An Iraqi Kurd visits the cemetery for victims of the 1988 chemical attack in Halabja, March 2013
Thaier al-Sudani / Courtesy Reuters

Among the many arguments marshaled in opposition to U.S. intervention in Syria, a prominent one is that the chemical weapons taboo is not worth saving. Writing in Foreign Affairs last April, the political scientist John Mueller suggested that the world should “erase the red line,” since chemical weapons generally produce far fewer fatalities than conventional weapons. Echoing this reasoning, the Harvard scholar Stephen Walt asked in The New York Times last week, “Does it really matter whether Assad is killing his opponents using 500-pound bombs, mortar shells, cluster munitions, machine guns, icepicks or sarin gas? Dead is dead, no

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