The world will see through this spin (that the US initiated the CW idea). A British commentator in the Telegraph on Monday called this "the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began," and that's only a mild exaggeration. A weak and inconstant U.S. President has been maneuvered by America's enemies into claiming that a defeat for his Syria policy is really a triumph.
The Iranians will take it as a signal that they can similarly trap Mr. Obama in a diplomatic morass that claims to have stopped their nuclear program. Israel will conclude the same and will now have to decide if it must risk a solo strike on Tehran. America's friends and foes around the world will recalculate the risks ahead in the 40 dangerous months left of this unserious Presidency.
Peggy Noonan said the Russian proposal was "absurd" on its face. Assad would never even contemplate giving up his CW, his survival insurance. William Dobson of Slate said, "If your foreign policy has to be rescued by a dictator, you are doing it wrong." Jonathan Chait at NY Magazine, normally an Administration supporter, said, "But, having arguably blundered into the precipice of war, the administration seems to have indisputably blundered into a promising solution." Peter Wehner at Commentary called the damage caused by Obama unilaterally giving up the US' dominant mid-East strategic position as "historic" and potentially irreversible. John Podhoretz at the New York Post titled his piece this afternoon: "Feckless Obama Embarrasses the Nation." Bob Dreyfuss, at The Nation, an anti-war, very liberal publication, had this to say:
Although Obama theoretically could have bombed Syria without congressional authorization, practically speaking that would have been impossible—and both Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad know it. Lacking public support for war, stripped of significant international support, Obama was facing complete paralysis, despite his macho touting of “red lines.” So Putin and Assad have bailed him out.
Pretty tough stuff. To summarize the objections:
- The plan is unworkable, which surely should be clear to the Administration.
- Diplomacy, after threatening a strike, is weakness.
- Getting bailed out by a dictator is humiliating.
- Kerry's London "gaffe" could not have been planned.
- America's prestige may never recover from this dramatic strategic stand-down.
- It was idiotic for Obama to go to Congress.
This afternoon we heard that Russia has submitted a plan for a process to identify, collect and control the CW stocks. At the UN, as I write this, the US, Russia, China, England and France are meeting to discuss the CW plan. Tomorrow, Kerry will meet with Lavrov in Geneva. In the real world, progress is being made.
The plan will work. Eventually, the truth will mostly come out. Obama is remarkable at not paying much attention to pundit commentary. I admire this. He stays centered and on purpose.
Thank you for being there, Mr. President. Thank you, indeed.