Assessing US Geopolitical 'Credibility', 'Post'-Syria
BMI View: The US's failure to take military action against Syria for allegedly crossing a 'red line' on the use of chemical weapons does not mean that Washington would not uphold its security commitments elsewhere. However, there are separate reasons to question whether the US would intervene militarily on behalf of some of its allies in Eurasia.
One of the arguments put forward for a US strike on Syria in late August/early September was to uphold the Obama administration's - and by extent, Washington's - 'credibility' on the world stage . US President Barack Obama announced in August 2012 that any utilisation of a 'whole bunch' of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad would constitute a 'red line' that would change the calculus in favour of American military intervention. Since that time, a nd prior to the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people outside Damascus, there have been several incidents in which small amounts of chemical weapons have reportedly been used, but none of these was considered to have breached a 'red line'. Proponents of military action have argued that if the US lets the Assad regime breach Obama's 'red line' with impunity, other countries that seek to challenge the US (principally Iran and North Korea) would feel that they could do so without retribution.
Not All 'Red Lines' Are Created Equal