Earlier this week Syrian anti-government activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of carrying out a toxic gas attack. Death tolls as high as 1,300 have been reported, but the government has called the allegations “absolutely baseless.”
“Last time this happened Obama was able to punt, because only about 10 people were killed,” Landis says. “This raises [another whole] question though: ‘Does America care about weapons of mass destruction?’ We do. This puts the international community, and the United States as the head of it, into the spotlight. Are you going to stand up for these values, or are you going to punt?”
Landis says U.S. efforts to influence the Egyptian military to strike a bargain with the Muslim Brotherhood after protests earlier this month could have inspired Syria’s leader.
“When America punted on that issue, and closed our eyes to 1,000 dead in Egypt, Bashar al-Assad may have asked himself 'Why can't I do the same thing?'," Landis says.