Imagine that you are a senior officer in HM Armed Forces, seated with your colleagues around the table in the war room. The agenda is to discuss the following brief, assigned to you by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg:
"The murder of innocent men, women and children through the use of chemical weapons is a repugnant crime and a flagrant abuse of international law, and if we stand idly by we set a very dangerous precedent indeed, where brutal dictators and brutal rulers will feel they can get away with using chemical weapons on a larger and larger scale in the future. These are weapons which were used on a large scale in the First World War, banned back in the 1920s, so all we're considering is a serious response to that.
"What we're not considering is regime change, try [sic] to topple the Assad regime, trying to settle the civil war in Syria one way or another. That needs to be settled through a political process. We're not considering an open-ended military intervention with boots on the ground like we saw in Iraq.
"What is being considered is measures which are legal, which are proportionate, and which are specific to discouraging and sending out a clear signal that the use of chemical weapons in this day and age is simply intolerable."
You have not yet been shown any evidence that the recent gas attack was in fact initiated by a brutal dictator / ruler, and you are not required to determine the matter.
You are now tasked with discouraging further such attacks, by anyone, without taking sides in the Syrian civil war, or in any way helping to overthrow the present government of Syria. You may not permit British "boots on the ground" there, and must at all times ensure that your interventions are legal and proportionate, so that HMG and yourselves personally can avoid being prosecuted afterwards. The committee is expected to submit detailed proposals to the Cabinet with the utmost despatch. Biscuits are limited and there will be no refills of coffee.
The use of deniable irregulars, such as Tinker Bell, may be considered.
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