That’s how Kerry described the proposed military strikes against Syria:
This was an off-the-cuff remark that he’d obviously like to take back, but it was just an unfortunately exaggerated version of what the administration has been saying all along. It’s going to be limited in duration and scope! It’s hard to convince people that only a minimal effort is required at the same time you’re trying to convince them that this is so very critical.
Fallows focuses on the same disconnect:
The concern all along about the administration’s plans has been the gap between the problem it describes — moral outrage, gassing of children, overall carnage — and the response it is proposing. You can talk about that disconnection: Will an attack make a difference? Might it make things worse? I’ve tried to look into such questions in the posts gathered here. Or you could run back-to-back clips of the same Cabinet secretary saying “this is Munich” and “unbelievably small.” It’s unfair to the admirable and usually eloquent Kerry, but in a moment’s slip-up he crystallized a counter-argument.
Joshua Keating’s two cents:
I may not have much experience with brinksmanship, but it seems to me that threatening to hit someone becomes a lot less effective when at the same time you’re telling your friends,Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit him that hard. And convincing the public that this situation is analogous to the buildup to the largest war in human history is difficult when you’re also saying that an “unbelievably small” effort will be sufficient to deal with it. Given the blows the Assad regime has already absorbed over the last two years, it’s hard to imagine statements like these changing his thinking.