"We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press conference in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague this past Monday. "That is exactly what we're talking about doing -- unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."
An unbelievably small, limited kind of effort -- seriously?
At this same press conference, Kerry noted as an aside, in what appeared to be an off-the-cuff remark, that if Assad were to hand over his chemical weapons stock, he might avoid an attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin seized on this remark and turned it into an opportunity to project Russia onto the world stage. Russia proposed a deal wherein Syria would turn over its chemical weapons to the international community. While Kerry had floated the idea, Putin jumped on the opening and took it a step further by getting a Syrian and U.N. buy-in. Opportunistic and smart for Russia.
Obama reacted to Putin's move by asking Congress to delay a vote to authorize U.S. military action against Syria so that he could focus on the Russian plan. How convenient: The vote more than likely would have been defeated in the House of Representatives. While Obama attempts to grab partial credit, noting that this idea had been floated between he and Putin before, the fact that Obama cancelled bilateral talks in Moscow a few weeks ago makes one wonder.
While some critics have labeled this confluence of events as leading from behind, it might be more accurately labeled as following from behind.