When I see quotes like this:
Chemical weapons attacks
have killed dozens of people near Damascus,
(Syrian opposition activists claim).
I’m reminded of this Churchill quote, (from the days before mass ITC media, remember).
“A lie gets halfway around the world,
before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
(Hat tip to David Gurteen, I think, for reminding me of the Churchill quote – can’t find the tweet.)
UPDATE – 27 August. OK, the truth is getting its pants on – so the facts are now accepted undoubted chemical weapon “attack” and undoubtedly by “Assad regime” (Kerry statement no less). So – given that – a specific moral case to answer – questions of what kind of intervention (for me) still depend more on context than on any “scientific” justification for specific long term ends from specific short-term actions. The message of unacceptability is end enough to justify an intervention, details of the intervention can be evolved to longer term ends. Initially – take out or disable the head and/or its communications (I’d be amazed – disappointed – if detailed plans for such didn’t already exist).
Context questions for me are basically “how come?” Who were the specific target civilians and what are they to Assad’s interests? In what sense was the attack targetted or “indiscriminate” or a one-off – what other chemical / non-chemical attacks on those targets or others? What did Assad and/or his operational commanders think they were aiming to achieve, what are the decision / communication channels? Where is the cock-up vs conspiracy balance? Is the whole affair really just a Sunni vs Shia religious political power struggle? (And remember none of these questions undermine the basic moral case, they add meat to what makes a “wise” intervention, not the case “for” an intervention.)
[PPS 29th August. OK, so right first time, doubt of intent is still significant. And to be clear “being responsible” is not in doubt either, but that is different to intent. Sure Assad’s military are responsible for chemical weapons being accessible in Syria in 2013 whoever releases them for whatever reason. That’s why Syrian authorities must be seen to address.]