Tuesday, September 10, 2013

assessment: muddle; prediction: muddle

Diplomats like the idea of backing their diplomacy with the threat of force. It's quite unusual, however, to have force yanked back by diplomacy.

What we seems to have now in regard to Syria is a time-out from air strikes and congressional votes while the French try to get the UN Security Council to mandate the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. That would be a welcome development, but one hard to nail down and achieve even in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, what happens?

The Obama administration sure looks as if it stumbled into this situation rather than marching there with a diplomatic initiative backed by the threat of force.

But as David Sanger of the New York Times says, it has many advantages:
But at this point, Mr. Obama is looking for a way to avoid defeat in Congress, Mr. Kerry is looking for a way to drive Mr. Assad and the rebels to the table, and the Russians are looking for a way to keep their Syrian client in power. And so the pressure seems likely to build to find a way for Mr. Assad to make a gesture that could avoid a strike, or at least an immediate one.
I'm not sure I agree with all of those points, but I do foresee days if not weeks of more muddle -- diplomatically at the UN and with Moscow and Damascus, and on Capitol Hill.  Congress will surely split into factions rather than coalescing behind a consensus policy on Syria, which I what I'd prefer.

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