As I see it, the problem isn’t that the president didn’t act on Syria after drawing the red line; it’s that he deferred to Congress. If the president really thought that the attack was a mistake, calling the strike off himself would still have been a way of taking charge. It would’ve been a decision. By placing it in Congress’ hands it looked like he was trying to get out of a bind. However well intentioned, his advocates hurt him by claiming that this was “a brilliant political move.” Most people didn’t think so.
It now looks like the president can’t take action in Syria even if he wants to. The irony is that in not wanting to get involved in Syria Obama was on the same page as the country. But by doing it the way he did, he placed himself at odds with it. “The American people slap down the president on Syria,” it was reported. And even though it was clear Congress wasn’t going to approve the mission, Obama still maintained the right to intervene. That’s why Lindsey Graham says he rolls his eyes. The threat just doesn’t seem credible.
Having gotten into indirect WMD negotiations with him, it’s almost like the U.S. has to honor Assad as long as he does what he’s supposed to. And doesn’t Iran, for one, need to see that we’re trustworthy if we’re going to make a deal with them? On the other hand, if Assad doesn’t do what he’s supposed to, isn’t it equally important to show Iran that there are consequences for not honoring their part of a commitment? But are we to believe that Obama is really going to hold Assad accountable if the latter doesn’t do what he’s supposed to?
Has the president been keeping all of us up to date on these matters? Everything seems hanging in the air. There are many unanswered questions. If one or more of the negotiations succeeds, I assume there’ll be an announcement. But how will we know if they don’t bear fruit? How do we know Syria or Iran aren’t just buying time? Can Iran be stopped? How? The president assured everyone he wouldn’t let them get the bomb. Will he keep his word? Or is this another Syria red line? And would he find it difficult getting Congress’ support this time?