The government and the rebels have been indiscriminately bombing and shelling cities; conventional explosives are WAY more deadly than air-dispersed chemical agents. Yet we still have this 1916-era mentality about how poison gas is somehow just so ungentlemanly that it deserves a special level of outrage. That's bullshit. Artillery barrages and bombs do terrible, terrible things to human bodies. When you're suffering and/or dying, you don't give a shit whether hot steel, concussion trauma, napalm burns, or poison gas did the trick.
Which is really what my issue with any bombing is about. It's not that we're doing it or not doing it. It's that we seem to have decided we will only do it when X number have died, or X weapon is used, in this one particular case, and it's presented to us as OF COURSE BECAUSE CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
Let's give the people who are pushing for this the absolute best benefit of the doubt and assume they really do mean to aid the Syrian rebels and save civilian lives. This isn't Iraq; there is an actual conflict already underway with implications for US allies and humanitarian concerns at stake. We are not just going in somewhere to kick the shit out of some people we don't like because suck on this, because we need to feel better, because our national magazine columnists have decided this is what "Americans" "need."
But this also isn't Afghanistan; nobody hanging out there attacked America directly. So are we making the case that any use of chemical weapons anywhere is grounds for America attacking?
In that case, hunker down, Washington DC:
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn't disclose.
I don't know how you come up with an arithmetic for war that ISN'T monstrous, given that no matter what you do people are going to die, but I don't think this is a workable formula.