumenthal is.
Our closest ally, Britain, disillusioned by the experience of going to war against Iraq under false pretenses — the claim by the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction — has said it won't help this time.
The U.S. military budget is already under stress because of decade-long wars elsewhere in the Middle East. Moreover, there's little chance that intervention by the allies would be a game-changer in the bloody 2-year-old Syrian civil war, which Mr. Assad seems to be winning at the moment.
But to do nothing would produce worse results. Imagine the encouragement that a free pass to Mr. Assad would give nuclear-ambitious Iran. Imagine the damage to U.S. credibility.
A military intervention by the United States and its allies would resonate in Tehran. And it would surely have the salutary effect of degrading Mr. Assad's capability to deliver more chemical weapons, as well as his enthusiasm for doing so.
Any response should be proportional and time-limited. It should depend upon the findings of the U.N. weapons inspectors. Moreover, Mr. Obama should ask Congress to approve his use of force in Syria.
The president shouldn't go it alone.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun