Will our Asian allies be confident of our backing in their disputes with China over islets in the East China Sea? Will China be deterred from attacking them?
Blinking at the evidence that Syria has crossed what he called a "red line," Obama may be hoping to avoid getting bogged down in a military quagmire there. But weakness is provocative, and appeasement can lead to a wider war.
Last week, Obama also blinked on the sequester, as Senate Democrats led the charge to give the Federal Aviation Administration explicit flexibility after the agency furloughed air traffic controllers.
He had said earlier that he would veto legislation giving administrators flexibility in adapting to spending cuts. But -- blink -- he signed the bill, instead.
"The Democrats have lost on sequestration," wrote the liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. By agreeing to "ease the pain," he said, "Democrats have agreed to sequestration for the foreseeable future."
That's probably right. Obama's prediction of dire consequences from sequester cuts was undermined by the administration's two most visible cuts in service.
The idea that mandatory cuts required cancelling White House tours didn't meet the laugh test. Fodder for late-night comics.
And the idea that a 4 percent cut in FAA funding required delaying 40 percent of airline flights was equally laughable.
It antagonized two classes of strategically placed frequent flyers: members of Congress and members of the press. No way they were going to tolerate needless flight delays.
Obama's acceptance of the sequester means ratcheting spending levels down in the future, just as the Obama Democrats' stimulus package ratcheted spending up.
That's a policy defeat for liberals, but the general public will probably not suffer much from Obama's sequester blink. The consequences of his Syria blink could be much more ominous.