This would hurt his ability to achieve anything even in matters far removed from Damascus -- the economy, health care, the climate.
The man has indeed talked himself into a corner. The need to act has become paramount. A politician's nightmare.
HOWEVER, SEVERAL questions raise their heads.
First of all, who says that Assad released the gas?
Pure logic seems to advise against this conclusion. When it happened, a group of UN experts, no nincompoops they, were about to investigate the suspicions of chemical warfare on the ground. Why would a dictator in his right mind provide them with proof of his malfeasance? Even if he thought that the evidence could be eradicated in time, he could not be sure. Sophisticated equipment could tell.
Secondly, what could chemical weapons achieve that ordinary weapons could not? What strategic or even tactical advantage do they offer, that could not be provided by other means?
The argument to disprove this logic is that Assad is not logical, not normal, just a crazy despot living in a world of his own. But is he? Until now, his behavior has shown him to be tyrannical, cruel, devoid of scuples. But not mad. Rather calculating, cold. And he is surrounded by a group of politicians and generals who have everything to lose, and who seem a singularly cold-blooded lot.
Also, lately the regime seems to winning. Why take a risk?
Yet Obama must decide to attack them on what seems to be very inconclusive evidence. The same Obama who saw through the mendacious evidence produced by George Bush Jr. to justify the attack on Iraq, an attack which Obama, to his great credit, objected to right from the beginning. Now he is on the other side.
AND WHY poison gas? What's so special, so red-lining about it?
If I am going to be killed, I don't really care whether it is by bombs, shells, machine guns or gas.
True, there is something sinister about gas. The human mind recoils from something that poisons the air we breathe. Breathing is the most elementary human necessity.
But poison gas is no weapon of mass destruction. It kills like any other weapon. One cannot equate it to the atomic bombs used by America ion Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Also, it is not a decisive weapon. It did not change the course of World War I, when it was extensively used. Even the Nazis did not see any use for it in World War II -- and not only because Adolf Hitler was gassed (and temporarily blinded) by poison gas in World War I.