Western leaders are at pains to stress that the purpose of military action against Syria, if and when it happens, will be to send a message to President Assad that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. The goal, they have said repeatedly, is not regime change.
That is ethically problematic – the subliminal message is that killing 100,000 civilians is OK, as long as chemical weapons aren’t used – and strategically inept. With its history in Vietnam and Iraq, America should be only too aware that wars have a habit of going awry and even the best-planned military operation can end very badly.
Most of all, its logically inconsistent. All the western leaders involved have already called for the end of Assad’s regime, so what’s the point in teaching him a lesson? Surely the purpose of a lesson is to ensure better behavior the next time? But none of those involved want there to be a next time, so wouldn’t it make sense just to get rid of Assad and be done with it?