Reuel Marc Gerecht, writing for the New York Times:

The Middle East challenges and dissipates power quickly. We’re seeing that now in Syria.

President Obama drew a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The dictator Bashar al-Assad, sensing Obama’s determination to avoid further military conflict, has crossed that line, for the obvious tactical reason that such arms are ideal in a terror war against a civilian population in revolt. Weapons of mass destruction are the great equalizers: for Syria’s minority Alawite Shi’ite dictatorship, they are an essential tool to break the stalemate against the much more numerous Sunni opposition.

America’s credibility in the region — which is overwhelmingly built on Washington’s willingness to use force — will be zero unless Obama militarily intercedes now to knock down the Assad regime. Firing cruise missiles or even more punishing strikes from fighter-bombers against Syria’s chemical-weapons depots and plants will be as effective in countering Assad’s lethal calculations, and his capacity to deploy further weapons of mass destruction, as was President Bill Clinton’s cruise-missile barrage against Osama bin Laden after the embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

If the president intends to maintain American influence, which means maintaining a credible threat to go to war to stop Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, then Washington’s response to Assad’s challenge must be devastating. The entire regime must be targeted: elite military units, aircraft, armor and artillery; all weapons-depots; the myriad organizations of the secret police; the ruling elite’s residences; and other critical Alawite infrastructure.

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