The Pakistani moment of truth is coming all too soon—in Syria. For more than a decade, security experts agreed that the greatest threat to the security of the United States is the combination of terrorists and WMD. Pakistan was widely considered the place this is most likely to happen. Now we must expect that shortly jihadists will acquire WMD in Syria as the Assad regime collapses. True, chemical arms are less lethal than nukes, but in Syria they make up in the number and vicious variety what each lacks in relative killing power.
The United States, its allies and the UN did well to warn Assad that there would be “consequences” if he employed these weapons, after intelligence sources reported that his troops were mixing and transporting chemical agents. Why these warnings stated that these consequences will follow if he uses these arms “against his own people” is far from obvious, because this wording makes it sound as if it would be acceptable if Assad used these agents against anybody else. In any case, Assad seems to have desisted.
There are some reports that the United States is training Jordanian Special Forces and some others to grab these arms. And one must assume that the U.S. Navy SEALs and a bunch of others are racing toward Syria. However, this is the place the so-called Obama doctrine—a light footprint, not involving boots on the ground—is reaching its limits. However high a regard one has for Special Forces, CIA agents and drones—which I do—the task is simply too big for them to be able to carry it out on their own. Even adding in some bombings against those sites that can be safely destroyed that way will not do. The Pentagon estimates that it would need some 75,000 troops to do the job. The trouble is that U.S. rapid-deployment forces are underdeveloped and not well-located.