Kinsman: What can the West hope to achieve with a military strike on Syria?
The "West" – that is the U.S., France, and the U.K. – will achieve some measure of credibility with surgical strikes on military assets and identified chemical weapons sites, not just for themselves, but on behalf of a world community that, in the wake of the gas attack horrors of WWI, outlawed by the Geneva Protocol of 1925 chemical and biological weapons, and refined and expanded the ban in 1972 and 1993 by further conventions against biological and chemical weapons.
If this attack by the Assad regime against Syrians does not qualify for reprisal, what will? If this is not an R2P moment, what would be?
It is not meant to be in support of the rebel army but will have the effect of taking this kind of terror tactic against civilians off the table in the Syrian civil war.
Russia presumably will feel obliged by amour-propre to veto authorization by the UNSC, so indeed the Kosovo precedent that relied on clear moral legitimacy in the case of a hostile and self-interested veto will have to serve.
The UN’s credibility because of the Russian (and maybe Chinese) veto will take a hit, but there is no choice.
A hyper-cautious and domestic-focused Obama seems inhibited by the U.S. public’s war weariness and lassitude over Mideast violence, but has no real choice either.