The response to “The Obama Doctrine” by Frederic C Hof, the President’s former Special Adviser on Syria with ambassadorial rank is well worth reading to the end. Here are his comments specifically on the critical “red line” reversal:
In the specific case of the red-line climb down, the president (who did not list fear of offending Iran’s Supreme Leader among the alibis) cited his belief that a missile strike would not have eliminated the Assad regime’s chemical weapons and that Assad would have survived, “claiming he had successfully defied the United States.” Indeed, had the strike been minor and symbolic in nature it would have been as bad as the climb down itself in harming American credibility and emboldening Assad to double down on mass homicide.
Yet had it laid waste to Assad’s air force, field artillery, Scud missiles, and rockets, the strike would have emptied Assad’s victory speech of substantive content. Yes, the chemicals would have remained in place, and perhaps so too the Assad regime. But instruments of mass terror would have been neutralized, the migrant crisis afflicting Europe might have been averted, and tens of thousands of people now dead would still be alive. Assad’s chemicals killed a tiny fraction of his victims. Making him a party to a chemical weapons agreement gave him a sense of impunity encouraging him to return to mass homicide at industrial levels. The results—compounded recently by Russian intervention—have been a humanitarian abomination and a migrant crisis that roils and divides Europe while submerging Syria’s immediate neighbors.