September 15th, 2013

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Why was Russia deal a "loss" for Obama? People make my head hurt.

Setting aside Fox News and conservatives, who are ideologically motivated to portray everything Obama does as somehow a loss for America, a loss for Obama, or -- ideally -- both, I'm at a loss to understand how the successful negotiation with Russia of an understanding on chemical weapons to force down Syria's throat is anything but a win. It's also a win for Putin, so the people who keep thinking this is a zero sum game are probably confused. Nor was it Obama's initial plan (mostly because they figured it for a non-starter). But in my line of work, when you get what you want (like I got on Fire Island last week) I call it a win.

Here, Obama made it pretty clear the Administration's goal was to enforce the rule against use of chem weapons on civilians. That seems to be what they got. If Syria refuses to sign, Obama's hand in seeking military intervention is strengthened. If Syria subsequently renegs, Obama will have a U.N. resolution that can be interpreted as authorizing force (but does not have to be interpreted that way -- sweet, sweet ambiguity). Russian prestige is now on the line to get Syria to accept the deal and comply, converting an opponent of any action into an ally of removing chem weapons.

Putin, of course, picks up lots of positive points for being the man who negotiated a peaceful solution when it looked like war was certain. And, while Russia has supported Assad, they are not super crazy about the indiscriminate use of chem weapons because defending Assad's use of same costs them political points they would rather not pay. AND Russia is worried that the weapons could fall in the hands of jihadis or others who might use them on Russia or its allies. If the need arises, they can always resupply Syria (at a cost). But for Putin, an embarrassing situation looks to be going away.

Syria is unhappy, but avoids military retaliation and avoids pissing off its chief benefactor. They will claim a win, the same way Verizon claimed a win for reversing themselves and bringing FIOS to Fire Island.

The only ones really screwed over are the Syrian opposition, who were hoping for some help here.

Thank goodness we can get back to shutting down Obamacare or the government or something.