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The President’s Thin Red Line

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By Adam Weatherall

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     What does it mean to cross our Presidents “Red Line”, and in so doing, America’s as well. Our president has often spoke of a “Red Line ” and has warned Syrian leader Bashar Assad about using chemical weapons saying,  “Wielding them”, would cross a “Red Line” and be a “game changer” for U.S. policy, “with enormous consequences.” His heated rhetoric will now be put to the test. The administration is hesitant regarding the evidence of a chemical attack in Syria. Yet the President’s own Defense Department and close allies like Israel and Britain have already asserted that Syria used chemical weapons. So now we must consider the inner workings of our President’s mind when he gave certain statements. Specifically phrases like “game changer” and “enormous consequences”. What exactly do they mean to President Obama? He wants a comprehensive U.N. investigation, but with Def. Sec. Chuck Hagel confirming the use of chemical weapons on at least 3 casualties, we now see Mr. Assad’s footprint squarely across President Obama’s theoretical “Red Line.”

    Though the use of widespread chemical-weapons inside Syria would be a devastating loss of humanity, we still must consider the risks to American forces attempting to destroy or seize chemical weapons. Given the dangers and complexities involved, the likelihood of casualties would be extremely high. Chemical weapons are after all typically used to dissuade advancing armies from invading. Taking military or covert action against Assad’s chemical weapons is therefore justified only where the global risks to American citizens or our allies are substantial. And in this post-w.m.d Iraq era the American people deserve to be presented with a substantial amount of evidence to be accepted by a skeptical and media savvy populace. The familiar middle-eastern backdrop might give the average American the feeling of Deja Vu regarding America’s wars of yesterday in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important to note that this is a new country and a new set of circumstances that has brought us to this critical moment. With real human beings who may have been murdered by their own government using internationally banned chemical weapons. Though we saw President Bush’s “Red Line” crossed in 2006 when Kim Jong Il conducted his first nuclear test. The North Korean dictator crossed Mr. Bush’s theoretical red line twice more before his death, all without inflicting any major demerits to the specter that is U.S military superpower.

    But what does it mean if President Obama allows his red line to be crossed unanswered? More importantly, will this act of foreign-policy provide further proof to a pre-nuclear Iran, or a belligerent Kim Jong Un that America’s  “Red Line” can be crossed , even by a non nuclear state like Syria.  Evidence of a chemical weapons attack can only really be substantiated by medical autopsy of an afflicted corpse.  If an autopsy on a Syrian victim confirms that they were killed by chemical weapons, the distance that evidence must travel, through the chain of command, from our agents in Syria to Washington D.C, is no doubt what the administration is apprehensive about. Furthermore how would you prove such evidence exists without releasing information that is potentially damaging to the U.S intelligence gathering network? Like by confirming to an increasingly vicious Assad that we have agents in his country. From my perspective, 3 is a very small number of confirmed dead for a chemical weapons attack if past evidence in Northern Iraq is to be used as an example. This “Red Line” issue, could further be compounded if Iran continues to travel toward their “Nuclear Do not Cross line”. Israel has pledged that if that line is reached “drastic action will be taken”. The I.D.F speculates that Iran will reach that line anywhere from 2 -14 months from now. Historically speaking, Israel acts on threats of violence by making good on their own threats. Which might make this summer a very hot one indeed if action is taken vs. the allied kingdoms of Syria and Iran, pulling us into a larger engagement than most Americans are ready to stomach.

    Before we further speculate on what the definition of our President’s hypothetical “Red Line” is, maybe we should ask someone who has taken orders, based on unsubstantiated evidence, given by President Obama in the past. Someone like a member of the super elite seal team 6 who took part in a raid in a country that has a known nuclear arsenal without that country’s permission, to kill an aged and bewildered Osama Bin Laden who was hiding in Pakistan. You could also take into account the large number of terrorists killed by drone strikes in countries that may not have even been privy to information about the strikes before they occurred. There is also the case of a single American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was never convicted before any judge or jury, yet ordered executed all the same by President Obama. It seems that a man like Assad would have a good amount to be worried about if it is his footprint found across our red line. After a year of fighting a ruthless civil war against his own civilian populace, his country has all but turned against him. Assad now controls as little as thirty percent of Syria. If the U.N confirms the use of chemical weapons, Russia, under the pressure of the international community will surely publicly reject Assad. Then it will be the P.O.T.U.S’s turn to show the world just what crossing his “Red Line” means, or forever lose the respect and, most importantly, the fear of all those who oppose the basic principles of humanity.

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Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall is the political correspondent for PowerFist.Us a company whose mission is to spread truth and justice to all within it's reach, but more specifically to cover news stories that are often times pushed aside by larger media organizations.
  • “the weatherman”

    One topic I noted in this article but perhaps didn’t give proper merit to is that the Syria conflict has many similarities to Iraq, it would be foolish not to learn from our mistakes in the rampant build up to that war. Without clearly substantiated evidence the U.S should never undergo any action of violence. Also losing the respect and fear of terrorist states is one thing but taking actions that could result in the loss of thousands if not millions of lives is always a decision to be taken with much thoughtful contemplation. The true mistake I believe in this situation was giving any sort of “Red Line” as to infer the exact point of U.S military intervention. It is my belief that is is a key diplomatic mistake for a multitude of reasons. The first being that the statement given is essentially a threat , an indirect threat granted , but still a threat none the less and I believe that the president should be above making threats, because I believe America is above threatening. Even though I believe President Obama gave this threat in an effort to save the people of Syria from an increasingly violent Assad, it was still an unnecessary Assad knows the rules, he knows that using chemical weapons could possibly bring not only U.S intervention but every other country in the U.N. . Secondly this was a mistake from a tactical standpoint, the only time you as the commander forces should let your enemy know that you have truly committed to battle is the first moment that enemy see’s your troops knocking on there front door. Especially in the case of a ruthless enemy that has an extremely large chemical weapons stockpile, that is supposedly ready and willing to use them. There were frankly many more reasons not to threaten Assad with the old “Red Line” statement . Hopefully our current president will exercise more reason then the last president who used the “Red Line” zinger (Bush Jr.) , and as the drum beats of war grow louder hopefully logic will prevail.


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  • Jackson Gunn

    But what now that Israel has bombed the heck out of Syrian targets more than 3 confirmed times. I’m sure you saw it , it was trending, big mushroom cloud explosion, seems weird that Hezbollah is in bed with Syria when the rebels are all supposedly Jihadist.

  • Weatherman

    When first writing this article it had not been established that the administration has taken part in the death’s of more than 4 American citizen’s. However they have yet stated during the presidents evaluation of our current drone warfare policy that only Anwar al-Awlaki was specifically targeted by the strikes. Also new information on Syria means, Russia is now at the bargaining table shoulder to shoulder with the U.S, having the Assad regime’s staunches ally at the table has made Syrian leadership far more malleable in recent days and now it seems that some sort of peace might be possible to achieve through pure verbal discourse, despite the years of chaotic violence the country has been plunged into.