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The two big questions

Black columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood, east of Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Syria reached an agreement with the United Nations on Sunday to allow a U.N. team of experts to visit the site of alleged chemical weapons attacks last week outside Damascus, state media said. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Now that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, there are two big questions: Can they be destroyed from the air without sending in soldiers, and who will end up running Syria afterwards?

Syria has had years to hide its chemical arsenal, including placing weapons near civilians to make it impossible for us to incinerate all of them from the air. And yet for politicians like Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, getting all the chemical weapons is crucial to our national security.

“My greatest fear is these weapons ending up in the wrong hands, say an al Qaeda jihadist, and that could be a direct threat to the homeland security of the United States,” said McCaul.

Well, the 82nd Airborne last year ran a simulation of just such a mission. CBS’s David Martin covered it, “They launched a helicopter assault on a compound where, for purposes of this exercise, chemical agents were believed to be stored.”

But the real thing in Syria would take 75,000 ground troops. And the latest polling shows 96 percent of Americans would be against that. Which leaves us with the following possible scenario: that we drop bombs, the dictator falls, but we don’t send in soldiers because it’s so unpopular, and so there’s a scramble for the chemical weapons, and the wrong rebels get them.

There might be one silver lining. Since any intervention would require borrowing many billions of dollars, once we’re engaged in Syria, my guess is all that stuff about not raising the debt ceiling and shutting down the government in October will conveniently disappear, in a blaze of fiscal patriotism.

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