Removing Assad would be difficult, and perhaps not even wise, as it might open the door to rule by Muslim extremists. The Bush administration overthrew Saddam without realizing that it was eliminating a counterweight to Iran and instead, was setting up a new majority-Shia state aligned with Iran.
Syria is a party to the 1925 protocol banning the use of poison gas, one of the oldest international treaties. Our goal should be to mobilize support for that treaty and for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the production, stockpiling, or use of chemical weapons, even though Syria never signed it.
Such treaties have the force of international law, and a concerted effort would serve to establish the precedent of the international community uniting to defend international law.
In the meantime, Obama should return that Nobel Peace Prize.
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.