Over the last two weeks, the policy world and the media have fixated on whether the US should or shouldn’t intervene in the civil war in Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. This has been a big and important debate, but it obscures the real puzzle driving all other decisions. Why would Assad use chemical weapons in the first place? As Shibley Telhami aptly stated, “the Syrian leader doesn’t need to use (chemical weapons) against his own people, especially when Russia is more than happy to supply him with conventional arms.”
So today’s puzzler is this: Given Assad’s extensive conventional weapons capabilities, why use chemical weapons? What’s the logic behind using them?