Avoid a third war
President Obama and his national security staff are discussing military options in response to the Syrian government's third use of chemical weapons.
According to Secretary of State John Kerry, there is substantial evidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in early-morning strikes Aug. 21, in Damascus suburbs that the government is desperate to reclaim from dissidents.
The administration has done well in not committing the United States in Syria's civil war, as the unresolved and increasing chaos in nearby Iraq illustrates.
Chemical weapon use is, of course, deeply repugnant. But if the killing of thousands of Syrian civilians with conventional explosive weapons isn't cause enough for a military response, why is the use of chemical weapons a trigger?
The president engaged in careless rhetoric when he said that the use of chemical weapons would mark a "red line" that would produce a U.S. response.
That is not sufficient cause to militarily engage now, however. It would be a case of talking ourselves into yet another war that doesn't serve long-term U.S. interests.
While still dealing with the costs and wounds of two protracted wars, the administration should do all that it can to avoid a third.