I wrote in the early days of this blog about chemical warfare, including a two-part post on nerve agents specifically, here and here. The recent use of Sarin in Syria prompts me to link to those again, and I very much wish the topic were not of interest. I realize that war is a horrible business – General Sherman knew what he was talking about when he said “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it”. And a civil war is generally the worst of all.
But the use of Sarin or the other nerve agents is an affront to civilization, as indeed is any massacre of unarmed civilians. There is no military purpose to their use on such people, other than the general one of causing as much terror and dismay as possible (and of course demonstrating that you yourself will stop at nothing). The Syrian government has long been known to have stocks of chemical agents, and has been willing to use them in the past. The 2013 efforts to remove the government’s stockpiles are, in retrospect, something of a cruel joke, and might have at best merely postponed their use a bit. (And yes, this means that I find it highly likely that this attack was the work of the Syrian government, and highly likely that their Russian allies aided in it, since they’re the main reason that the government’s air force is operational at all).
So today we once again live in a world where people deliberately drop such things without warning onto homes and families, making sure to cause as much damage and horror as possible. If you’ve ever wondering how such things can happen, circumspice.