The diplomatic tug-of-war over a U.S. military strike is in full play, but behind the scenes, the die has already long been cast. The supposed ultimatum of the U.S. secretary of state will change precious little about it.
Kerry was a little reminiscent of former SED politburo member [Günter] Schabowski [a member of the East German Socialist Unity Party leadership] who heralded the end of the German Democratic Republic with his stammered words about a new travel law in answer to a journalist’s question. Like Schabowski, Kerry was surprised when the question was posed to him in a press conference. Like Schabowski, Kerry let a sentence slip — even if it was not quite as momentous as that of the German Democratic Republic politician.
As soon as he had uttered the ultimatum, Kerry’s irritation with himself was noticeable. “He isn't about to do it and it can't be done,” he back-pedaled in reference to turning over chemical weapons. The twisting of words undertaken by the White House in connection with Kerry’s words was just as revealing. The U.S. government no longer wants to be dissuaded from a bombing raid on the Assad regime.
The Kremlin recognized the potential in Kerry’s blunder and called upon Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. This tactical skirmish may well remain without result; Assad will hardly let his only pawn out of his hands.
Kerry’s mistake could, however, have consequences in the U.S. Even before the ultimatum, 59 percent of American citizens spoke out against a military strike. So far the U.S. has produced only circumstantial evidence but no proof of a poison gas deployment by the Assad regime. Obama’s credibility continues to crumble with a completely insupportable ultimatum. The war-weary nation is afraid that the country will commit the same mistakes as in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Obama apparently doesn’t want to listen to his people.