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Editorial: Response to Syria

Chemical weapons has always been part of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s act, and their very existence has caused plenty of worry for friends and foes alike.

Even though it is one of the six nations that has refused to sign the international chemical weapons convention, Syria has seemingly kept this arsenal in storage — until now.

According to U.S. intelligence, al-Assad’s embattled regime may have used sarin, the powerful and lethal nerve agent, in its battle with opponents. Those reports characterize its use as limited in times and scale.

Still, it is an event that calls for a response ... but it must be the right one.

Already the drumbeats are pounding for President Barack Obama to respond forcefully.

However, this is the same kind of music, however, that was playing when the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq. At that time, the race to take the fight to Saddam Hussein was over weapons of mass destruction, weapons that turned out not to exist. The war in Iraq, and the subsequent costs, in lives as well as those to the American economy and taxpayer, should temper the U.S. response at this time.

The president is correct in calling the use of chemical weapons on the civilian population “a game changer.” He is also on the mark, however, in his desire to want additional verification that Syria has actually used such weapons.

Rumors and allegations are not enough.

One avenue that should be taken at this time is for the United Nations to step forward and undertake an investigation, with Russia and China helping lead the way in persuading Syria to drop its resistance to U.N. involvement.

At the same time, the U.S. can step up its own probe into what Syria has or hasn’t done.

The president said last year that if Syria used chemical weapons it would be crossing “a red line” that would call for a firm response from the U.S.

But the nation must, despite all the drumbeats and saber rattling, make sure that line has been crossed.

We know all too well the consequences of acting in haste.

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