The Stupid 'Smoking Gun' Argument on Syria

Critics on the left and right are arguing that the lack of a "smoking gun" tying Bashar al-Assad to the chemical-weapons attack near Damascus last week is a reason to back off from a missile strike against the Syrian regime.

Critics on the left and rightare arguing that the lack of a "smoking gun" tying President Bashar al-Assad to the chemical-weapons attack near Damascus last week is a reason to back off from a missile strike against the Syrian regime. Actually, the possibility that some underling bears responsibility might be the best justification I've seen yet for U.S. military action.

Listen, there are plenty of good reasons not to attack Syria, and my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has spelled out most of them, here and here and here. Basically, I'd see any short-term, narrowly targeted attack as little more than a fit of pique by a superpower painted into a corner by President Barack Obama's "red-line" comment last year.

This is no time for symbolic bellicosity, especially at $1.4 million per Tomahawk missile. If we are really going to use our military might against Syria -- and that is a big "if" -- we should go all-in and commit to regime change, getting rid of a murderous despot under the thumb of Iran at a vital geopolitical crossroads. Yes, that would mean sustained air and missile support and a free flow of arms to a group of rebels we maybe cannot trust; even, perhaps, U.S. boots on the ground.

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