There’s been claims lately that we must strike in Syria as a deterrent to any regimes who would use chemical weapons*. We must strike anyone who uses chemical weapons, which will prevent their use in the future and save many innocent lives.
That sounds noble, but it is a lie. Chemical weapons were used in southeast Asia during the cold war without retaliation. More recently, they were used in the Iran-Iraq war (1980) without even so much as sanctions. If we strike Syria, a dictator contemplating use of chemical weapons would predict US involvement 33% of the time, which isn’t even a correlation. On the other hand, he could predict US involvement far more accurately by completely ignoring chemical weapons use and focusing instead on “when is it politically inconvenient” instead.
It seems use of chemical weapons is only ever an excuse used to sell a war that is being pursued for other reasons. Which makes sense when you apply the Quirrell Filter. War is costly. No nation expends those sorts of resources to uphold vague and idealistic “Rules” written decades ago. They spend those resources when they expect to profit from it. Citing broken rules simply makes it easier for them to convince themselves that they are noble and just rather than opportunistic. Fooling ourselves is possibly what our brains were designed to do, it’s no wonder we’re so good at it.
What do we gain out of this costly intervention though? (more tomorrow)
*I’m using the term “chemical weapons” in the standard way – meaning weapons that aren’t very effective on the battlefield; which are primarily only useful as a terror weapon, mostly against civilians. Which is why Sarin counts, but white phosphorous doesn’t.