The latest turn of events as the Obama administration confronts the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war is interesting to say the least, as the UK Guardian reports:
Barack Obama welcomed a Russian proposal on Monday for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control, opening up the first real chance of a political settlement to the crisis since hundreds of civilians died in an attack on a Damascus suburb last month.
In a series of primetime television interviews, Obama described Russia's offer as a "possible breakthrough" and a "potentially positive development" in the standoff with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. With the prospect of a deal with the Syrians in the offing, the Senate majority leader Harry Reid postponed a crucial vote to authorise military action. Obama conceded in an NBC interview on Monday night that he might lose his campaign in Congress for authorisation. "I wouldn't say I'm confident" of the outcome, he said, adding that he had not decided what to do if it voted against him.
Russia's proposal came after an apparent stumble by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, which set off a diplomatic scramble in Washington as administration officials sought to assess whether it offered a way out for Obama from what has become an increasingly intractable problem.
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly made a less-than serious suggestion that Syria "hand over its chemical weapons within a week" to avoid an attack, which was taken seriously by the Russians. And it may be just as well, as the Boulder Daily Camera reports on the latest vote in Congress against taking action:
“The president has chosen to ask for the advice and counsel of Congress, and with my voice and my vote, I respond: do not attack Syria,” [Rep. Jared] Polis wrote.
He concluded that the use of chemical weapons in Syria deserves a response, but the reasons not to attack Syria and the risks of escalation outweigh the benefits from the proposed military action.
An attack on Syria doesn't make the American people safer, Polis wrote, and the possible death of innocent Syrian civilians as collateral damage from missile strikes may increase local and regional anti-Western sentiment — and risks increasing the ranks of terrorists.
Even President Barack Obama has now conceded that he may not have the votes in Congress to authorize military action against Syria. At the same time, if the crisis resolves in a way that prevents further use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, most preferably fully surrendering the weapons to Russia or another responsible nation, Obama can claim some victory there just for having threatened to attack.
One thing's for sure, times have changed since George W. Bush was President.