Whether we respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria with military force is ultimately irrelevant. Our reaction, or lack thereof, will not end the civil war there. It will not reduce the brutality of the Assad regime. What that regime does not accomplish with chemical weapons, it will accomplish by other means. The Assad family has proven over decades it will do as it sees fit to maintain its authoritarian control over its people. A few cruise missiles may change their methods, but not their goals or morals.
This is the way of dictators. They are the bullies of politics. They are not interested in discussion or reason. They are only interested in obtaining and maintaining power by any means necessary. Whether they accomplish this through rhetoric, intimidation, or outright force of arms is of little consequence in their minds.
The Russian and Chinese governments may not (yet) be as outwardly brutal as the Assad family, but that is only because their secrecy and restraint was the price they paid to increase their economic power. Syria’s much desired oil reserves means that whoever controls Syria will have a place carved out for them in the world economy for those who desire access to those reserves.
Is it outrageous? Absolutely. But by catering to dictators throughout the world we have helped create a world where for many people their choices are to decide between fanatical religious terrorists, strongman regimes, or military takeover – Al Qaeda fighting with the Syrian Rebels, the Muslim brotherhood the clear winners of the “Arab Spring”, the Pakistani and Egyptian armies moving against extreme regimes as democracy fails to bring freedom.
The decisions over decades of the Cold War were based largely on oil reserves and Red/non-Red status. Promoting the values of individual freedom took a backseat to the realpolitik of that age. And economic decisions made since the fall of the Soviet Union have served only to strengthen the varied and militant forces of tyranny throughout the world.
The nation with the world’s greatest economy and military freed business, not people. Look at the world we have wrought.