Did the Syrian government, or did it not, use chemical weapons - that is the question that will apparently decide whether the U.S. will enter another, messy war, one that may have many long-term consequences.
That is the question the media and its talking heads are abuzz with.
And yet, that is also the question that - to any objective, independent thinker - is wholly irrelevant. Why? Because the fact is, from one end of the world to the other, outrageous human rights abuses - many much worse than the use of chemical weapons - are going on.
As Bruce Thornton recently put it in a FrontPage Magazine article:
[A]ll this rhetoric about "crimes against humanity" and the "responsibility to protect" reeks of hypocrisy and moral preening. The President said, "We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale." Who's he kidding? We already have, in Hussein's Iraq. Change "gassed" to "bombed," "fire-bombed," "hacked to death," "machine-gunned," and "starved" and you can cover the globe with the victims whose deaths on a "terrible scale" we have "accepted." We have stood by and watched millions of women, children, and innocent civilians murdered in all sorts of ways equally as, or more gruesome and painful than, dying by poison gas.
In Rwanda anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 men, women, and children were slaughtered in 1994, many by being hacked to death with machetes, not to mention the women raped, purposely infected with HIV, and sexually mutilated. We did nothing to stop the killing not because we militarily couldn't, but because it was not in our national interests and security to do so. Hence we sent in a toothless U.N. to salve our consciences and deflect the charge of callous inactivity.
So all those calling for intervention in Syria or anywhere else to prevent "crimes against humanity" should be required to explain just how this unfortunately common slaughter is different from all those others we did not intervene to stop. The fact is, given that we cannot expend our citizens' lives to protect all the millions of global victims of violence, we must make the decision based not on "international norms" but on the national interests and security of the United States, as these are determined by the citizens of the United States through their elected representatives. In the event, frequently pursuing those interests will end up punishing egregious violators like Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. But the definitive criterion must be how the action concretely protects our citizens and our interests.
Specifically answering that question––not appealing to delusional "international norms," or assertions of deterring future malefactors on behalf of some imagined "global community"––should be the focus of the upcoming Congressional debate.
Concerning Syria, then, the real question is not whether Assad used chemical weapons or not, but rather why his doing so would warrant U.S. military intervention - when so many worse human rights abuses are happening all around the world, each one of which is as well documented as the notion that Assad used chemical weapons is still open to debate.
In short, if there is a legitimate case for invading Syria, U.S. leaders, beginning with Obama, need to start making it, and drop the hypocritical rhetoric about "human rights" concerns - which has become nothing short of insulting to one's intelligence.