Clarification and Remembrance

Just to be clear, our reference in last week's editorial about Adolph Hitler's refusal to use poison gas or chemical weapons during World War II was meant to pertain to its employment on military battlefields only. As is well-known, those same scruples did not apply to the use of poison gas inside the concentration camps as part of the Nazi holocaust campaign against the Jewish populations of Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

We'll continue to believe that the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, while hardly unique and unprecedented in modern times, is morally reprehensible and cannot be shrugged off without endangering the future security of the U.S. To argue that we don't have a dog in this fight is short-sighted.

As The Journal goes to press this week, the possibility of a negotiated settlement brokered in part by Syria's Russian allies that would take their remaining chemical weapon stockpile and place it under international control is under discussion. If this proves a genuine offer, certainly such a disposition and diplomatic settlement would be preferable to a military strike. We'll have to wait and see. Clearly though, any impetus towards that outcome is directly tied to the threat of force, and it's hard to picture such an offer being placed on the table without the prospect of a military strike.

And while we're on the subject of Syria, we should note the passing anniversary of the pivotal event that shapes so much of the thinking around this issue. We refer, of course, to the attacks on U.S. soil by misguided Islamic zealots that occurred on September 11, 2001. We would be remiss not to recognize again the sacrifices born by the many families who have lost loved ones in the ensuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the innocent victims who perished during the 9/11 attacks, and all those who have had their lives turned upside-down by it. As we contemplate another possible turn of that screw, a moment of reflection on the meaning of all of that is certainly in order. The 21st century hasn't been the one we expected after Y2K.


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