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      Los Angeles Times' Syria Commentaries

      President Barack Obama addresses the nation on the current situation with Syria, September 10, 2013. (Photo: AP)After President Obama's speech, the Los Angeles Times published this commentary by Tom Hayden:

      "Tom Hayden, a regular contributor to our Op-Ed pages:

      The dominant mantra we heard from the president’s allies Tuesday was that it was the credible threat of American military force that caused Russia, Syria and Iran to agree to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons. If that argument keeps us out of another war, it deserves some credit, even if it's only partly true.

      But it could also be said that it was the “credible threat” of democracy -- a defeat of his war plan in Congress and in public opinion polls -- that caused the Obama administration to back away from the military brink and seek an honorable way out.

      Interestingly, however, Obama may have been leaving himself an exit by asking Congress to authorize the vote, knowing that the prospects were dim. His traditional allies at MoveOn, for example, have gathered hundreds of thousands of petitions to rein him in too.

      If diplomacy is successful, Obama will be able to claim victory against the chemical threat without a massive intervention. Assad can sit on his throne a bit longer, shorn of some dangerous weapons. Syrians can be protected from gas attacks. Russia, Iran and China can disavow chemical warfare while claiming to prevent regime change. A peace conference is in sight.

      Brilliant if it happens."


      Other commentators included Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Robin Wright (US Institute of Peace), Charles Stevenson (Johns Hopkins), Rajan Menon (Atlantic Council) and Chris Edelson (American University). Read the rest of the commentaries here.

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      Reader Comments (1)

      Brilliant? Obama was "brilliant" on this issue?

      Tom, are you planning on applying for a full-time position as a public relations officer for the White House?

      Barely four days ago, Barack Obama was in the middle of his "flood-the-zone" strategy, parading his top advisers around the newstalk circuit hawking the urgent need for a US military strike. His most ardent supporters, including Nancy Pelosi in the House and Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, were imploring all members of Congress to view the death videos from the gas attack in Syria -- as if they proved who was responsible for it.

      Obama was suggesting to Congressmembers that they ought to vote against the wishes of their constituents if they personally favored a military strike, as well as hinting that he might go ahead and attack Syria even if Congress voted against him. In spite of these massive efforts, Obama's strategy was failing so badly that he even agreed to expand his war plans to include a wider war and a goal of regime change to get some Republican support for his attack. Obama was desperately trying to find a way to launch his strike and get the war started.

      The only thing that derailed this effort was John Kerry's monumental blunder. When speaking off the cuff, Kerry invited Syria to give up its chemical weapons in return for a curtailment of military action against it. Syria and Russia took the US up on this proposal within a few hours. Kerry looked clownish as he scrambled to take back the offer, but it was too late. World opinion had been engaged too firmly to let it go.

      Who, if anyone, was "brilliant" in this affair? Certainly not Obama, who looked and acted as bewildered as President Bush did as he was reading "My Pet Goat" in an elementary school classroom on September 11, 2001 when the twin towers were exploding and burning.

      Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi? No, she looked like she had consumed bad shellfish for lunch as she spluttered generic words of support for President Obama, and then quickly slid off-camera.

      The most striking moments were provided by California's two US Senators. Barbara Boxer apparently did not get the memo saying that Obama's chances in the Senate were hopeless. She delivered a fiery, jingoistic, inflammatory, disingenuous rant that called for the swift punishment of Assad for his crimes against humanity, and her vicious screed certainly made every AIPAC member giddy with delight. Not long after, it was announced that Harry Reid had cancelled the vote, because even the Democrats were not supporting the President. And the very next morning, Dianne Feinstein (who never met a war she did not cheer) declared that Russia's efforts at diplomacy ought to be supported because they might achieve exactly what the US wants. She looked so defeated and contrite that she appeared ready to start bowing down any minute and begging for forgiveness. What a spectacle.

      It is too much to call Vladimir Putin brilliant in this affair, because, after all, he merely took advantage of a stupendous blunder by John Kerry. However, if you do want to read some sensible comments about the current Syrian situation, I recommend you read Putin's op-ed in the New York Times published on Thursday, September 12. His comments are quite remarkable -- and might get as close to brilliant as we are likely to see in this ugly affair.

      September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSatya
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