Thursday, August 29, 2013


President Obama is considering whether to respond with military action to the chemical attacks in the Jobar, Kafr Batna, Hamoryah, Erbin, Douma, Zamalka, and East Ghouta regions in the suburbs of Damascus.

The President has declared that he would act if the Syrian Government crossed a "Red Line", which included the use of chemical weapons. The failure to act would therefore, be presumed to undermine the credibility of statements of US intention to act.

If the Government is, indeed the perpetrator of the acts, then it can also be inferred that the acts themselves may have been based on the belief that the US would not respond, and that they can act with impunity. 

To fail to respond is therefore to open the door to even more unrestrained action, with just barest veil of cover, in the belief that now, there will be no US response.

If the US were to respond militarily, it would need to do so in a way that is calibrated to sufficiently damage and restrain the Syrian government, without giving such advantage to rebel forces that they will burst from sufficient US leverage and management, given the presence of radical Islamist members among them. Such calibration is an inherent gamble.

More centrally, the moral imperative to act militarily and the nature of these acts rests upon the ability to identify their perpetrator. The information thus far provided is inferential, not conclusive.

Assuming that there is no greater certainty in information that has been kept private:

The essential crucible is thus in the tension between the consequences of the failure to act and the consequences in acting without clarity regarding the perpetrator.

Given that the consequences of military action here will be extremely significant, the standard here should not be a preponderance of the evidence, but certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the basis of the evidence provided, we have not yet met that standard. 

The question thus should become: What is the most severe non-military response that we can provide, that is both diplomatically deft with regard to our explanation for withholding military action at this point, and that has sufficient impact to act proportionately, based upon the preponderance on the evidence. 

With such a response, We do not sacrifice the ability to act militarily should we determine a basis with greater certainty--and our current response should take us just to the place before this line.