Why Did Assad Do It?

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 4 2013 @ 10:59am

That’s the question that still nags at me. He was making progress against the rebels, and had used small amounts of poison gas in the conflict perhaps fourteen times before, according to British intelligence. UN inspectors were very close by. It simply makes no sense for Assad to have raised the stakes so massively – when it was in his interests to keep whatever CWs he used to small and isolated incidents far away from global attention.

The Obama administration hasn’t answered this question. No one has offered a persuasive answer. But German intelligence just might have:

Germany has followed France and the US in suggesting that chemical weapons had been used to intimidate the rebels and capture territory in a crucial battle for Damascus, especially to the east of the capital. There is a twist: “It could also be the case that errors were made in mixing the gas and it was much more potent than anticipated,” Gerhard Schindler, [the head of the BND external intelligence service], said.

The mistake may have been by some incompetent Hezbollah operator, or because Assad panicked, or both. The point is: we don’t know. Until we do, beyond any reasonable doubt, we should not go to war. You do not go to war because of your enemy’s mistake. You do not go to war because your enemy cannot admit such a mistake.

Remember Iraq? We went to war because of a mistake: we assumed Saddam’s WMD bluffs were true. They weren’t. Would it not have been prudent to wait until we knew everything? Does not a grave matter like this demand getting every single piece of evidence right? Or are we really back to 2003 all over again?