I’ll also confess to being even less persuaded than usual by the chemical-weapons arguments made specifically by those advocating American military intervention in Syria. They have been pushing for the administration to jump in on the side of the “rebels” all along — to arm them and abet them in the jihad against Assad. Their campaign has gotten precious little public support for a very simple reason: The American people are repulsed by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. For that reason, in addition to there being no national-security interest in supporting those forces, few American politicians dare make a full-throated case for doing so. Supporters either try to abet the “rebels” without talking about it (as Obama did before the 2012 election), or rationalize that they are abetting “the moderates” . . . and hope you’re too uninformed to know who the “moderates” are (as Obama has done since the 2012 election).
For pro-interventionists, then, Assad’s use of chemical weapons has been manna from heaven. It has enabled them to rivet the nation’s attention to Assad’s atrocious war-fighting methods, to the exclusion of such unsavory considerations as the guarantee that attacking Assad promotes al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood — to say nothing of the jihadists’ even more alarming pursuit of chemical-weapons capability.
Personally, I believe al-Qaeda is worse, by far, than the use of chemical weapons. And someone somewhere must agree with me since Congress, by something close to 535–0, voted to authorize the use of military force against al-Qaeda. No one, by the way, needed to twist arms or promise the American people we wouldn’t put “boots on the ground” to get that authorization. It was a slam-dunk because it was so patently in the national interest — even though it has meant a dozen years of war, with ground troops, missiles, drone strikes, indefinite detentions, thousands of casualties, the whole run of gore that war entails.
So by all means, let’s assume Assad has used chemical weapons on a small scale against other Syrians during a bloody civil war that, though undeniably awful, poses no threat to American national security.
By contrast, Assad’s “rebel” opposition, spearheaded by the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood, systematically uses al-Qaeda in its military operations — not one or two times, but every single day, and in virtually every attack that causes real damage to the regime.
Why is Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons worse than the rebels’ use of al-Qaeda?
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.