(THE SPECTATOR) — There is something deeply disturbing about switching on the television and finding Jack Straw talking about the need to take military action against a Ba’athist dictator who is using weapons of mass destruction against his own people. Tony Blair has also popped up to urge moral purpose. And all this before the U.N. weapons inspectors have put pen to paper. The decision-making over Syria is following the same skewed logic, making the same wrong turns as last time. Except that with Iraq there was at least a clear preliminary plan: invasion, followed by regime change and the introduction of democracy. The plan for Syria offers no such clarity.
Reports of up to 1,800 people killed by sarin gas by Bashar al-Assad’s regime are chillingly credible. Atrocities are being perpetrated there every day, and by all sides there are now far more than just two sides. It is often said that there have been 100,000 casualties so far. What we seldom hear is that this figure includes 27,000 killed by the rebels — some of whom have shown themselves at least equal to Assad in their barbarity. Earlier this week they beheaded a cleric whom they found guilty of apostasy. The black flag of al-Qa’eda is flying over rebel-held villages where summary executions have been going on for some time. Were they to take Damascus, we can imagine what type of regime would follow.