Barack and Bashar: A Miraculous Pull from the Deep?

At the time I was putting the final edits to my latest column at First Things, things were looking as bleak as could be for President Obama and, of course, for the United States.

At this writing, the headlines are chaotic and confused, and the administration seems uncertain about what it wants or needs to do, but confident that some action—perhaps “unbelievably small” action, according to the Secretary of State–must be taken, by someone, and pretty soon. . .or maybe later.

What an awful position Obama has put the country in. If we do nothing, we present ourselves as toothless and give Assad (and other nefarious players) tacit permission to use chemical weapons with seeming impunity. If we do something, but try to keep it small we risk seeming like a nation of Herods. He, recall, made a rash promise to Salome and then became willing to serve up a measure of collateral damage (John the Baptist’s head, to be precise) for the sake of saving face.

For the past week, while the whole world watched, Obama and his administration handled the Syria question as a kind of hourly slapstick calamity short. We were hearing that a military gesture on our part, no matter how small, might be necessary to save our credibility, and the president’s.

But the diminishment of Obama’s stature (and ours) had already become an accomplished fact. At this point we were (and are) talking mere degrees.

Some time after turning in my copy, however, there was a miracle! A bumptious and accidental miracle, as befits, the a Three Stooges reel, but God does answer prayers in any way he sees fit — and world received this “accidental solution” on the Monday following a weekend of prayer and fasting.

And no one ever said God doesn’t have a sense of humor:

Washington’s crisis over Syria started with a gaffe. Another gaffe may very well end it.

If the Obama administration’s response to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons appears erratic, improvised and incoherent, that’s because it has been, ever since the president declared the use of chemical weapons to constitute a “red line” that apparently prompted US action. A different improvisation, from his secretary of state on Monday, offered the Obama administration an opportunity to climb back from the brink of a war Obama initially wanted to avoid.

I eagerly await hearing some ambitious, dim-witted young female reporter chasing down the president and shouting, “but what about your gaffes?”

Anyway, here’s what happened, via Emily Zanotti:

. . .John Kerry made a flippant remark about asking Syria to turn their chemical weapons over to the international community if they didn’t want airborne killing robots invading their airspace.

And that’s when the sun came out and the birds started singing and the unicorns began prancing through the underbrush and John Kerry discovered that this diplomacy thing is so easy even he can do it.

America’s top diplomat suggested in a passing remark that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S.-led strike if he handed over all his chemical weapons, but the State Department quickly dismissed the comment as more of a “rhetorical argument” than an offer. . .Kerry delivered the statement almost dismissively and quickly said Assad had no intention of giving up “weapons he denies using.” But it was still the first time such a suggestion had been made by the Obama administration.

The administration immediately freaked out and denied that the statement was anything more than Kerry’s patented “thinking out loud,” best exemplified by his deep thoughts on the need for ground troops in last week’s Congressional hearings, calling the remarks “rhetorical” and reiterating that the Administration has already discounted a diplomatic resolution.

So, it’s an oops. But it’s a brilliant oops, right?

Face saved. Larry, Moe and Curly Joe couldn’t have oops’d it better. The administration, unsurprisingly, immediately began to spin new thread for the Emperor’s clothes. As Ed Morrissey notes, this “solution” only delivers the world back to the status quo, but it also “buys time” for the administration and the congress to actually develop plans, policies, strategies and tactics that are not simply reactions to the latest bumble.

Still, if this blundering solution halts a dubious military enterprise no one wanted, then thanks be to God. It’s not “peace” as any of us desire it. But it’s a start.

Meanwhile, what’s that picture at the top all about? Well, you’ll have to go here to find out.

What now? What next?
“A slow-motion Bay of Pigs”
Rescued: Hollywood breaths a sigh of relief
Surreal photos of the civil war in Syria

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About Elizabeth Scalia