Can we please get over the silliness I’m hearing from a few quarters that President Obama had gamed out the whole Syria affair before it even happened? It’s embarrassing. John Kerry made an obviously unscripted comment—which the press twisted into a “gaffe” because, hey, that’s what they do—and Russia seized on it for reasons of its own. Perhaps to gum up the works. Perhaps to get itself out of a jam it was tired of. Who knows? But Obama pretty plainly didn’t plan it and didn’t welcome it.
There’s really no reason to go down this path anyway. If you want to give Obama credit, give him credit for something he deserves: being willing to recognize an opportunity when he sees it. I can guarantee you that George W. Bush wouldn’t have done the same. But Obama was flexible enough to see that he had made mistakes; that congressional approval of air strikes was unlikely; and that the Russian proposal gave him a chance to regroup and try another tack. That’s not normal presidential behavior, and it’s perfectly praiseworthy all on its own.
In the meantime, it’s rock solid certain that Assad isn’t going to launch another gas attack anytime soon, which means that, by hook or by crook, Obama has achieved his goal for now. No, it’s not the way he planned it, but the best war plans seldom survive contact with reality, and the mark of a good commander is recognizing that and figuring out to react. It may not be pretty to watch it unfold in public in real time, but it’s nonetheless the mark of a confident and effective commander-in-chief. It’s about time we had one.