“Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq war,” – president Obama.
It’s been awesome to watch today as all the jerking knees quieted a little and all the instant judgments of the past month ceded to a deeper acknowledgment (even among Republicans) of what had actually been substantively achieved: something that, if it pans out, might be truly called a breakthrough – not just in terms of Syria, but also in terms of a better international system, and in terms of Iran.
Obama has managed to insist on his red line on Syria’s chemical weapons, forcing the world to grapple with a new breach of international law, while also avoiding being dragged into Syria’s civil war. But he has also strengthened the impression that he will risk a great deal to stop the advance of WMDs (which presumably includes Iran’s nukes). After all, his announcement of an intent to strike Assad was a real risk to him and to the US. Now, there’s a chance that he can use that basic understanding of his Syria policy – and existing agreement on chemical weapons – to forge a potential grand bargain with Iran’s regime. If that is the eventual end-game, it would be historic.
To put it plainly: Syria is the proof of principle for an agreement with Iran. And an agreement with Iran – that keeps its nuclear program reliably civil and lifts sanctions – is the Holy Grail for this administration, and for American foreign policy in the 21st Century.
As for the role of Putin, I argued last week that it was the Russian leader who had blinked, the Russian leader who had agreed to enforce Washington’s policy, and that the best response was to welcome it with open arms. So it was another treat to hear the president say, in tones that are unmistakable:
“I welcome him being involved. I welcome him saying, ‘I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime, to deal with these chemical weapons.’ ”
(Photo: President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on September 13, 2013. By Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images.)