As we ponder launching airstrikes that are already broadcast to be “brief and limited” (Is our operational security really that bad?), let’s be clear about the risks: If we weaken the regime without destroying its chemical stocks, then we merely expedite the process of handing those chemicals to al-Qaeda. If we strike without weakening the regime, we appear even weaker than if we did nothing at all. Yet an intervention on the scale required to locate and secure chemical weapons stocks isn’t on the table. The Assad regime, as vile as it is, has never used chemical weapons against the United States, Israel, or any other ally. But what happens if al-Qaeda militants overrun Syria’s weapons stocks? Will they show the same restraint that Assad did? Or will they expeditiously move to use those weapons to attempt the world’s most deadly terror attacks?
Syria already represents a deadly foreign-policy failure for the Obama administration. If our intervention does little more than provide military support for al-Qaeda without destroying or securing Assad’s WMDs, then a foreign-policy failure will become a potential national-security disaster.