Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Can Obama Handle a Russian Flop on Syria?

History may see this as the moment when Obama and Putin went eyeball to eyeball and the other guy blinked.

Maybe so but, as the President unleashes weapons of mass persuasion with wall-to-wall TV interviews and key Democrats back him, he should recognize what any good basketball player knows is a strategic flop, suddenly stepping away from an aggressive adversary to have him called for a foul.   

World opinion is the ref here, and abrupt Russian agreement to have Syria surrender its chemical weapons to UN control already has Obama scrambling to modify his prepared pitch to call the move “a potentially positive development” and emphasize that he favors a diplomatic solution.

Such tactics date back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the former Soviets have not forgotten what JFK taught them, to take any opening to get the other guy off balance.

The Russian UN Ambassador is on PBS, unblinkingly backing his nation’s proposal to have Syrians give up weapons he called non-existent yesterday and reminding Americans of Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule on Iraq (“You break it, you own it”) on where a Syrian strike could lead.

What is waiting for President Obama as he faces the nation Tuesday night is a remarkable opportunity to extricate himself from the no-win trap he created by declaring a diplomatic victory now and putting his missile sword back in the scabbard, reserving it as a later option if the Syrians use chemical weapons again.

The ground is prepared. Harry Reid has already delayed a Senate vote on the military action, and the President has an unbelievable opportunity to relieve the nation and the world by taking the opening the Russians have handed him for whatever devious reasons of their own.

It would be a winning three-point shot at the buzzer.

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