In one of the most deft diplomatic maneuvers of all time, Russia’s President Putin has saved the world from near-certain disaster. He did so without the egoistical but incompetent American president, or his earnest but clueless Secretary of State, even realizing they had been offered a way out of the mess they’d created.
The eventful day started out Monday morning with the Obama administration making a full court press for an American attack on Syria: lobbying members of Congress, scheduling an historic series of presidential interviews with top news anchors, and sending Secretary Kerry to London to persuade our reluctant allies to scramble their jets, too.
Then Secretary Kerry made an off-hand comment that the only way an American attack would be called off is if the Syrians turn over all their chemical weapons to an international body. Then he added, “but that isn’t going to happen.”
The words were hardly out of his mouth when Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov essentially said, "we can live with that," and the Syrian Foreign Minister chimed in with "we can, too."
Meanwhile, the State Department dismissed it, saying Kerry didn’t really mean what he said, it was just a "rhetorical" answer to a hypothetical question.
It was as if Team Obama couldn’t take "yes" for an answer.
So, in stepped former Secretary Clinton, looking like the only adult in the room, to say that the Kerry Proposal made sense.
Well, that got Team Obama’s attention!
The president, never one to let a crisis go to waste, told journalists that the proposal was something he and Putin had discussed at the G-20 Summit last week.
By Tuesday night’s speech President Obama will surely be taking full credit, saying the Syrians and Russians caved only because Obama drew the "red line" a year ago, and threatened military action against Syria.
So in 24 hours an off-hand phrase was picked up by Putin, became a Kerry Proposal and ultimately the Obama Peace plan, proving once again the Washington dictum that "success has many fathers."
The fact is Obama seemed headed for an attack on Syria that no one wanted and few thought would succeed. Most thought it would only end in disaster, either with the U.S. drawn into an attack/retaliation cycle of escalation that could go on for years and spread into a regional war, or result in the overthrow of President Assad by an Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.
While the Russians may have toyed with the idea of letting American get bogged down in yet another losing Middle East war, they didn’t want to risk a war that might pull them in, or lose control of the Assad government to radical Sunni jihadists.
So Putin stepped in and threw Obama a lifeline.
For a few hours it seemed Obama might not grab at it. But he has, and will no doubt claim full credit for it being his idea all along.
The Washington press corps will no doubt believe him, as usual, and lavish their usual praise.
But the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize.
It turns out that leading from behind left a big opening up front. Putin stepped right in. And Obama still hasn't figured it out.