Discouraging the Use of Chemical Weapons Should Be an End in Itself

Since regular munitions can kill just as effectively as chemical weapons, it is unlikely that deterring Bashar al-Assad from deploying the latter—as the airstrikes last month and the previous year were intended to do—will save many lives. For precisely this reason, argues Max Singer, preventing their use is a worthy and achievable goal:

It is possible to get the world to enforce moral values when it can do so without incurring large costs. In places like Syria, the world cannot stop the killing without a military force stronger than the local forces, and no country is willing to sacrifice its soldiers [to do so]. But the world can [enforce] the ban on chemical weapons by using only missile attacks from a distance.

There is no way the recent U.S.-British-French attack on Assad’s chemical-weapons facilities could have a major influence on the struggle for control of Syria or stop the killing of civilians. The purpose of the attack was . . . to make sure Assad and his successors understand that he loses more from his use of chemical weapons than he gains—which is certainly true.

The dictators of the world don’t use chemical weapons because they are cruel; they use them because they are a slightly easier and cheaper way to kill and frighten their enemies. But they have other ways of killing and frightening people. So if the example of what happened to Assad convinces them that they would lose more from international retaliation for using chemical weapons than they might gain from their use, they will not use them. Others might decide it is a mistake to build or buy such weapons in the first place. . . .

A world in which chemical weapons are not used is better than a world in which they are—even if there is only a small reduction in the number of people killed. Perhaps a world in which international agreements achieve some moral goals, even modest ones, is better than a world in which nations cannot succeed in enforcing any moral values at all.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Chemical weapons, International Law, Laws of war, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict