We should have known when President Obama made his statement that if Syria used chemical weapons it would be a “red line.” As we have inched toward this day of sending weapons to Syrian Rebels, experts said they have yet to see conclusive signs that sarin gas has been used.

“It’s not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark. It’s not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack, it’s that we’re not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack.

“In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn’t make sense that we don’t see videos, that we don’t see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected.” -Jean Pascal Zanders, former senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies.

There are problems in the world that cannot be solved by violence, but that is a lesson few empires learn until it is too late. Assad is a beast, but then so are most of the rebels.  At a time when war is about the only tie that can bind our polarized nation, it probably doesn’t matter what did or didn’t happen. Even if we find evidence of chemical weapons, there may be no way of knowing which side used them. The powerful speak of “red lines” or say things like “bring it on,” but they never pay the cost of such tough talk. In the olden days, lying presidents could lead a nation to war by first sending weapons, then noncombat advisors, and as soon as we lost some advisors, they put boots on the ground. Now war is much more abstract. Missles and drones can do the dirty work that was once done by the poor. You can almost forget there are real people in those nations who must live and die in what is for us little more than an expensive video game.