I recently published an article in Utica College's Center of Public Affairs and Election Research titled, "The Trump Administration and the Déjà Vu of Middle East Chemical Warfare," in which he argued it is not surprising that a week after President Donald J. Trump praises Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi----two violent autocrats----one of them would feel he had a free enough hand to use chemical weapons.
I more subtly made the point that there is no reason chemical weapons should be where the line for action is drawn in the sand. Therefore, I wish to re-iterate more strongly on this blog that it is a discursive, social practice to claim chemical warfare is unacceptable but the use of barrel bombs and other highly destructive tactics are acceptable. This is what Nine Tannenwald called a "permissive norm" in her work on the non-use of nuclear weapons, or the so-called "nuclear taboo."
That is, before the chemical attack, Assad has killed somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million Syrians. Moral outrage directed at the use of sarin gas serves only to downplay and, in simple terms, make acceptable the use of conventional weaponry that has been even more destructive.
Check out the original contribution for UC here, and the other work at the Center of Public Affairs here.