The critics misjudge the importance of dismantling Syrian chemical weapons and the impact this move will have on the conflict there. Obama did not bow to the Assad regime and Russia, its principal ally. Rather, the threat of American missile attacks forced Assad to accept international destruction of his chemical weapons, and Obama was pragmatic enough to accept that result and call off the strikes.
Removing chemical weapons from Assad’s grasp weakens the Syrian government in two important ways. It removes the threat that the weapons will be used against the opposition in the future, and it denies the Assad regime one of its most potent weapons on the battlefield. It is hard to see how that strengthens Assad or Russia.
Edward Haley is director of the Center for Human Rights Leadership and W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of International Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College.