Obama’s red line and Syrian chemical attacks: hand wringing or careful deliberation?

Obama has been widely criticized for not acting after Syrian President Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on his own citizens. Was he being overly cautious or simply thorough in his slow response to the atrocity? Let’s take a look.

Obama’s slow response was a result of careful deliberation.

Obama states his position in August 2012

Obama said that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line” and trigger an American military response. He repeats this in several speeches.

there’s no confirmation of the next attack

In March, when there are reports that Assad used chemical weapons, and more than two-dozen Syrians were killed, the White House is unable to confirm the event.

when another event occurs, Obama reacts

In August, another chemical attack kills more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. Videos are posted on YouTube. U.S. Naval ships move into position near Syria as the U.N. investigates the attack.

no support

British Parliament votes for no military action against Syria.

And Congress  overwhelmingly (100-1) does not support US military action.

another solution is available

By Sept. 2013, Russia intervenes. Syria agrees to hand over its chemical weapons and Assad joins the U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention. 1300 tons of chemical weapons are destroyed.

Obama was too cautious and indecisive regarding Assad’s chemical attacks.

Obama’s position was announced, there were reports of chemical attacks and yet nothing was done

No surprise, Assad follows these smaller attacks that drew no response from the U.S. with a much larger event.

congressional approval

Obama seeks congressional approval but he is not required to do so. He can authorize a response as commander-in-chief. 

Russian solution didn’t work

In April 2017, Assad launches a chemical attack that kills 85 Syrians, including 27 kids. Apparently he forgot to hand over a few barrels to the Russians. 


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