On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel confirmed that United States Armed Forces are ready to strike in Syria after substantial evidence of serial chemical attacks by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime against his own people.
A unified response is critical to countering further chemical attacks by others around the world.
There is a global ban on the use of chemical weapons. Evidence of serial chemical attacks by Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad's regime against his own people is viewed differently than hundreds of thousand of people killed by more conventional weapons such as bombs.
The history of modern chemical warfare dates back to the first World War, when the world witnessed poisonous gasses employed by both sides to inflict agonizing suffering and to cause significant battlefield casualties. Chemical weapons in World War 1 consisted of well known commercial chemicals put into standard munitions such as grenades and artillery shells.
In 1925, the Geneva Protocol which prohibits the use of chemical weapons in warfare was signed in response to public outrage. A report in 1922 described chemical warfare as cruel, unfair and improper.
Christopher A. Warren, a historian with the Naval History & Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., argues that even Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, who did not hesitate to use chemicals to commit mass murder on civilians, initially refused to engage in chemical warfare against the Allies.
While a Western-led military response appears imminent, Russia, China and Iran are opposed to any intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is no evidence of chemical attacks. In a statement, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned that military intervention in Syria without a UN Security Council resolution would have “catastrophic consequences.”
U.S. President Barrack Obama has maintained the need for a unified response, appearing hesitant to get involved in a war that has the potential to consume a vast number of U.S. troops and other resources for an undetermined amount of time.
Syrian President Al-Assad's attacks on his own people, if not addressed pose threats to both the global and Homeland Security. If the international community intervenes in Syria, it sends a message to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah that chemical warfare will not be tolerated.