Let’s look at the facts we know about the Syria chemical weapons situation.
We’ll start with what the American people were told by the Obama Administration about the weapons removal.
President Obama on August 18, 2014: “Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.”
Secretary of State John Kerry a month earlier in July 2014: “We got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”
National Security Advisor Susan Rice before leaving office in January 2017: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
Well, apparently not. Chemical weapons were released once again on the Syrian people this week in an attack that appears to have been conducted by the Assad regime.
Were we lied to by the President, Secretary of State, and National Security Advisor? Some are saying yes, but I think it is actually a systematic and philosophical failure of President Obama’s foreign policy. We cannot trust our national security to the reliance on evil dictators to tell us the truth.
Is that what happened here? Let’s look at the timeline.
From the Atlantic article linked below, we know the following:
“The first prominent (chemical weapons) attack came in 2013 in Ghouta, a Damascus suburb—about a year after Barack Obama declared that using such weapons would cross a ‘red line’ and ‘would change our calculus’ about intervening. That attack killed 1,000 people.”
“Kerry said a military strike could be averted if Syria turned over its chemical weapons to the international community. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed such a plan almost immediately—and Syria signed onto it.”
“…the U.S. and Russia formulated an agreement under which Syria agreed to allow international monitors to destroy its chemical-weapons stockpile by 2014…”
“The plan called for Syria to disclose its stockpile within a week, and provide international inspectors access to all its chemical-weapons sites.”
“Despite the agreement, however, there were subsequent reports that Assad used chlorine gas against civilians. The deal struck with the international community did not include chlorine because the Assad regime hadn’t added it to a list it submitted to international monitors of the chemical weapons it possessed.”
“Syria missed the…deadline for the weapons destruction.”
See how much trust by the U.S. and broken trust by Syria was involved here?
Perhaps the most famous example of what not to do in this regard is the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain in dealing with the aggressive nature of Adolph Hitler. Chamberlain presided over the Munich Agreement of 1938, which offered parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for a commitment of reduced aggression. Chamberlain claimed he had achieved “peace for our time”. Six months later Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia, kickstarting a chain of events that would result in the second world war.
We cannot trust our national security to the reliance on evil dictators to tell us the truth.
For the same reason, President Reagan took issue with arms control treaties the United States had negotiated with the Soviet Union prior to his presidency, writing in his 1990 autobiography, An American Life:
“…recognizing the futility of the arms race and the hair-trigger risk of annihilation it posed to the world, I tried to send signals to Moscow indicating we were prepared to negotiate a winding down of the arms race if the Soviets were also sincere about it — and proved it with deeds.”
“And, because we viewed them realistically, it was clear that if we did negotiate an arms control agreement with the Soviets, it had to be absolutely verifiable. Agreements couldn’t be based on trust alone.”
This is why President Trump’s air strikes last night are so important. A calculated, measured response, they sent a clear message Syria and the rest of the world that use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated by the United States. We will respond.
No longer will we trust you to tell us what weapons you possess and voluntarily “eliminate” them.
Makes you wonder about that Iran deal, doesn’t it?
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Obama Statement (August 18, 2014)
Kerry Statement (July 2014)
Susan Rice Statement (January 2017)