PRESIDENT Obama’s call for a military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own people has not found much support.
For Syrian President Bashar Assad the earnest intent of Obama’s message was apparently quite compelling. He has accepted a plan to surrender the country’s chemical-weapons stockpile to the international community.
Most of the details are unknown at this point. The language of a United Nations resolution is being debated between French and Russian diplomats, and the tension falls around enforcement procedures.
This is a welcome and appealing option, in particular because other countries are stepping forward to endorse the approach, and condemn Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
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That said, this specter of hope will not change domestic opinion about U.S. military strikes. Americans, and their congressional delegations, are war-weary.
Providing technical help to a concerted international effort to gather and dispose of Syria’s chemical arsenal is appropriate. Enforcement of inspections, timelines and Assad’s cooperation can be handled by others, not the U.S.
The goal must be narrowly defined. Get Syria’s chemical weapons out of use and circulation. Eliminate them as a military option. That is an achievement unto itself. Calculating how this fits into the dynamics of the civil war and what it means for Assad is not worth the diplomatic angst.
Obama was determined to act. Russia heard him, and believed him, and conveyed that opinion to Assad, who presumably saw the value of surrendering the weapons.
Collect the chemical arsenal in a timely fashion and eliminate its existence or availability. A praiseworthy accomplishment when and if it happens.
Call it enlightened self-interest for Assad. Opposition to U.S. military strikes does not change.