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How Chemical Weapons Became Taboo

And Why Syria Won't Overturn the Aversion

According to the United Nations, the Syrian civil war has already claimed over 60,000 lives. Yet it is not these deaths -- however tragic -- but rather the use of chemical weapons that the United States has identified as the threshold beyond which the Syrian regime's conduct will become intolerable. "The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable," President Barack Obama said, addressing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on December 3, 2012. "If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable." The same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded similarly grave warnings, stating that the use of chemical weapons "is a red line for the United States."

Now, with reports surfacing that the Syrian regime may have used a substance known as Agent 15 (a hallucinogenic chemical) in an attack last December, it is worth examining why countries such as

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