Terming use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war a “red line” that, if crossed, would result in decisive U.S. action was a mistake on President Barack Obama’s part. Living up to his pledge could be an even greater error.
Last week, rebels fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime said the Syrian army had used chemical weapons against them, killing many civilians including children. That sparked calls for more active intervention on behalf of the Syrian rebels.
As matters stand, exactly what happened has not been determined. Nevertheless, officials of several countries, including the U.S., are threatening to take additional action against Assad. Some, including the U.S., say military involvement should be an option.
Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have threatened a military response.
But the war in Syria is among the most complex conflicts seen during recent years. For one thing, Islamic terrorists are among the rebels.
One option – direct intervention by U.S. armed forces – ought to be off the table. Whether the U.S. should support such action by other countries is nearly as questionable.
Use of chemical weapons against civilians is a horrible thing. A knee-jerk reaction to it in Washington could cause even more deaths and destruction, however.