Secretary of State John Kerry was asked a question at a press conferences and went off the talking points. He stated that perhaps a military strike by the United States could be avoided if Syrian President Assad gave up all of his chemical weapons. The State Department immediately started to backpedal and then Russian president Putin announced that he would assist in having Syria give up its chemical weapons under international supervision. The administration changed course in a New York minute.
The president stated that he had had talks about disarming Syria with president Putin. Secretary Kerry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both stated that it was the potential of a military strike on Syria that caused Assad to consider giving up his chemical weapons and it showed great leadership by President Obama.
President Obama went on national TV on Tuesday and tried to outline his reasoning for striking Syria. All in all he presented a good picture as far as it went, but far too much was omitted. At the end, he requested that Congress delay any vote for military action so that the diplomatic potential can continue. As an aside, I noticed that he stated that as Americans we are an exceptional people, and that is one of the reasons that we must act. I seem to recall that on more than one occasion this president has stated that we are no more exceptional than any other country in the world. Which is it, or is it only evident when the politics dictate?
I suspect that we will be wondering what is going to happen in Syria for quite some time. The possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough will be just within reach, and we must not act rashly. Does anyone remember how long it took for the talks during the Korean War to finally end in an armistice? Look also at the initial secret peace talks with North Vietnam and finally the open talks that took ages. Those talks only became serious when President Nixon unleashed the B 52 strikes during the Christmas bombings in 1972. Total unmitigated power was finally exercised and that resulted in an end to the war.
Secretary Kerry's faux pas that caused Russia to get involved has provided the administration with a way of extricating itself from an untenable situation that was caused by the president also committing a faux pas by establishing a "red line."
Sadly, all of this contributes to convincing both our friends and enemies that we may be on a decline as a great power. That could cause enemies to take aggressive actions that they otherwise would not have considered. Attacking strength is usually avoided while attacking weakness is practiced in all areas, including sports, politics, war and business. I do not believe that we are weak, but our actions for the past few years have definitely given the impression that although we have the strength, our will to use it may be waning. This latest example merely supports that image.