Hit him hard? The Syrian question is not that easy to answer

'OpEd News' presents Bashar Assad as a 21st century Hitler

‘OpEd News’ presents Bashar Assad as a 21st century Hitler

So The Economist (along with David Cameron and William Hague) are pushing to hit Bashar al Assad “hard”.

The Economist cover is uncomfortably stark. Some might say it’s a bit Daily Mail-esque.

Except for the quality of the argument, of course.

It does, to give it credit, suggest a sequence of events rather than the precipitate action that’s being belligerently demanded by Mr Cameron and his ministers.

The Economist wants the world (that would be the West, really) to “present the proof, deliver an ultimatum” and only then to, “punish” President Assad.

This is based on the principle that the 1,000 who died because of chemical weapons are different from the 100,000 who have perished in the civil war over the past two-and-a-half years. The dead are the dead, of course, but this latest round of killing is a “blatant war crime”, the paper argues. If nothing is done, it says, Mr Assad might be tempted to repeat actions that the world has agreed to be wrong for 88 years.

So it calls for “a week of missiles to rain down on the dictator’s ‘command-and-control’ centres, including his palaces.”

What’s the difference between bombs, gunshot and chemical weapons?

The 1925 Geneva Protocols. A shared distaste right round the world for the suffering caused by sarin etc. The Washington Post’s foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher, notes, “the international norm against the use of chemical weapons is old, reasonably well established and recognized by almost every country on Earth” and even though it “has been observed far from perfectly” it has pretty much been observed “at least partially ever since. It’s one of the few international norms restricting warfare that we have in the world.”

Fair enough. But the godawful memory lingers. Of Iraq. And Libya. And everywhere else the West has intervened.

And then they intone, Halabja 1988.