The Multilateralist

Would NATO action in Syria be offense or defense?

Would NATO action in Syria be offense or defense?

NATO is planning to deploy Patriot missiles to Turkey while also warning Syria that any use of chemical weapons would prompt an immediate response. The juxtaposition of these two policy elements has led to some confusion about whether the alliance is in an offensive or defensive posture toward Syria. Witness this Voice of America account of recent statements by NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

Secretary-General Rasmussen called Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons “a matter of great concern,” which adds to the urgency of deploying the missile defense system to Turkey. He called any use of chemical weapons “completely unacceptable,” and said it would result in “an immediate reaction.”

In almost the same breath, Rasmussen appears to be saying that NATO has no plans for offensive action against Syria and that the use of chemical weapons would produce immediate action. The only ways I can see of reconciling these statements are 1) that the alliance reaction to chemical weapons use would not be military in nature; 2) NATO does not consider a military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria as "offensive"; or 3) NATO is bluffing.