Russia’s proposal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons has been derided as cynical, unworkable or, at best, a stalling tactic. It may be all of these things. Still, the West should call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff: Even a limited inspection and disarmament program would do more damage to Syria’s capabilities than a handful of missiles.
As U.S. President Barack Obama outlined in an address last night, the are intended to inflict punishment on Syrian military units responsible for chemical warfare and to deter future massacres. They were never intended to change the military balance, to solve the civil war or to eliminate chemical weapons. The war plans avoid targeting the actual stockpiles, for fear of spreading toxic plumes or leaving sites open to plunder.