Let’s talk about chemical weaponry. It’s prominently in the news today with all that’s going on in Syria and some of our esteemed leadership is itching to get involved in the fray.
Some chemical weapons are blistering agents. These, like mustard gas, irritate the skin and burn the lungs. When you irritate the lungs they fill up with fluid and you drown. Not a pretty way to go, but there it is. The big ugly blisters on exposed skin are kind of a downer as well. All that pain and mess require medical attention and use up your resources quickly. It ties down people to take care of the sick, blind, coughing wretch that survives the attack.
Some chemical agents are psycho active. They make you lethargic or insane. You might not care if anyone is coming at you, or you might turn on the guy next to you in a murderous rage. Then again you might just go to sleep depending on the kind of agent used. Paralytic agents are similar except that you are basically under an anesthetic when exposed. Can’t do much even if your brain keeps working.
Then there are nerve agents. Forget what you saw in “The Rock” back in high-school. Nerve agents don’t make you convulse so violently that your back breaks. Nerve agents make it very hard to breathe most of all. They are essentially insecticide modified to kill people. The process is somewhat irrelevant but it amounts to the chemicals breaking the molecular bonds that help in transmitting nerve signals. Once those are gone, your muscles don’t work as they should. If you know you’ve been exposed you can treat yourself with an atropine injector. No injector? Oops, horrible death if untreated.
All chemical weapons are easy to make in industrialized countries. They’ve been around for millennia and that’s not going to change. Nerve gas has been around since WWII. It takes a couple of really good chemical engineers and a petrochemical plant to turn the stuff out. The more you work at it the safer it is going to be.
Chemical weapons are mainly a terror/nuisance weapon. They don’t kill very effectively but they scare the life out of the uninformed. Limited in how they can be delivered, hard to handle, expensive to manufacture, and poor shelf life are just a few of the problems you face in having them in your arsenal. The United States is still working on getting rid of all the junk we made up until the early 1970’s. It’s tough to dispose of in a safe manner. (Unless you’re Saddam Hussein and you just load it on trucks and send it across the border to a friendly Arab nation.)
So, what makes us think that we’ll “fix” the situation in Syria by getting involved? I’m guessing that most people don’t understand how easy it is to make the stuff. Anyone remember the Japanese Cult (Aum Shinrikyo) that used nerve gas in the Tokyo Subway? Yes, they did that in a handy little lab they built. No big industrial complex, nothing to bomb. The same kind of crew that can turn out industrial methamphetamine can turn out nerve gas.
I mention that because it’s my suspicion that the “rebels” in Syria are gassing their own people. It pays to remember that these guys are a branch of Al Qaeda and they place a rather low value on the life of the locals. Most of the people who died in recent chemical attacks (if they were chemical) don’t belong to the rebel cause. They’re just a bunch of civilians who were handy when corpses were suddenly in demand. Gas a bunch of people, point at the government of Bashar Al Assad and demand international help to fight such evil. It’s a setup. Period.
And what if it’s not? What if the government of Syria just gassed 1000 of its subjects? I’m truly curious how that requires our intervention. We’ve managed, under several recent administrations to ignore genocide in lots of places. This is no different. The Syrians are a long way from being a threat to us in a strategic sense. Israel seems to be ready to handle most of the larger weapons systems. The Turkish government is a next door neighbor with an interest in the local neighborhood. How about they take care of things on their own border? After all, they have an interest in dealing with the refugee surge.
The point is simple: keep out. We gain nothing by intervening. The analogy here is about a knife fight on the next block. Both of the participants are known dirt bags who have terrorized their neighbors. Why would you walk down the block and get involved, possibly getting cut in the process, when you can wait for one or the other to fall dead and then deal with the bloodied survivor.
Cold hearted? Yes. Sometimes that’s the only way to deal with situations like this one. I’ll pray for the Christians in Syria, because they’re likely to be exterminated if the rebels win. I’ll pray for peace in the Middle East while I’m at it today. But the odds of peace in the Middle East are right up there with the Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins, Lynx, and Wild all winning the championship in the same calendar year. It might happen, but it’s far more likely that I’ll be voted in as Miss America. Look at the picture on the right side of this blog and figure the odds.
Stay out of Syria. It’s a bad place to be if you’re an American.
Remember Courtemanche’s Theorem: If Barack Obama, John McCain, and Lindsay Graham all like an idea, it’s horrible.