One of the dangers of laying down red lines is that when they are crossed (as they almost inevitably will do) you are then in a position of having to do something about it without losing credibility. Over Syria, red lines have been crossed..not a fortnight ago in the horrendous attack..but earlier when on fourteen occasions previously chemical weapons were used. There is a growing disconnect between the view of some politicians on the need for intervention in Syria and the view of many people—polls indicate a majority of people in France and Britain and barely a majority in the United States—who are either opposed to or sceptical about intervention. Some oppose intervention on principle or war-weariness but most oppose intervention because they are unclear what the purpose of intervention is, other than it being a punitive action, and do not see how it could resolve the intractable problem of the civil war.
The disconnect between politicians and the people is paralleled by the disconnect between those countries that support intervention and those who oppose it without the agreement of the United Nations Security Council as evidenced in the G20 meeting that ended today. There is no agreement over who perpetrated the atrocity, though the balance of probability lies with the Assad regime; there is no agreement over the value of intervention; and there is very little likelihood of agreement in the Security Council. Relying on the UN to act over Syria David Cameron has said, would be tantamount to ‘contracting out foreign policy and morality’ to a Russian veto.