Obama raised the bar when he said that any use of chemical weapons by Syria could be a “game-changer.” Given the seriousness of a decision by the United States to intervene in Syria—whether it be by bombing raids to wipe out chemical weapons depots or the dispatch of Special Forces to seize chemical weapons caches—Obama has a duty to carefully assess all the evidence and go the extra mile to ascertain the authenticity of these reports.

Just as Obama has refrained from sending in arms to the Syrian insurgents out of an abundance of caution to make certain that they don’t fall into the hands of extremists, he owes the American people an extra duty to make extra certain that the charges of chemical use are fully proven before he acts. Even then, if it proves accurate that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, the president has to ask several questions:

  • Is it worth the risk for the United States to act in the Syrian civil war given our grave and consequential difficulties in Afghanistan and Iraq?
  • Is America ready to be involved in yet another major conflict in the Middle East?
  • Would it be better to denounce the use of these malignant devices and demand further UN action?
  • Or should the United States (or the UN?) impose more onerous sanctions on Syria?

A president has a right to change his position on a matter like this given the awful consequences of intervention.