From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday:
In the four days from the moment President Barack Obama announced he would address the nation to the moment he stepped to the lectern Tuesday night, the dynamics of the Syrian crisis went through dizzying and mysterious changes.
Obama lost this country his bid to persuade the American public and majorities of the U.S. House and Senate to back his bid for a military strike grew all but hopeless. But he might, just might, have found audiences in the most unlikely of places: Damascus and Moscow. Yes, you should still greet that with skepticism.
If Obamas speech sounded like it emerged from still unfolding events in a three, two, one countdown before delivery, well, that would make sense. This situation has evolved hour by hour, and we suspect none of us knows the half of it.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the suggestion that Syria could avoid a showdown by giving up its chemical weapons. President Bashar al-Assad jumped at the idea. The Kremlin proposed that Syria turn over its stockpile to Russian and international safeguarding. World leaders saw an opening. Obama warily embraced it as a potentially significant breakthrough.
The president Tuesday night made his most cogent argument to date for a targeted strike to deter Assads atrocities and degrade his military. But the news was Obamas confirmation that he has asked Congress to postpone any vote authorizing use of force and will give the diplomats a chance to resolve this.
Its too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, Obama said, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force.
The upshot: Congress wont be voting anytime soon. Obama wont pursue a military strike before he exhausts the avenue of a voluntary chemical weapons disarmament by the Assad regime, overseen by the United Nations. Obama doesnt know no one does if this Russian diplomatic offer is real or a head feint to buy time, but deciphering that shouldnt take long.
Obama can do one thing as the diplomats do their diplomat-thing: He can finally fulfill his pledge to arm selected groups of rebels so they have a better chance of toppling Assad. Obama made that promise months ago but another mystery those weapons havent materialized in rebel hands.
The only safe prediction: Just as this crisis dramatically changed in the last four days, it will be dramatically different four days from now.
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