Niagara Gazette

September 14, 2013

Obama may have lucked out in Syria

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When President Barack strode to the podium to give his address to the nation about Syria on Tuesday night, Americans could be forgiven if they thought that they had witnessed the scene before.

That’s because the president walked up there the same way on May 2, 2011, when he announced that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden.

We don’t believe the imagery was a coincidence.

In talking about the difficult, serpentine Syria situation, Obama wanted to exude strength and a sense of righting an immense wrong. Regarding bin Laden, that meant revenging the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. When it came to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime, the president spent a good deal of his speech pointing out how the dictator had used poison gas on innocent men, women and children.

In attempting to persuade the American public and members of Congress that he should be given their support should he decide to attack Assad’s regime, Obama had a Herculean task that he did about as well as he could. He was articulate, compassionate and laid out the reasons why the United States should get involved in a civil war half a world away.

Early polls showed that Obama was more persuasive with the citizenry than with legislators. Had the voting actually occurred, it was apparent that he would have no more than a 50-50 chance of getting approval from the Democratic Party-led Senate, and faced certain defeat in the Republican Party-dominated House of Representatives.

A sizeable number of Democrats — suspicious because they feel they were lied to by the previous administration about the reasons for military action in Iraq and weary of the long war in Afghanistan — were set to vote no.

On the Republican side, many members of the House and Senate will reflexively reject anything Obama wants. Others had serious reservations about whether the bombing the president desired went far enough to have any tangible effect on Syria.

As it turns out, Russia — for whom Syria has long been a client state — has given Obama an out, at least temporarily. The Russians jumped on a statement by Defense Secretary John Kerry that an American attack could be prevented if Assad were to give up all his chemical weapons.

On Thursday, Assad told Russia’s Rossiya 24 state news channel: “Syria is transferring its chemical weapons to international control because of Russia. The threats of the United States had no influence on the decision to put the weapons under (international) control.”

No, of course not.

Were that outcome to become a reality, Obama could claim with at least some justification that America’s gunboat diplomacy achieved a desired objective.

Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

-- The Daily Star, Oneonta