Obama’s Speech Delays Strike, Explores Diplomatic Opening:
As the President addressed the nation about the crisis in Syria, I sat waiting for the Acela to Washington at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station when an old man walked past me, trailed by an entourage from the K-9 unit. The hard, squinting eyes behind the glasses, the pinched brow, and the pencil-line lips were unmistakable: It was Donald Rumsfeld, just shrunken and more frail.
A few lucky breaks led to a different speech than we expected
Barack Obama’s speech on Syria had a peculiar structure. The first part of it was devoted to justifying why the president had decided to “respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.” Your average listener might have thought that Obama would say next that missiles aimed at Damascus were leaving their silos. The threat of violence loomed over the first half of the speech.
On August 24, conservative (sorta) author and defense-policy wise man Edward Luttwak published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that the optimal U.S. strategy for the Syrian civil war is to let all the parties to the conflict continue to bleed each other.
Okay, so Secretary of State John Kerry inadvertently opened the door to getting President Barack Obama off the hook, and saving him from an inevitably embarrassing vote in Congress on the use of force in Syria. Now, the White House can, as opponents of a military strike have argued, really try the diplomatic channel while regrouping up on the Hill.
To give you an overview of the latest news, we’ve organized the latest Syrian developments in a bullet-point summary.
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.
As the first of what will be semi-regular chats with former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, I called him up on Monday to hear his opinions on Syria, Obama’s second-term agenda, and Larry Summers vs. Janet Yellen at the Fed. Isaac Chotiner: Do you think that Obama’s going to get this vote on Syria through Congress? Barney Frank: Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a possible way. There are people who would have a much better idea of that than I would. IC: Do you talk to any old friends in the House about what they’re thinking? BF: I’ve talked to exactly three members.
Britain’s retreat from military intervention in Syria has no proud author. The parliamentary vote that apparently settled the matter was a humiliation for the Prime Minister but also a shock to those who humiliated him.
A vote by Congress to reject the resolution sought by President Barack Obama to authorize military force in Syria will add to the long list of unintended consequences already produced by bad policy choices on Syria.