What could be worse for America’s standing in the world than a Congress refusing to support a President’s proposal for military action against a rogue regime that used WMD? Here’s one idea: A U.S. President letting that rogue be rescued from military punishment by the country that has protected the rogue all along.
That’s where President Obama now finds himself on Syria after he embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to take custody of Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons. The move may rescue Mr. Obama and Congress from the political agony of a vote on a resolution to authorize a military strike on Syria. But the diplomatic souk is now open, and Mr. Obama has turned himself into one of the junior camel traders.
What a fiasco. Secretary of State John Kerry, of all people, first floated this escape route for Assad on Monday in Europe where he was supposed to be rallying diplomatic support for a strike. The remark appeared to be off-the-cuff, but with Mr. Kerry and this Administration you never know. In any case before Mr. Kerry’s plane had landed in the U.S., Russia’s foreign minister had leapt on the idea and proposed to take custody of Assad’s chemical arsenal to forestall U.S. military action.
The White House should have rebuffed the offer given Russia’s long protection of Assad at the United Nations—a fact noted with scorn on Monday by Mr. Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Instead Mr. Obama endorsed the Russian gambit as what “could potentially be a significant breakthrough.” The Senate immediately called off its Wednesday vote on the military resolution. By Tuesday Assad had accepted the offer that he hopes will spare him from a military strike.