Syria. Let's review.
The Secretary of State, John Kerry, came out today and made the case that Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Syrian opponents of his regime. He listed a long series of "we know" items, proving three things: chemical weapons were used and killed over 1400 people; the weapons were fired from regime controlled areas; and regime figures were monitored receiving reports on the attacks.
No quibble with Mr. Kerry. It all sounds solid.
After making that case, Kerry delineated the long history of international law against the use of chemical weapons, and made the argument that national leaders must not feel they can violate that law without seerious consequences.
No quibble on that either.
But... now what?
This is where it goes bad. What to do about it?
The Secretary of State did not lay out a plan that inspires confidence Bashar Assad will be dissuaded from ever repeating his crime. Kerry said the coming military operation would not be open ended, it would not be Iraq, Afghanistan, nor Libya. And it will not attempt to "assume responsibility for a civil war now underway."
Ummm...OK. If the attack is not all of those things, what's left?
We waited to hear from the president himself, and a little later the president spoke on the subject and said he hadn't decided what to do quite yet, but seemed to confirm Kerry's description of what the attack will not be.
Now we're hearing reports that Assad is moving people out of facilities that will probably be targets, and moving prisoners into air bases to act as human shields.
The Syrians can now expect an expensive American pin-prick that demolishes empty buildings.
Assad is assured he will survive the attack, and that his gains in the civil war (including those resulting from the gas attack itself) will not be disturbed.
Does Bashar Assad or any other international bad guy now have anything to fear from the American president?