I really liked James Fallows recent post about his readers' and his own doubts about the plan to bomb Syria in response to the horrific chemical attack that recently occurred there. I'd have to agree with him that Obama's "red line" statement turned out to be a major error on the President's part. As I see it the Administration greatly under estimated the possibility that Assad might use chemical weapons and then compounded the error by greatly underestimating Assad and his regime's ability to cling to power (or perhaps overestimating the capacities of the rebel groups).
This has put Obama in a tough spot, but it's utter nonsense that the
President is now "forced" to respond militarily to uphold American "credibility" or anything else. Oh I'm sure if we
don't bomb Syria there be a lot of blow back in the press about
"projecting weakness" and such from the usual hawk suspects who have already jumped on the war band wagon, but there will be no lasting damage to Obama or American
interests if he decides to just ignore his past statements and make new
ones. All the usual suspects told us how terrible it would be if we just
up and left Iraq for years. When we finally did just that, the sky
didn't fall, no more than it would if we left Afghanistan next year. This same dynamic played out during the Vietnam
era for years.
If I could give advice to Obama, and granted I really have no
formal credentials or standing to do this, I would just paraphrase the
character Marla Daniels from HBO's The Wire:
"If you attack Syria
and the conflict escalates, or spreads to a neighboring country, you'll
be blamed for that. If you attack Syria and it doesn't deter Assad from
further use of chemical weapons or it doesn't cause him to fall from power, you'll
be blamed for that too. If you attack Syria and it does deter Assad from using chemical weapons and he instead just uses conventional arms to massacre people, you'll also be blamed for that. The game is rigged. But you cannot lose if you
do not play."