It seems all but certain that the U.S. will launch cruise missiles into Syria as punishment for its use of chemical weapons against civilians.

But what is this really going to accomplish?

A White House spokesman made it clear Tuesday that a response was not intended to be about regime change, so Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has little to fear. He's still going to call the shots after U.S. warships leave the region.

Not that we think it's the business of the U.S. to become involved in Syria's internal conflict. That could very easily lead to an unpopular, deeper engagement with an uncertain outcome.

And we understand why President Obama would feel compelled to do something after it became clear the Assad regime deployed poisonous gas to slaughter hundreds of people.

It was not only horrendous, it was contrary to a chemical weapons convention that a broad swath of nations has agreed to abide by.

And there also is the matter of Obama's "red line," though that line is not as stark as some would paint it. What the president actually said a year ago was that "a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized" would change his calculus. It would signify the crossing of a "red line," though he did not say what the consequences would be.

Even so, the response that now appears imminent is likely to have little impact on the Syrian war. A few air strikes might hit some chemical weapons stockpiles -- surely not all of them.

Or they might take out a military installation implicated in the chemical attacks.

Beyond some sense of the president having kept his word, it will do nothing to alter the course of events. Even if Assad lays off chemical weapons for some time afterward, the tyrant has shown no hesitation in using conventional weapons against his own people.

The reality is that the situation in Syria boils down to a lot of bad options. And those include firing missiles that will likely do nothing to protect civilians from the atrocities the Assad regime has shown no compunction about inflicting.

 

—The Denver Post, Aug. 27