September 23, 2012
On August 20th, 2012, President Barack Obama issued a threat stating that the movement or use of chemical weapons stockpiles by the Syrian government could trigger an intervention by the United States (1)(2). If the threat were carried out by the United States, there would necessarily be some kind of military confrontation, in which case would further necessitate either victory or defeat for Syria. In the unlikely case of victory for Syria, the Assad Regime would be further emboldened and could increase the violence against its citizens. If Syria were defeated, we would most likely see a transition of power and possibly a period of uncertainty with further protest and violence. In any case, there is a possibility of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian on its own citizens. For the United States, failure would have serious domestic, political repercussions, and simultaneously, success could have negative political repercussions as well due to the unpopular commitment of troops; although the US could also intervene militarily through the enforcement of a no fly zone or some kind of multilateral action, which are popular (3). The credibility of the United States’ threat is questionable though as Syria has been moving its chemical weapons (4) and President Obama is up for reelection this November. To increase credibility, the United States could publicly specify the threat and state that if Syria uses chemical weapons, the US will react with a multilateral response and/or a no fly zone. It is possible that this threat will be ineffective, as a former military official in the Assad regime has stated that there have been talks to use chemical weapons against combatants and civilians (5). To increase effectiveness, the US could increase credibility (above) or it could sacrifice credibility and drastically increase the consequences of US intervention by threatening with a full response by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
1. BBC - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19319446
2. The Economist - http://www.economist.com/node/21560919
3. Real Clear World - http://www.realclearworld.com/2012/08/28/uk_us_and_france_dont_want_troops_in_syria_139574.html
4. New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/world/middleeast/chemical-weapons-wont-be-used-in-rebellion-syria-says.html
5. Lexis Nexis - http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/lnacui2api/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T15567494005&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T15567494009&cisb=22_T15567494008&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=10939&docNo=1