This is what passes for intelligent, sophisticated commentary on Syria — Julia Ioffe on how an unexpected opportunity for a diplomatic solution to Obama’s sabre-rattling is really Obama “getting played by Putin and Assad”:
This, apparently, is how diplomacy happens these days: Someone makes an off-hand remark at a press conference and triggers an international chain reaction that turns an already chaotic and complex situation completely on its head, and gives everyone a sense that, perhaps, this is the light at the end of the indecision tunnel.
Speaking in London next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that perhaps the military strike around which the administration has been painfully circling for weeks could be avoided if Bashar al-Assad can “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.”
The Russians immediately jumped on the impromptu proposal, calling Kerry to check if he was serious before going live with their proposal to lean on Syria. An hour later, they trotted out Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Mouallem, who said he too was down with the proposal, which was a strange way to get the Syrians to finally admit they even had chemical weapons to begin with. Before long, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the English, and the French were all on board, too.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the White House was just as surprised as anyone. Asked if this was a White House plan that Kerry had served up in London, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken was unequivocal. “No, no, no,” he said. “We literally just heard about this as you did some hours ago.”
So that’s good. At least everyone’s on the same page.
Barbara O’Brien is so not with it:
This may or may not have anything to do with John Kerry going “off message,” but if the result is that Assad relinquishes control of his chemical weapons, allowing President Obama to back down from a bombing threat, it’s good for everybody. Including President Obama.
Someone at New Republic is saying that President Obama “got played” by Putin and Assad. I’m not seeing that, exactly. If the good cop/bad cop act causes Assad to relinquish control of his chemical weapons, which is apparently acceptable to President Obama, how is President Obama getting “played”?
She just doesn’t get it, does she? There’s just no room for a diplomatic solution that comes from a surprising quarter, unplanned in advance by the Indispensable Nation. I mean, if it’s somebody else’s idea, then that puts the United States in the one down position, right? We are the greatest military power on earth! We cannot be seen accepting a chance for a peaceful solution that avoids war, after the President drew a red line!